During my lifetime, I have had three dogs as pets. Although I am supposedly allergic to dogs, I have never had a problem being around them (it's a very different story with cats). My family had a dog when I was child; my husband and I loved a shetland sheep dog for several years; and our family — my husband, son, and I — enjoyed the company of a black labrador retriever for 14 years.
Toni, Chaser of Cars
When I was about eight years old, Toni came into my life. My parents acquired her — and I don't know where she came from or if she cost anything. The first time I saw her she was a small puppy — a mix between a Cocker Spaniel and Springer Spaniel. Her coat was curly; thus, the choice to name her Toni was unanimous. (For those who are too young to know: The Toni permanent wave in a box was popular at the time.)
Toni was black and white, and unfortunately I don't have a single photograph of her. She lived in the house with us (though only allowed in the kitchen). There were no leash laws; she sometimes ran through the neighbourhood but she stayed in our yard a good majority of the time.
As a young dog, she chased a car and got hit. She was not harmed, and we thought sure it would stop her from chasing cars. But there was something about the turning of those wheels, and she continued to chase cars but she would keep a bit of a distance.
Toni would watch my siblings and me leave for school, and sometimes she would follow. We would turn around and say, "No, Toni. Stay. Go home." She would sit down and stare at us and then follow us again as we continued on to school. It usually took two or three "No Toni" messages for her to finally give up and head back to the house. But she was often waiting for us when we came back at the end of the day.
Toni was not allowed in the living room, but while we watched TV, she would sit at the kitchen door (leading into the living room) and place her paws just over the threshold. Inch by inch, she would move slowly forward. Eventually, of course, she had her entire body on the rug, and the only one who would really scold her and tell her to move back was my dad. So she'd move back and then start the process all over again.
I am not actually sure of the date but I was in my teens, my parents were out of town, and my brother, sister, and I were responsible for ourselves and for Toni. My brother and I discovered her one afternoon on the back porch, tired and apparently sleepy, and she had not eaten any food or drunk any water throughout the day. My brother became concerned that she was not breathing well, so we wrapped her in a rug (or a blanket) and took her to the vet.
We kept stopping as we drove as we kept thinking that her breathing had stopped. We made it to the vet's and took her inside. I remained outside the examination room, but my brother went in with Toni. I heard the vet say to my brother: "I'm sorry, son. She's very sick. We're going to have to put her down."
I don't know what I expected to hear, but I guess it wasn't that. I started to cry, and I went out to the car to wait for my brother. I told myself that I should quit crying and show my brother how brave I was. I calmed myself down and then my brother came out. "She's gone," he said. Then he put his head down on the steering wheel and started to cry. We both cried for a few minutes, and then my brother drove us home. It was about 1960 or so, and I wouldn't have a dog in my life for at least eight years.
Shelley, The Sheep Herder
In 1968, my husband and I were living in Columbia, Missouri, where he was attending Journalism School and I was teaching first graders. We decided to get a dog, and we found a breeder of Shetland Sheepdogs. Shelley was perfect. She was an adorable puppy, and a beautiful adult dog.
Shelley was the only female in a very small litter, so the owner wanted us to be willing to breed her at least once before we left Missouri. We agreed to that. 1 In the meantime, she was a very lovely dog — most of the time. She did tend to be a bit barky and there were times when I wanted to change that; as well, her genetics to herd things was there from the time she was a puppy.
We tried to ride a bike while she ran alongside beside, but she always wanted to cut in front of us. So we quit doing that. Once, while on a drive in the Missouri countryside, we stopped near some cows that were near a fence. Shelley jumped out of the car and immediately began running up and down the fence, trying to get the cows to stay in one spot. Needless to say, since she was on the other side of the fence, the cows ignored her.
But one thing Shelley loved to do — and she could do well — was chase and catch a frisbee. She would leap high into the air to get that frisbee and return it for another throw/catch session.
