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A Human and her Furry Children

When I was a child I begged my parents for a dog.

When I was a child, I begged my parents for a dog; I think my father would have agreed, but because my mother made the decisions, the answer was a firm ‘No.’ She always responded with the same retort, “When you get married, you can have your own dog…a Standard Poodle and white carpets.” She laughed after she uttered her mantra, which became her standard answer every time I hoped she had weakened and would give into my constant pleas. My brother Steve also wanted a dog, but because he was so much older, he had more of his own life outside of our house and was less in need of a pet. I wanted a dog to become my companion, but this was not to be for quite a while.

Fast forward a few decades and my husband and I had three young sons who also wanted a dog, but really, it was I who needed the pup the most. So, one day our middle son Adam and I went to a pet adoption agency and he fell in love with a six-month-old black Terrier, Border Collie mix with Frito corn chip eyebrows and protruding bottom teeth. Teddy was worth waiting for all those years. I was in love with my new furry child and was finally and gratefully a dog owner.

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The author's first furry child, Teddy
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I am not exaggerating when I say that it took about two years for my husband (at the time, not a dog person) to forgive me for making the decision to get a dog without him. “Aren’t three boys enough?” he questioned, but it was too late and Teddy was ours. Glorious Teddy, who seemed to understand that I had saved him (and he, me) and I became the single most important human in his life. Brian, our youngest, was six when Teddy joined our family. Oh, how we loved him! He fit in perfectly with his human brothers and even accompanied Brian to his room every night when Brian was ready for bed (Teddy’s herding instinct). Brian was 20 when we had to say goodbye to our first and dear canine, who Paul learned to love quite dearly. And, yes, Paul became a dog person!

Then, a few months later, Emma came into our lives. I was determined to adopt another dog that looked like Teddy, but as they often say, rescued dogs find us and so it was with Emma; she found me. She was twelve weeks old, a white fluff ball of Poodle mixed with Bichon. I wanted a female dog this time so I could use the pronoun ‘she.’ Emma taught us about puppyhood, a period that Teddy had already passed through when we adopted him. We adjusted to torn wallpaper, chewing on most possessions, and peeing in the house. We also watched Emma learn to go on walks and jump up and down from chairs. She molded beautifully into our family, with her older brothers returning home from college and leaving again, temporarily moving back home and then ultimately finding their own places. No matter what, she greeted them with kisses and the “Bichon Buzz,” which included wild laps around the sofa for their joyful attention.

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Emma and the author's husband, who has become a 'dog person.'
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Emma and her big brother Michael
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I was 52 when I became Emma’s mother and now, we are both senior citizens, which leads me to focus on why I am writing this piece. I see Emma slowing down. Her once strong hind legs are weak, shaking when she stands. Emma intuitively understands that she cannot jump onto the sofa, her favorite spot, or jump onto my comfortable office chair to lie on my grandmother’s hand-knitted afghan that Emma adores. Instead, she looks longingly up at her once favorite spots and then quickly gives up and lies below them. When I try to read her mind and pick her up to place her on her favorite chairs or pillows, she almost becomes indignant. If she can’t do it herself, she doesn’t want anyone to help her. So, I must let her be as independent as possible and let her make the decisions for her own comfort.

She has lost weight. Three pounds is a lot for a little dog, so below her once puffy coat, is a bony skeleton. Her eyes are cloudy and she cannot hear me when I talk to her. Yet, her sweetness continues and is not at all affected by her geriatric condition. She doesn’t bark anymore because she can’t hear the sounds around her. Thus, our house is quieter, but I long for the times in the not-so-distant past when I was frustrated that she would bother the neighbors with her barks of warning. Oh, how I wish she would run down the hall, zoom through her doggy door to the side gate when she sensed that a fellow canine was approaching! Those days are sadly gone. Instead, she spends most of her hours lying on the rug, asleep. In years past, she was glued to me…following me from room to room and accompanying me in my office as I wrote daily, but it is too much effort now. Yet, she was with me as I wrote my book, so it only seemed fitting that I dedicated my book to my dear Emma (who, by the way, was named for Jane Austen’s book Emma ).

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Emma now waits for us while we are in the shower
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Emma in one of her favorite spots.
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I realize the days that I am sharing with Emma are precious and are waning. There might be a time when I say good morning to her and she will not open her eyes. But, until this time, I will continue to be grateful for the love she has given our entire family and for allowing me the benefit of the doubt on countless occasions when I could have been a better human. She has always seen the best in me, and for that, I strive to live up to her expectations for the remainder of her precious life.

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Emma with Ezzie, the author's grandson
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Emma kissing baby Rose, the author's granddaughter.
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