A Dog’s Life

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Annie, taken by our dog walker, Norma

I did not want a dog for the same reason I don’t want sturdy, worth-your-money furniture. Both require costly up keep and make it harder to maintain a transient lifestyle for, what I could tell is, little benefit. No, I would stick to second-hand items off Craigslist and a dog-free life.

In general, I like dogs. In fact, I had a dog before I had a sibling as my parents owned a beagle named Candy when they had me. My baby book states that Candy was my favorite toy, and I have a flash memory of sadness when we gave Candy away because we were moving to another town.

A few years later, when my brothers and I were a bit older, we adopted Kirby, a bichon poodle. We had looked at several dogs, but the choice on which one was bestowed on my youngest brother who was scared of dogs. There was one pup who I adored but my brother ran from the animal crying, so that one was not to be ours. He decided on Kirby because he was calm and quite, which not two characteristics I remember about the dog we had for 12 years.

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Kirby and I

Kirby’s favorite game was to escape out the front door and wait for you to chase him. When you would get close – less than a finger tip’s distance from grabbing him – he would jet off. He hated baths, but loved table scraps. Kirby lived a good, long life before age took its toll. We got him when my brother was in kindergarten, and he passed away when my brother was a senior in college. I loved Kirby, but I didn’t have the same connection to him that my youngest brother did.

While I was abroad, in the Peace Corps, my parents adopted another dog. His name was Oreo at first, because of his black and white fur, but I made half-joke that this dog should also be named after a Twins player, like Michael Cuddyer. It was mostly a jab at my dad who is not a huge fan of the former Twins All Star, but my mom liked the name and it stuck. I met Cuddy when I returned home, and we spent the days together as I applied for jobs and he got used to another human in the house. Cuddy, a springer spaniel/heeler mix, was young and wanted to play and tear my tights and I wanted him to go away. He is a sweet dog, and I wasn’t always as nice to him. I decidedly did not want a dog as an adult. Pet ownership seemed like more of nuisance than a joy.

That’s not how Ethan felt about it. He did not grow up with dogs (they did have a few outside cats), but the romantics of dog ownership called to him. When he was a young TV reporter in Kentucky, he adopted a dog for two days before his landlord changed his mind about having pets in the apartment. Ethan had to return the dog.

When Ethan and I started to build our live’s together, he was clear about his intentions to adopt a dog one day, even suggesting we look at only dog-friendly housing. We had an inside joke that whenever we saw someone walking a cute dog that we would try to steal it from that person. Ethan was so excited to meet my brother’s dog, Winnie, a lab-mix, and was thoroughly disappointed when Winnie had absolutely no interest in him. I was less enthusiastic about getting a dog, knowing full well that that dog would need to be walked during the Chiberia months and early on Saturday mornings. But Ethan’s persistence wore on me. One day, Ethan and I walked to the dog beach along Lake Michigan and watched pups wrestle in the sand and gallop into the water. Ethan’s eyes held a genuine happiness, but also a longing. I loved Ethan so much that I wanted to help fulfill that missing piece.

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Cuddy

“Let’s just go look,” I told Ethan. A few weeks earlier, we had gone to visit a few animal shelters in the city to see what kind of dogs they had and inquire about the adoption process. Most places didn’t have much for dogs, but at least we became familiar with the shelters. We really enjoyed one of them, Felines and Canines, and Ethan started following them on Facebook, which is how he learned that they had just received a new batch of dogs from Kentucky who were looking from homes. They posted pictures of these dogs, along with their names. We awed at each one.

This was not a good time for us to get at dog. Ethan had just been laid off the month before, and while we hoped he would only be unemployed for a couple of months, max, we didn’t know that for sure. Adopting and owning a pet is not cheap, so it didn’t make financial sense to get at dog at this juncture. Still, those doggy faces in that Facebook album egged us on. We were going to just look.

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The day we adopted Annalise/Annie.

I insisted that we get there early, to be there as soon as the doors open. While we were “just looking” we did have our eyes on a beagle named Jordan. Ethan liked the coloring of beagles, and they are the perfect size for our small two-bedroom city apartment. We were the first ones at the shelter, just as I had planned, and asked to meet Jordan. The dogs had arrived only two days before and spent the previous day getting necessary shots and entered into systems. It had been a long journey for these dogs, and some were feeling it more than others, including Jordan. They brought him into a special meet-and-greet area, and he immediately soiled a blanket. He did it again 10 minutes later. We took him out for a walk, and it was clear he was experiencing some physical anxiety. He seemed like a nice dog, but so scared.

The volunteer helping us asked if we wanted to meet another dog, and from the Facebook photos, I remembered a black dog with brown eyebrows. Annalise. She smiled. “Annalise is so sweet.”

