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Since my wife Amy and I have had at least one, and as many as three dogs at a time for the last 24 years, I suppose it was inevitable that eventually, I’d write about our pethood experiences. I’m motivated now to do so because, as I’m writing this, we just lost Herbie, our third of the five dogs we’ve had since 1998, and his loss was as intensely sorrowful as it was with the previous two. So, pardon the sad nostalgia, but writing is therapy for me, and I’m in need of that particular commodity right now.
All five of our dogs have been Portuguese Water Dogs, a purebred often confused with the crossbred ‘doodles’ of one variety or another. Until Amy met a relative’s ‘Portie’ and experienced their unique personality, we’d never considered adopting a dog. And, despite my many attempts at discouraging pethood and not daunted by the rareness of the breed, Amy began what became a two-year search for a puppy.
My aversion to complicating two otherwise active lives might still have prevailed, however, if I hadn’t joined Amy on one of the litter visits. The breeder knew what she was doing handing me her recommended choice, which promptly fell asleep in my arms. The breeder said that was a sign that he’d be a reserved, trouble-free pet. Wrong, very wrong.
From the first night, Sherman, as we would name him, was a handful. One of the promises I secured from Amy if I consented to pethood was that it would sleep in a crate anywhere but the bedroom. Two sleepless, whining nights later, Sherman of course began sharing our bed, never to stop.
Next promise broken—not allowed on the couch and chairs. I suppose to a dog a couch looks like a bed, so you know how that turned out. And speaking of couches, picture a living room full of stuffing, torn out of a now-ruined piece of furniture by a briefly unmonitored puppy. That was followed by the dishwasher debacle, where Sherman got his collar tags caught in the tray while licking dinner plates and pulled it completely out, slinging dishes everywhere while whirling in a circle. Then came the superglue heist, miraculously resulting only in the tube firmly stuck to his paw, the theft from a neighbor’s open door of a toddler’s toy, and many other misdeeds.
Hoping to mitigate Sherman’s opportunities for mischief at home, I began taking him to work. That is, until one day he walked unnoticed out of my office, and I found him sitting in the back of the elevator just as the doors closed. Eight frantic stairway flights down, I caught him outside the automatic exit door on a busy street.
Not all of Sherman’s misconduct was damaging or dangerous, such as toilet paper unrolling through the bedroom, down the hall, down the steps, and into the living room—a record to this day. Or his habit while you showered of dragging your towel downstairs and out the dog door into the yard. He also demonstrated how smart Porties are when he slipped his collar from Amy and gave chase as I ran in a half-marathon. Apparently, he tired before I did because he climbed into the open door of a roadside police cruiser, where Amy found him when she caught up.
When Sherman was five, despite my initial reluctance to get a dog, the endearing outweighed the infuriating, and I led the charge for a second dog. We adopted Sherman’s sister’s puppy and named him Oliver. Although they eventually worked out their alpha dog differences, the first few weeks made me regret my decision as the bed (of course) became a battleground.
Two dogs were alright, but I protested again when Amy campaigned for a third—a puppy from Oliver’s sister’s litter—who would become our Herbie. Amy’s logic was that Sherman was aging and we should always have a ‘backup dog’ to keep the other one company. To this day, Herbie was the sweetest of the bunch, but with one annoying habit—always knowing almost to the minute when it was 5 o’clock and barking until fed his dinner.
Our first devastating loss was when Sherman passed away a year after Herbie arrived. Other than losing my parents in turn, I’d not experienced such grief. So, I didn’t put up much of a fight when a great-nephew of Sherman’s became available, registered with the American Kennel Club as Repeat but called Petey because he’s wondrously the spitting image of Sherman. Thus, we were back to three, until we lost Oliver, but then came Reilly, our new backup dog. And yes, the bed and the couch never did get any less crowded.
I originally didn’t want a dog, but now I can’t imagine not having one. But I also couldn’t anticipate the pain of losing them. I cried as much when we lost Herbie recently as when Sherman and Oliver left us.
The fond memories of our ‘boys’, follies and all, help somewhat. So does writing about them. Thanks for reading my therapy.
Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is an 11-year Timnath resident who proudly serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 48 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at NFNTimnath@gmail.com.