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Life with a smile: Reflecting on the Year of the Dog

By KATE SNYDER

Just over a year ago we added a dog to our family. Buddy Baudelaire is a 2-year-old boxer/lab mix. Maybe. No part of that is certain because he’s a shelter rescue. Whatever his age and genealogy, he’s black and white, very energetic, extremely loving, and stronger than a fully-grown brontosaurus. 

As we celebrated Buddy’s “gotcha day” last week, I paused to reflect on the year. If I could go back and do it all over again, would I make the same choice? I’ll give it a firm “maybe.” 

To be clear, Buddy is one of the family and he’s here to stay. But it’s been a wild ride this year and the crazy shows no sign of abating. 

Sometimes I think fondly of what life might have been like with a dog 20 pounds lighter and 75% calmer, with a less robust prey instinct and better breath. That last part is probably wishful thinking on the part of any dog owner, but a girl can dream.

Following my usual mode of operation, allow me first to whine a bit, then reveal the silver linings. 

The flaws of my canine are many. Let’s just be honest about that. He’s big and exuberant and prone to leaping upon arriving houseguests, eager to show his affection. 

In a lesser dog this might be mildly annoying, but Buddy has the talons of a bird of prey and his joyful leaps leave impressive welts and colorful bruises on your thighs, stomach, or chest – depending on your height.

He is also freakishly strong, all muscle and sinew, possibly with some adamantium mixed in. When he sees a squirrel, cat, dog, bird, or interesting piece of garbage, he throws all of that strength at the object of his desire. 

I’ve got calluses on my hands from my constant death grip on the leash, and more than once I’ve wondered what will happen when my wrist breaks mid-walk. The kids cannot control him, a fact we discovered early on through an unfortunate incident that ended with a dead chicken.

Can we talk about the escape attempts? No, let’s not. Suffice to say I’ve been part of more than one frantic neighborhood search party. 

He eats things he isn’t supposed to, but mercifully appears to have the digestive tract of a goat. Although I once had to pull part of a plastic bag out of his rear after only part of it extruded on its own. That was fun.

But for all of that, I do love having a dog. He’s affectionate and playful and adorably fond of soft things like pillows and piles of laundry. 

He likes to snuggle and is always poised and ready to lick your face. Or, oddly, the backs of your knees. Go figure. He’s incredibly smart, so if I was a better owner, he’d probably be able to dance the polka and recite poetry. 

Having a dog keeps me in shape, makes me feel safe, and brings a deeply welcome sense of company to the empty house on nights when the kids are with their dad. 

Last weekend, my partner and I taught him to sit in the front of a kayak. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m already looking forward to new adventures on the river. 

 

Perhaps most important, the kids love him. Kids and dogs were meant to be together. Just ask Charlie Brown. Whether they’re sneaking him bits of their dinner, gleefully throwing sticks in the backyard, or trying to sneak him into their beds at night, my children are utterly devoted to their furry sibling. 

And sometimes, all you need is a little bit of perspective. We watched the movie Marley and Me together recently and all realized that, while our Buddy is a wild one, it could be a lot worse!