If I am in a room and the topic of death comes up, I will leave. If I cannot leave, I will abruptly change the topic. If that doesn’t work, I have been known to stammer incoherently and/or cry.
DOGS*, CHILDHOOD TIMELINE OF
1976-1980 Humphrey, the Black Lab
Humphrey is legendary in our family, because apparently I ran away from home at the age of 2 (how did this even happen?!), and Humphrey kept me company as I paraded my diapered bottom all through the neighborhood. I don’t remember this, but I do remember picking him out from a litter of lab pups. They were all cuddled up in a green wool blanket in somebody’s garage. I picked him up and held him close to my chest. He had the perfect new puppy smell. As he got older, he always stood guard by the tub every time I took a bath. Humphrey was a perfect first dog.
1980-1983 Heidi, the Weimaraner
I also remember choosing Heidi. We lived in Florida that year, and Dad drove us deep into the woods to meet a family that had Weimaraner’s for sale. There were “important discussions” about the the bitch and stud which left my six-year-old brain baffled. After much chatting between my dad and the dog breeders, we left with Heidi. My mom and I tossed names back and forth all the way home, and somehow we ended up with Heidi. Something about Weimaraner’s being German and Heidi being a German name. It didn’t make sense when I was 6 and it doesn’t make sense now.
Heidi was famous for these things: eating Barbie toys, counter surfing, and shaking a bag of flour so violently that our kitchen turned into a snow-covered blizzard.
1986-1992 Dusty, the Cocker Spaniel
When we moved to Nevada in 1983, my mom swore we would never own another dog. Each time we moved, the dog had to find a new home and it broke her heart. It took my dad approximately three years to convince her otherwise.
They surprised me with Dusty. One day they went out together, and when they pulled into the driveway a few hours later, my mom was holding a full-grown Cocker Spaniel in her lap.
It was love at first sight. Dusty slept on my bed every night from the time they brought her home until the day I moved out. To this day, whenever I bring a dog into the family I feel a little disappointed when they aren’t as awesome as Dusty. I’m sure that’s unfair to the new puppy loves, but it’s just the way it is.
Dusty’s claim to fame included: hiding a treasure trove of odd items under the cushion in her wicker doggie bed, sitting on my bed with her front paws on my lap whenever I was crying and being a melodramatic teenager, and freaking out during any storm or fireworks show – to the point of destroying door frames, furniture, and running away.
*This list fails to include Bo, the rabid Spaniel that tried to kill me, and Fred, the really ugly dog my sister loved for reasons unbeknownst to me.