My father loved dogs and hated cats. I loved dogs and especially love cats. I decided when i was older, i'd have cats. And maybe dogs.
Growing up, we had dogs, and i loved them. Then after i graduated college and was living in an apartment, i wanted to have a furfriend but thought it unfair given my long work hours and no yard, as my living space was not on the ground floor. I had contented myself with petting other people's dogs and cats but knew there'd come a time in my life where i'd have one. I would take my aunt's dog, Woofer, for a walk or let him run in the park. He hated the car, but quickly learned that when he went with me, we didn't go to the vet's, but to a wonderful, green, large space where he could run at will. Woofer ended up with cancer, poor thing, and when we knew the end was near, i took him in the car to the park. He wasn't able to run boundlessly, but we enjoyed a saunter and rested a bit at the top of the hill. We both seemed to know it was the last time we'd be there together and wanted to savour every minute.
Then, i met Himself, and it wasn't too long afterwards that we knew we'd be staying together for the long term. Then i found out he was allergic to both dogs and cats. People who've never had pets or known their love will not understand just how much i loved this man when i told him that i was willing to sacrifice all opportunities to have a dog or cat since he had allergies.
Since he never had a pet, other than a rabbit and that was his sister's, he didn't understand the largesse. He nodded, said okay, and we got married. Shortly after we moved into our house, the one we helped build, our next door neighbours' black and white cat, Zerbe, decided we had the perfect place for her retirement home. Our neighbours had a yellow lab named Katy, who adored me, and after Katy died, they got Kay, a Siberian husky who was dumped on the road in front of their house. Zerbe had been flung out a car window when a kitten and landed on their driveway, so there seemed to be a pattern...
Kay was a lovely dog. She was afraid of most men, so we figured she had been beaten by a man, and she was really terrified of any man sporting a beard, which led us to surmise the idiot was a bearded one. Like other huskies and malmutes, she loved to run, and would sometimes take off for a run around the neighbourhood. I was home alone one night, watching tv, when i felt eyes staring at me. I looked out one of the large windows in the living room to see a pair of eyes staring at me unblinkingly. I shouted in surprise, and Kay barked gleefully. She didn't seem to understand that i nearly had a coronary, and wagged her tail.
Zerbe came by to see us nearly every day, and one cold February day, Himself let her in our house. He tried explaining to me that he thought she was cold, and she was after all, old. He didn't understand that by doing this, she now expected to live with us full time. Which, as it turned out, she did.
She was patient with us, seeing that we had possibilities. As Himself noted, she was old when she came to us, and i learnt to make the most of every day we had with her. He pet her, sneezed, and took allergy meds by the truckload. He also fell hopelessly in love with her, and though she came to us old, she lived to be ancient. I was home when she had the seizure that threw her down on the ground. I equated it with suffering a stroke and wanted to put her down right then. He wanted to wait just in case... in case of what? i asked. He talked to the vet who said that we'd know in 24 hours what to do. I knew right then what needed doing. Within 24 hours, Himself did, too, and my vet later said that if ever you wanted to get her to come over right away, have a man call her and break down and sob trying to tell her that the time had come for his pet to be euthanised.
Zerbe was 19 when Himself made that phone call. The vet paid us a house call and refused any money saying that's not what she wanted to be paid for. I baked a loaf of bread for the staff and attached a thank you card.
Himself and i were both very sad afterwards, the way one is whenever a loved one leaves the planet. It was during this season of grief, when for the first time in 7 years he could breathe more easily since there was no animal dander, that he said he could finally understand just how big a sacrifice it was when i said i'd forego living with dogs and cats for him. He didn't appreciate it at the time i said it, and how, after having had a four-footed creature choose us, he doesn't know how i found the strength to be able to say it. I smiled and said that breathing is fundamental, and he was breathing very much more easily now that we were once again pet-less. He looked at me earnestly and said that he'd rather have to take allergy meds the rest of his life than to spend it without a dog or cat in the house, as it was just so damn lonesome without them.
In time, he found Grace, the feral cat whom we rescued, and then Sparky, the barn cat, followed us home on a walk.
His breathing is a bit laboured with cats, but it's really terrible with dogs. So, we content ourselves with felines and pet other people's dogs. Lately, i've been really looking at dogs and thinking how nice it would be to have one live in our home. I don't know how Phoebe and JoJo would like it. I know Himself would love the dog, but given his breathing trouble, i don't think we can risk it. So, to date, we haven't.
Meantime, the next door neighbours have a dog named Kramer, who's happy to receive meat bones from us. I received a free goodies bag at a nearby store, and one of the items is a small bag of dog treats. Those will go to him or a hockey teammate's dog, Izze.
I get wistful when i see neighbours walking their dogs. An acquaintance suggested that i go to the animal shelter and volunteer to walk the dogs. They always seem to need someone to help out, and i'm toying with the idea. I just don't know that i have the fortitude to walk the dogs and love them and leave them at the shelter as they wait for their forever homes.