Thank God for Dogs

Pete and me on the drive home to BC

Today I awoke to news that my little rescue dog Pete is of champion lineage — a distant cousin named Buddy Holly won the “best in show” at Westminster Dog Show last night. When I drove all the way from B.C. to California in November, I’m sure a few friends thought me nuts. But my trek drew the attention of many Facebook friends I don’t normally hear from. I have to credit the attention to Pete’s natural charm. He’s so gosh darned cute.

His arrival to my home followed in the tracks of an earlier PBGV (Petit Bassett Griffon Vendeen) that I adopted in 1991. Sparky was a doll, and I longed for another dog of his lineage. When Pete popped up in my mail (following an alert for the breed on I didn’t hesitate. The 3-day drive to bring him home was a joy.

One of the reasons I was looking for a younger dog (Pete is 2), is my long-time love, Gemma, is now 13. Once fully black, she now is grey in the muzzle and is showing her age. I cannot fathom losing her and coming home to an empty house.

I had a rude awakening this week to how I’ve tuned out Gemma’s aging. It suddenly became clear to me (once I allowed myself to see the signs) that Gemma is deaf.

This morning I went outside through one door and came back through another only to find my girl sitting by the door I exited, waiting for me to return. She didn’t notice me until I touched her and it seemed to surprise her. Other times I’ve come home and called her only to find her sleeping peacefully on my bed. When I touched her, she awoke with a start. On walks, she dawdles in the parking area near trailheads no matter how loudly I call her. I’ve taken to leashing her as I get out of the car to ensure she doesn’t stay in a hazard zone. I’ve previously attributed her lack of response to my calls to selective hearing. I realize now there’s no attitude involved — she simply can’t hear me. How could I have been to upset by what I saw as disobedience? I didn’t know, or I didn’t want to acknowledge it. If there was any selective attitude at play, it’s been my denial to see a normal course of aging. Gemma cannot hear me as she once could. It breaks my heart, but it’s true. Now that I face the truth, I can take steps to ensure she doesn’t get into danger.

I realize dogs have been so important through my life because of their unconditional love and acceptance. They don’t let you down, as people often can. They forgive easily. They’re natural entertainers, and can make me laugh when it’s the last thing I feel like doing. They connect me to others who also love their dogs. Dog people have good values, unless they’re the type who need a dog to boost their ego.

My dogs guide me through the big decisions in life. Many of my friends are retired as journalists. I decided to go from reporting to retail, and have benefitted from doing something so different from my main career.

I’ve been thinking that my decision to retire permanently will be based on finances. But really, it will be based on dogs. I hate to think that when Gemma goes, Pete will be home alone. He loves us both equally, and the loss of Gemma will devastate us both. Maybe I can find a home-based job to cover the gap in the budget.

I’m afraid the habit of tying emotional needs with finances is a long-standing issue. It’s cost me greatly in the past and it’s something I continue to wrestle with. I hope that when I align my heart with the needs of dogs, I’ll be all right.

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