I’ve always been allergic to dogs. When I was a little girl, my Great-Aunt Lorraine had a little black cocker spaniel named Patches. I adored Patches. I drew pictures of her in school and pleaded with my mom to take me to see her whenever she could. After playing with Patches, I’d come home with welts on my hands and arms and a fantastic wheeze that terrified my mother. Still, I loved her. My mom tried twice to make up for the absence of dogs in my life. First, we got a supposedly hypoallergenic cat, who we had to give away because, of course, I was allergic to her. Then we got two cockatiels, Charlie and Chester, who died tragically when we went out of town and our cousin forgot to come feed them.
When I met the man who would be my husband, I was not optimistic that we’d be able to have dogs in our life together. It seemed a huge ask of anyone, really, to live without dogs. And I really loved this man. And he really loved dogs. So, with a ton of allergy medication, pills, nasal squirts and inhalers, we one day found ourselves at the animal shelter. We rationalized that the new dog would live with him and my home would remain dog free. You’ve probably already figured out that plan didn’t last long. Clive had a little lab mix puppy named Abby and when we weren’t together, I missed her. The slew of medications, along with years gone by meant I could tolerate a dog in my house. Shortly after Abby came Odessa. Odessa was a fluffy Samoyed mix (great choice for someone allergic to dogs, but the heart wants what the heart wants). The plan was that Odessa was mine, Abby was Clive’s and they’d each have a friend. Of course, our dogs loved each other and would cry when they weren’t together. So now, instead of each of us having one dog, we both had two.
About a year later, we fell in love with a cute little house in the foothills. It was our house. And it was on a large lot, which meant… another dog. Daisy came along when we were struggling to become pregnant with our first child. There was so much sadness during that time, and well… who can say no to a puppy? In hindsight, going through fertility treatments with two other dogs and now a new puppy, I should’ve been able to guess how things would end. Naturally, about a month after bringing home Daisy, we got the delightful news that I was pregnant. For those of you keeping track, that’s two rowdy dogs, a cute puppy and now a new baby.
Life cruised right along after that. We added a new baby and lost both Abby and Odessa over the next several years. Daisy was a great nanny to our kids. She constantly had toddlers pulling on her fur and drooling on her, but she put up with it all with the typical patience of a Golden Retriever. She reminded me so much of Nana from “Peter Pan” (except she didn’t talk). Daisy was a good old girl and every time I see her memorial (a preserved paw print and her old collar), I remember what great care she took of our babies.
One day, I came home from picking the kids up at school to a new little fella named Mr. Murphy playing at my husband’s feet. He was also a Golden Retriever and boy was he cute. He’s still cute, but at 85 pounds, he’s no longer little. He’s sitting at my feet as I write. He’s now 11 and slowing down so much. Sometimes he prances around like a puppy, but mostly he saunters like a 96-year-old man with aching knees. Of all our dogs, he’s been my favorite. I know he won’t be around much longer so I try to spoil him as much as I can.
Have I mentioned Sadie yet? She came home with us after stopping at the animal shelter to “say hi to the dogs”—my kids’ favorite thing to do with free time. All Sadie wanted was for someone to throw a ball for her, and well—we only had two dogs, so we brought her home. Sadie is a good girl and everything she does is for praise or a cuddle. Every night before Clive and I go to bed, we bring her down to my daughter’s room where they spoon until morning. Sadie has a “ruff” life.
In 2016, while pulling our camper headed to Moab for spring break, we passed a semi and lost control of the camper. I remember sitting on the side of I-70 near Parachute with our car totaled, our camper totaled, but miraculously, Sadie, Murphy, Clive, our two kiddos and myself came through without a scratch. We lost so much in that accident. Not only things, but our sense of safety too. We all learned that life can change in a second. As a case in point, while shopping for bikes to replace those lost in our accident, we popped into a pet store to get worms for our bearded dragon, Richard Parker. And there, with a glowing shimmering halo around his little head, was Prince Phillip (aka Pip). Pip had overcome an iffy start to life as a stray puppy in Tijuana. And, I’ve already established that I have no willpower, so you know what happened. Pip gave us all something to focus on other than anxiety and loss. He helped bring us out of that sad time.
It’s funny to think that the story of my entire relationship with Clive so far can be told through our dogs. Looking back on over 20 years together, it’s hard to remember what came when. But when I picture each stage with our dogs, those memories come so easily and help me frame each stage of life. As I mentioned, Murphy is slowing down and won’t be with us much longer. I want to assure you that we’ll go down to a two-dog household and be satisfied… but happily, I can’t.