Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's a dog's life

As I was having my Saturday morning coffee and reading the newspaper this morning, our little dachsie was by my side, enjoying the sunshine and pestering me to pick him up. It occurred to me how pets are so deeply ingrained in our lives.

Schroeder is a relatively new addition to our household. We brought him home last June, and it didn’t take long for him to become a centerpiece of our “empty-nester” world. Since I am usually the earliest riser in the house, Schroeder is the first one that I say good morning to each day as I let him outside. Actually, I need to go outside with him, since he is so small and I don’t want the local owls and coyotes to discover a tasty breakfast in the early morning darkness.

Schroeder has now reached the age and appearance when I will do a graphite drawing of him to go on the wall next to his predecessors. Until the last couple months, his snout has been short and he hadn’t achieved the traditional wiener shape. He is really a good looking little guy, and will make a great portrait subject.

My wife and I have had a dog for nearly our entire 31-year marriage. I must admit that owning a dog was not one of my priorities in those early years, but it was to Pat, who wished for a dog since she was a girl. Within months of moving into our first house she found a for-sale ad in the newspaper for Cocker Spaniel puppies, and convinced me to “just go to see them.” As the seller opened the screen door, 8 little buff-colored ragamuffins tumbled out onto the front stoop. I was hooked! The only challenge was to pick one.

As newlyweds, Barney was our “baby,” but he adapted well to his diminishing place in the pecking order as human babies were added to our family. He was a wonderful dog! The kids loved him and he had fun following them everywhere. It was a sad day, 9 years later, when he was attacked and killed just outside our door, by a one-half German Shepherd/one-half wolf dog that had escaped from a neighboring farm. Even though the neighbor immediately got rid of the wolf dog, our children were traumatized by the event. I’ll never forget hearing our 3-year-old son say, as he placed a blanket over Barney’s lifeless body, “We need to let him rest now.”

For a couple of years we went without a dog, busy with our family, and hesitant to emotionally attach ourselves once again to a pet. Our son had developed a fear of dogs after Barney was killed, and the situation wasn’t improving as he grew older. Before going to a friend’s house to play, he’d ask if they had a dog; if he could hear or see a dog in the yard as we arrived, he didn’t want to get out of the car. It became obvious we needed to get a puppy to help him fight these fears. Buster was the answer. He was a playful Springer Spaniel with plenty of energy to keep up with 3 active children, and was “just what the doctor ordered” for John. All of our kids loved Buster and he loved them back, but it seemed like he formed a bond with John that was quite special. His fear of dogs disappeared and, today, John has his own big lug-of-a-dog in Simon, a beautiful and gentle Golden Retriever.

When Buster died after 14 years with our family, and with the kids getting older and starting to go off to college and career, we initially decided not to get another dog. But, for Pat, time without a canine companion while I was at work proved to be lonelier than we originally thought. Her days working from home had included warm, trusting eyes and a toasty lap for so long that it was obvious we would be getting another dog as soon as the right one came along. We discussed several breeds of dogs, and seriously considered another spaniel, but decided we didn’t want to deal with shedding and long hair anymore – especially while on a rainy camping trip! It was only after we had the opportunity to care for our “granddog” – a dachsie named Charlie who owns our son and his girlfriend, that we learned what personable, little clowns the somewhat odd-looking wiener dog can be. The hunt began, searching high and low for the next Sterner household family member, and Schroeder has found his way into our lives and hearts just like the others did.

So, here’s to Schroeder! And Buster. And Barney. And Charlie, Simon, Dubbies, Pete, Daisy, Cole, Eddie, Fuzzer, Powder, Crocker, and all of the other treasured pets our family and friends have lived with and loved over the years. You have all been special to us.


Tonia said...

What a handsome picture of Schro!!! He looks so grown up. Your dog drawings are up there with my favorite of your art. Thanks for posting them so I can see them all the time. The one of Charlie will be treasured long after he is gone (but of course we are feverishly researching new scientifical ways to keep him alive for ever.) It is priceless.

Laura said...

Oh, this blog made me sad... but sad in a happy way... and very thankful that you gave us kids the experience of growing up with dogs. They were/are all members of our family and gave us so much fulfillment and friendship. Reading this makes me even more excited to have our own dog now that we're getting closer to having a house with a yard... can't wait!

Down on the Farm Inc said...

What a wonderful blog!! I can so relate to how our pets can weave there wagging tails into our lives. For me our pets have provided so much comfort with unconditional love. From a sloppy "kiss" to a warm wiggly body
I dont know what I would do if I could not have had our "pets" to share my woes, snuggle when I needed a mental lift of just pet a soft silkie ear when the stress of life became to much!!

Dana Leigh said...

Aren't pets wonderful? I didn't remember the story of how Barney was killed. Maybe I wasn't told or just blocked it out. Thanks for mentioning my little fuzzies too! BTW, you spelled Eddy wrong. :) I spelled it for years like you did too but Jamie named him and the spelling she wanted for him was Eddy.

CousinK said...

TERRIFIC dog article..... made me nostalgic for my cats.... Stretcher, Dirty Nose, White Paws and Midnight