Shelley moved with us to Ottawa, Ontario, and then to Burnaby, British Columbia. Our son was born in August of 1971, and although Shelley accepted his involvement in our lives, I always got the feeling that she knew well that she had been bumped from "most important" to "less important" than that new baby in the house.
Shelley liked to sleep on our bed, and she would always get up on our bed while we were reading. But when the lights went out we expected her to move. Sometimes she wasn't too willing to move — so she had to be pushed gently.
We moved to Burnaby, BC, by train in January of 1972. Shelley had to ride in a box car, and my husband would go and check on her periodically. She was not a happy dog. She didn't want to eat; her water was sometimes frozen; and she would not go to the bathroom when the train stopped and Bob took her outside. After three days on the train, we arrived in Vancouver, and got Shelley out of the box car. We got to the front entrance of the train station where she immediately squatted and had a l-o-n-g pee.
After a few months in Burnaby, we took a trip to visit family in the States and left Shelley in a kennel. When we returned and brought her home, it soon became obvious that she had been exposed to "kennel cough." This was the beginning of many problems for her. The vet told us not to let her run, so our regular frisbee runs were no more. She looked at us sadly each time we left the apartment and left her behind. It was really, really hard — for her and for us.
When the kennel cough would not go away, the vet recommended that we have her tonsils removed. While she was having her tonsils removed, we went ahead and also had her spayed. Although we were told that she would not change in any way, we found her to be a much more aggressive dog than she had been before — and that was her undoing.
One day, while returning from picking up my husband at the hospital after knee surgery, we parked the car in the front of the apartment (something we didn't usually do except that my husband was on crutches and it was easier to go in the front door than the back door). Shelley jumped out of the car and saw two poodles walking down the sidewalk across the street. She bolted. And she was hit immediately by a car.
Thankfully, the driver of the car was kind and considerate. He stopped and helped me get her off the street. There was not a mark on her, but she had been killed instantly.
Snug, the Lovable Lap Dog
In 1981, after many requests from our son to get a dog, we bought a black labrador retriever. She came to us from Calgary on an airplane and we picked her up at the airport. We saw her in her cage as she was taken off the plane, placed on a little trailer, and pulled to the airport luggage area. As soon as we had her, we let her out of her cage and she walked around — a little wobbily — on the grass near the airport. Then we took her home.
We named her Snug because there is a Snug Cove in Labrador.
Snug walked and hiked with us, slept in our son's bed with our son (until he got a water bed), and became a very devoted and happy family pet. She had a personality all her own.
We took her on a walk nearly every evening. When she knew it was time to go, she'd sit and moan and groan until we finally grabbed the leash and headed for the door.
Snug enjoyed doing everything with us — or nearly so. She was particularly partial to Paul and they spent many hours together. One morning, Paul noticed that there the electrical outlet near his bed was black. We checked Snug's dog tags and discovered that one was quite black. It was pretty clear that during the night, Snug's tags had somehow come into contact with that outlet and caused a little spark. Since Snug couldn't talk, we never knew if she felt it or not!
As a puppy, Snug hit her chin while trying to climb some stairs. From that day forward, she wasn't too keen about stairs (or jumping). She would put her front paws on the car seat and wait for one of us to pick up her back legs and put her in the car. She was able to get out on her own, but not in.
When we came home, Snug was usually sound asleep. We often had to wake her up before she would realize we were home. We used to joke that if anyone broke in and robbed the place, Snug would probably show them where the silverware was — or sleep through the entire thing!
When Snug was just a puppy, she had a seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy. However, she took medication all her life and we never saw another seizure. She lived to the age of 14. As she aged, her hips began to give her trouble and her legs would just sometimes come right out from under her. We tried to keep her happy and comfortable, but there came a time when she wasn't having much fun at all. After talking with our son (who no longer lived at home but loved Snug very much), my husband and I took her to the vet and had her put down. She had a peaceful death, with both of us right beside her. I miss her every day.
In no particular order, here are other personal articles I have written:
We did go ahead with that agreement, though we thought Shelley was too young. She had only one puppy. ↩