Owning a Dog for the First Time. An Adventure Each Day.

#rescuedog #griecingapet #animalshelter #pet #owningadog

Jessie with Author.

Jessie with Author.

I was pleased when my wife began to consider owning a dog for the first time. We had always been cat people. She had never owned a dog. But I had fond memories of canine pets when I was a boy. My own children had a mutt that the entire family loved until he came home one afternoon sicker than a . . . yeah, well. We took him to the vet and got the bad news. My son Greg and I wept together as we buried him.

When our beloved Persian, Nickie, passed away, my wife and I both grieved for weeks. All the usual questions came up. Was the sorrow worth it? Pets die. Why get attached to one if it only means giving it up and the pain  of loss? Some say getting a replacement animal is the best to deal with the grief. But we didn’t see it that way. Time passed—a couple of years with no litter box duties. No “cat food” entries on the shopping list. No fur in the usual sunny spots in the house. And, eventually, the two of us got around the talking about another pet.

Trial Basis . . .

How about a dog? Maybe a mature dog would already be house trained. The county shelter allowed people to return dogs that didn’t work out. Could we be that lucky—get a good dog that was housebroken? Now, I need to allow that the decision to get Jessie was not entirely mutual. On a bad day, like the day Jessie peed in her cage at night, I conceded I acted unilaterally when I went to the county shelter and saw Jessie, forlorn and fatalistic, in her cell. She looked up at me, big brown eyes, and wagged her tail apprehensively.

Not one to act on impulse, I asked the attendant to let me take Jessie to the greeting room. Jessie was curious about me, but she was also curious about the rest of the room. I wouldn’t say she was indifferent to my presence, but she didn’t turn on the charm either. I decided to think it over and drove several miles to a nearby town where I went to Wal*Mart and bought a cage, a leash, a collar, and a mat.

I called my wife. She didn’t raise any objections, although my description of Jessie must have been short of the mark. My wife’s expression the minute Jessie emerged from the car told me as much. Jessie was, however, housebroken–hooray! She didn’t mind sleeping in her cage at night, especially if coaxed by a few treats. We were off to a good start, or so it seemed.

Jessie, shortly after she came to us.

Jessie, shortly after she came to us.

What I forgot about owning a dog is that dogs demand attention. Jessie, for example, insists that I drop whatever I am doing and play with her, that I feed her on time, that we take two walks each day so she can attend to certain biological imperatives, that she be allowed to rest in the warmth of my lap and be comforted when thunder and lightning walk about in the dark of night. In my first marriage, my family had a dog, but I never knew what was involved. My children always attended to the animal. Now, everything pretty much fell to me. And, yes, at times I feel resentful. But Jessie quickly wins me over and my mood vanishes.

For her part, Jessie has taught me many things. Among the more important, I include the following:

1.  Greet every morning with enthusiasm. It’s a new day! Reassure those who spent the night under the same roof with you that you love each one and each is important to you.

2.  Always greet a loved one returning home at the door with an affectionate welcome, even if he or she has only been gone a few minutes.

3. Taking a walk is a simple pleasure but full of marvelous and wonderful encounters. It is one of the better ways to get to know your neighbors.

4.  It is important to stay on a schedule.

5.  Give everyone a chance to be a friend.

6. Naps are important. Take one at any time. It will do you a world of good.

7. Always clean your plate. (Mom insisted on this also, but, heck, that was Mom.)

8. Don’t bother the driver in an auto.  Be attentive but quiet.

9.  When you are hurt, reassure the persons caring for you that you love them and that you know that the pain you are feeling is not their fault.

10.  Sometimes the best way to show another your love is sit quietly and wait to be noticed.

11.  Be at peace in accepting that there are somethings that may not be intended for you to know. (Now, Jessie did not teach me this, but she did lead me to consider it as being possibly one of life’s great truths.)

Jessie has changed my life. We are travel together as fellow mammals, and the journey is better for both of us now that we have one another.

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