Immediately, the pup plopped into our laps. She sniffed our ears and licked our necks. We had just met her, but she was cuddling with us as if we had always known her. We took her for a walk and her affection didn’t let up. She pounced through the neighborhood, her ears flopping. I liked Annalise, but I knew Ethan really wanted a beagle, so when we returned to the animal shelter, we asked to see Jordan again. We took him on another walk, but that spark wasn’t there, kind of like an OK first day.

After they put Jordan back in his kennel, I looked at Ethan. I couldn’t tell if he wanted Jordan or if it was just best for us to leave. He was also unsure of where I stood. “Honestly,” he said. “I like Annalise.” I agreed, and we asked to see her one more time.

On our second walk, I thought about how stupid it was to get a dog at that point. It was a cost that we didn’t need. Also, while I was fairly sure of our relationship, we were not yet engaged and adopting a dog while dating seemed a bit reckless. I texted my mom about what to do, and she suggested maybe we think about it overnight and then come back the next day if we really wanted her, but I knew that if we didn’t adopt her that day that another family likely would. I couldn’t live with that. I looked at this hound mix with a natural mohawk who I had only met 30 minutes prior and already there was this deep, persistent affection. I was in love with her, and I knew that I couldn’t I leave that shelter without her. Ethan felt the same way, so we walked in and expressed our intention to adopt Annalise. AsI predicted, as we were filling out the paperwork, another family came in wanting to meet her, but she was ours. Annie, we would call her.

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Cuddy, Winnie and Annie, all not happy about wearing sweaters but waiting for their treats.

Those first few months were not easy. Annie warmed up to Ethan right away because the two of them spent all day together, and she was unsure of me. She nibbled at my hand and feet and did not like when I got too close to Ethan. She wined during the night and barked at strangers. Hundreds of dollars left our bank account to cover her adoption fees, vaccines, toys, food, etc. We left her with friends for a weekend while we attended a wedding out state, and Annie’s wining started a months-long fight with their neighbors. We also did not make friends with our neighbors who complained about her jumping and separation anxiety when we were not at home.

However, it did not take us long to get addicted to puppy cuddles and the joy of watching her chase a ball. She was a fun companion on road trips and nights at home watching movies. I was eager to introduce her to our family, to buy her a Christmas present, to integrate her into my life. That first week, I would fall asleep thinking about how they are now three heart beats under our roof. We were a little team, Annie, Ethan and I.

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Photo by Wes Eisenhauer

Today marks one year since we met and adopted Annie. She is a much better behaved dog, not minding at all when we leave her home alone. She only barks when she is scared, which really isn’t that much, she doesn’t bite or chew items other than her toys and she now sleeps in her own bed. Besides the mounds of dog hair she leaves in every corner of our apartment, she is a great dog.

Our lives did lose a bit of freedom when we got Annie. Just this weekend we had to leave a really fun gathering of friends because it was late and Annie needed to be fed. We have yet to get to a concert in the park at Millennium this summer because we must rush home after work to let our dog out. And, we must think about who will take Annie and how much that will cost any time we want to take a vacation.

But Annie has brought more joy into our lives than I ever though possible. Coming home after a long day to see her waiting for me is one of the purest forms of love I have ever experienced. She makes every experience better, like last weekend when we went to a lake house and we were able to take her swimming and out for a boat ride. I love how much my friends love her, including those that want to come over just to see her or bring her treats. A normally high-strung, anxiety-ridden person, Annie has calmed me. She forces me to get outside each day and to find simple pleasures. Sometimes Ethan and I joke about what a pain she is, but our love for her is deep. At the lake house, she went running off, which we were fine with, but when she didn’t come back after a few minutes, both of our heart rates accelerated.

Ethan was unemployed for another six months after we adopted Annie, which was way longer than we had anticipated. It was not an easy time for either us, but the lay off really affected Ethan. What helped him get through those long days of job applying, rejection letters, and doubting his abilities, he told me, was Annie. She sat next to him day after day, offering cuddles when he needed a break. She depended on him when he felt alone. She helped him through a dark time, gave him enough to get to the other side.

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Photo by Jon Beskin

While having a dog is a sacrifice, it’s worth it. I would never have imagined how much better my life would be, but here I am 2,000 words into this post and I could keep writing (I know see why dogs make great novel inspiration). When I vowed to build a family with Ethan, Annie was apart of that. She is our family.

My favorite place to be is on the couch, cuddled up next to Ethan with Annie sprawled out on our laps. She likes to make sure she is touching both of us, that she can feel us incase we move. Our three hearts, all within inches of each other, beating.

 

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