One of my favorite stories to tell to my patients or to my running companions is about how this once professed cat lover/dog hater became a dog person.
OK. Hate is a strong word. Misunderstanding is more like it. Since I didn’t grow up around dogs, I really didn’t get them. I had a few friends with dogs, but I largely avoided them like the plague. I just didn’t understand why they were so interested in me, greeted me by sniffing less than ladylike parts, or barked for no apparent reason.
At one time, I kept chickens. Soon after getting used to taking care of my first flock, my husband insisted that we get a dog. Keep in mind, we already had a lovely cat named Tigger who was practically an old man at that point, and it had taken him at least 5 years to decide that he actually liked us. I was his person.
I was really anxious about adding a dog to the mix. I did lay down some ground rules, though. I wanted a bigger dog, someone to take with us on adventures and who would enjoy a good car ride. I wanted a rescue. With all the dogs in shelters, it just made sense to me to give a good dog in need a home. And I wanted a puppy. My husband has a cousin who happens to be a professional dog trainer, and she gave us some good advice, too. She said females and lab mixes make great first dogs.
The research began, and my husband found a litter of blonde, lab mix puppies available for adoption at the Richmond Animal League. There were two boys and a girl. We drove over to meet the litter in person. I was the first one to hold Ellie. She essentially melted into my arms. At that point, I couldn’t not take her home! After she was spayed and recovered, we were allowed to bring her home.
I insisted that if we brought a dog into the family, I would not be responsible for her. I was not going to feed her, bathe her, give her medicine, take her for walks… this was their dog, not mine. And she was going to be crate trained.
For two years, Ellie dutifully slept in her crate at night. We took her on vacation with us, and she stayed crated at night there, too, until she started to cry. I felt bad for her and for everyone else who was trying to sleep. So, we relented, and Ellie slept in the bed with my husband and me. Upon our return home, the first night back, Ellie followed us to our room and jumped into bed. And that was the end of sleeping in her crate at night! We recently upgraded to a king size bed to accommodate her.
By then, it was clear that Ellie had chosen me as her person. And all those responsibilities I insisted I wouldn’t do? Yeah. All mine. The only thing she doesn’t look to me for is trimming her nails. I leave that to my husband.
I was also one of those people who thought it was ridiculous to spend $3,000 on an ACL repair for a dog. Well, we’ve done that, too. Seriously. When she began limping and whimpering from pain from that injury, I would have paid even more just so my baby would feel better and be able to walk. I swear it was more difficult to drop her off at the vet for that surgery than it was to drop off my daughter her first day of preschool! Your dog doesn’t understand what is happening, but you can somewhat reason with an almost 3 year old.
Ellie is now approaching 9 years old, and she is starting to show her age. Her hips have limited range of motion from dysplasia, so she’s not up for long walks or adventures in the woods, and she needs a bit of help getting into the car for rides. She gets pain medicine daily to help improve her comfort. But she’s my baby, and I love her.
She gave me the gift of understanding what a joy dogs are for humans. They add so much to our wellness, indeed. Ellie is gentle, eager to please, and does a great job of warning us when someone is driving up to the house. I love her greetings when I get home; always a bright spot in my day. My girl loves a car ride, too! And now when I’m out and about, I have to meet all the dogs, especially when out for a run. And although I will always be a cat person, there’s an equally special part of my heart that loves dogs now, too.
Are you a dog person? Were you a convert like me? How do you think pets add to our wellness as humans? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.