No dog could ever take the place of Eric. He was a one-in-a-zillion dog. I honestly can't remember a single 'bad' thing he ever did. He was house trained and heeling by the time he was three weeks old. "Training" was something I never did with him. All I did is take care of him and love him, and the rest took care of itself. He was so smart no explaining was necessary. We were such soul mates and he had such trust he just effortlessly came along, learned, and applied. I knew there'd never be another one like him, and after him I could never (Eric and Me, circa 1972.)
even think about opening my heart to another dog. Someday maybe I'll tell you Eric's story. After Eric, I never wanted another dog.
George was one of twelve puppies born to a yellow lab mom. K, my oldest daughter, rescued the mother and puppies from a neglectful situation, and was caring for them all. After they were weaned, she kept one puppy, and found homes for all the rest except George. It's not an easy feat finding homes for twelve puppies, but between friends and Pet Adoption League and the Adoption Fairs they hold at local PetSmart stores, she found homes for all except one of them. Sensing what was probably about to happen, I told her, "Take him to one more adoption fair. If no one wants him, I'll take him."
I tried not to fall in love in with George. I really tried. I purposely avoided visiting K and all those puppies. I could feel myself getting sucked in. I could feel my heart strings being pulled. The logical, rational part of me thought I was nuts. "How silly," I told myself. DO NOT get attached to that puppy. "Your kids are all practically grown up. Why would you want to get a dog now? You can see the light at the end of the tunnel - freedom from responsibility, freedom to travel, a clean, neat, orderly house. . . Don't. do it!" In the end I couldn't resist.
After Eric, I refused to have a dog. I just couldn't imagine going through that kind of heartbreak again. I did have cats all the time, but never again a dog. I even tried once when my kids were small with a sweet English Springer Spaniel who was looking for a home. She was too much of a handful though, and too rough with my small children. We worked with her for about six months, but Youngest Daughter was scared of her after being knocked down a few too many times, and her little preschool friends wouldn't come over to play anymore because they were scared of the dog too.
We found her (the dog, not my daughter!) a better-suited home with kids too big for her to knock down all the time. Her new family loved her. I never thought twice about it, since I hadn't let myself get attached to her anyway. After that I stood firm on my NO DOG policy in spite of my children's pleading. I'd let my heart turn to stone where dogs were concerned. Even puppies weren't enough to soften my cold, hard heart.
I hadn't thought much about how attached I am to George until the past four months while he was visiting Youngest Daughter. I didn't even miss him much at first. I kind of enjoyed the freedom. I definitely didn't miss the hair everywhere. But the longer he was gone, the more I realized how attached to him I really am. The last time I visited him I cried when it was time to leave him. "How silly," I thought. It's only now that he's home that I've really realized how attached I am to him, and it's a little scary.
In spite of his hair everywhere, his OCD tendencies, and the fact that he's the biggest baby and the whiniest dog I've met in my life (for George, to breathe is to whine,) he's just a big ole' sweetie and I've never regretted opening my heart to him.
Bonding with a pet brings joy, life lessons, and many experiences, not all of them easy to bear. I know he won't be here forever. A large-breed mix, at seven years old, he's already considered geriatric. So here's a toast to you George: May you live many more happy, healthy years. And may I never take your big old sweet self for granted again.