• 54°

Coffee with Mimi: My life with dogs continues 

Mimi Becker

contributing columnist 

Some people are dog people and some are not. Often a family becomes gets a pet because of the children. Little children and puppies go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Caring for puppies helps a child learn responsibility. A puppy is a child’s best friend when all others seem to abandon them. A puppy and a child grow up together, making mistakes and learning lessons.

My family had dogs when we were young — mostly outdoor dogs. There were periods of time when we did not have a dog. The last of the family dogs belonged specifically to my youngest brother. Toby disappeared one day and that was the last of the family pets.

I secretly wanted my own dog. Once, while visiting a college friend in another state, I adopted the most adorable puppy which had been abandoned. The reality I was still in college did not give me pause. I brought the sweet, very compliant, fluffy little bundle back to my family’s home. He curled up quietly on top of the luggage for the 775 mile trip, rousing only when given the opportunity to wander around for a few minutes on a grassy patch. He was the perfect companion.

To say my parents were less than pleased to serve as foster parents while I finished college in another town would be an understatement. Practically speaking, they were very busy people with several of my younger siblings still living at home. The fact the puppy was a St. Bernard weighed heavily in the negotiations.

A willing friend with a farm agreed to take Bernie and, in good conscience, I could not expect to take him back when he was raised and I was ready.

I accepted I was not in a position to be a dog owner for awhile. Finally, after college and marriage and two children, we moved into our first house — one we had carefully selected with a completely fenced-in backyard. I said it was for the kids, but I had ulterior motives. I could have a dog. I said the children needed a dog, but, who am I kidding? I wanted a dog.

A family we knew had the perfect puppy. It was adorable and fluffy and compliant. This one, a Labrador retriever, was somewhat smaller than a St. Bernard at full size. However, it was untrainable. No amount of correction decreased its undesirable behaviors.  What’s more, it quickly grew to be larger than the children and wanted to play — a lot. And, I was expecting the birth of our third child.  

Once again, I had to be an adult and face the fact that dog ownership and care were ill advised under the circumstances. Once again, an appropriate home was found for the dog.

The years passed. When the youngest of our children was in school, I found the perfect pet. At full size, he would weigh about 35 pounds. He was generously categorized as a beagle mix, not a boutique brand. Sammy became our family pet and developed into a grumpy old man at a very young age. He generally tolerated all beings around him but considered them to be beneath him.    

A year later, Sally joined us. Sally was beautiful, if perhaps a bit lacking on the intellectual side. It took Sammy a week or two to grant Sally any degree of acceptance into the house. It was a bit longer before he forgave us for admitting her to the house. You had to love Sally. She was absolutely devoted to everyone, even Sammy at his most haughty.

We were a happy, two-dog family. There were a couple cats, but they were not emotionally part of the equation. For me, it was always the dogs. In a while, we added Sassy.

One benefit of having older dogs is the training advantage of example. The two older dogs made quick work of passing on appropriate dog behaviors to the new addition. The years passed and we settled into a routine. Three dogs were a bit of a hassle when it came to long work days, but, they took care of each other and were ready and waiting for us at the end of the day.

One thing is sure: Pets will get old, and sick.  And, will need to go. We accepted this and, as the children were all grown and had lives of their own, thought we would move on in our retirement free of responsibility for pets when the time came.

The time came. It was as if I was a kid again. It took me less than one week to find a new puppy. We don’t have the advantage of older dogs to help us train her, we are on our own. And, we are older. She is a puppy and has boundless energy. She has no sense of time. We have just spent a nearly sleepless night trying to corral her. At this very moment, we are dragging ourselves into the new day and she is fast asleep at the foot of the bed.