For the love of dog (and pets)

I was listening to a podcast about our relationship with dogs the other day, and I got to thinking about my own relationships with dogs as the years have gone by. This is the first dog I remember having:

His name was "Neron", Spanish for "Nero"
His name was “Neron”, Spanish for “Nero”

It wasn’t the first or the last dog I would have. My luck with dogs has not been good. They have either died on me or run away. I never had one for an extended period of time. But my grandfather did, and that’s why I love dogs so much. He had dogs at his house and at the shop where he worked. They were very loving to him, and he treated them well. He would bring them fresh cuts of meat from the slaughterhouse where he did business.

When my grandfather died, his dogs wept, I swear.

The closest thing I had to my own dog in college were my landlord’s dogs. They were very fond of me, and I looked out for them with a special treat once in a while, so long as my landlord wasn’t watching. He was under the misconception that hungry dogs are better at taking care of the property from intruders. They weren’t. Giving them only one meal a day just guaranteed that anyone with some food would become their instant best friend.

Once I graduated college and until I met my wife, the closest thing I had to a pet was a cactus plant. I couldn’t take it for walks, and it didn’t warn me if someone was knocking at the door. It also died one horrible winter up here in Pennsylvania. When I met my wife, she introduced me to the love of animals by introducing me to her cat, Tucker.

He might as well have been a dog!
He might as well have been a dog!

About a year after we started dating, we adopted another cat, and everything was great. I even got a Betta Fish to keep me company at home. Once the fish died, a couple of gerbils became my pets. They died eventually. Soon after my wife and I got married, we decided to get a dog.

Our search for a good dog took us to the ASPCA in our county. We were convinced that we were going to get a mutt, some dog that was housebroken, obedient, and had no issues. We wanted a mid-size dog, one that would go out on jogs with me in the evenings and laid on our couch all day without leaving a dent. That was the plan.

But then I saw this German Shepherd Dog in one of the kennels and looked at the tag on the door. She didn’t have a name. She was found on the streets of a town along with three puppies. The puppies had already been adopted, but no one wanted to adopt her because she was a large dog “with issues”. I guess people think that abandoned dogs are going to need psychotherapy or something.

I convinced my wife to let me ask if we could take the dog out to the yard and see if she would follow commands. The dog not only followed out commands to “come here” and “go there”, she had this sort of smile on her face as she did it. I was in love with that dog. A few days later and after some paperwork, I brought Callisto home.

Let's go!
Let’s go!

The more I got to know her, the more I got to know that she was very well trained. She had been taught all sorts of orders, and she was housebroken. What’s even better was that she got along great with the cats. Tucker, however, didn’t seem to approve.

I do not approve.
I do not approve.

Nevertheless, they eventually learned the get along and share the house. It helped that Calli was submissive to Tucker, and she never asserted any kind of authority.

An uneasy truce
An uneasy truce

When Tucker passed away, we adopted another cat, Zeus. Unfortunately, sadly, heartbreakingly, Zeus died from an accident. It was the closest my wife and I have come to losing a child, and it was very painful. Calli felt our pain. She took me out for more jogs those few days later. It helped me grieve, and she seemed to know this.

Running makes it all better
Running makes it all better

We later got two kittens, and orange one and a tuxedo one. Together with two Guinea Pigs, the three cats, and the dog make up our family. I can’t take the pigs or the cats for a walk. The cats could care less who’s coming up the driveway. The pigs don’t fetch anything, despite my attempts at training them. But Calli…

She keeps her eyes on the prize
She keeps her eyes on the prize

Calli is a heck of a dog, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. Her former owners tried to get her back months after we adopted her, and the ASPCA was good about not telling them where she was and even had them fined for letting her go alone and pregnant. She’s my dog now, and I very much believe I’m her human too.

There’s just something about quadrupeds, about dogs and cats, that make this house a home… Until the next biped comes along. But that’s for a later post, at a later time, maybe.

Chilling, Relaxing, All Cool
Chilling, Relaxing, All Cool

I'm a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen