We have four dogs
By Norina S. Terry
If having children changes you on so many different levels, having dogs adds a whole new dynamic to your life.
We have four dogs! Yes, four, which we think is more than what the city allows for pet owners to have. No matter, we kept all four. We love all of them as if they are human members of the family.
Family of Four
I have a family of four - a husband and two grown, college-age children and me. My husband is Paul and our kids are Alex and Marie. Paul teaches at a middle school and works with special kids, while Alex attends the University of Houston as a third year. Marie, the youngest and the “baby” of the family, is a first year at the University of Virginia.
How our family grew in number
When our kids were younger, Marie had been offered a kitty by one of her school mates at her elementary school; the kitty was one among a few in a newly-born litter. So, my husband took our daughter to see the kitty in question. She was so enamored with it that she wanted to take it home right away, but she couldn't, much to her disappointment. The kitty, as it was, was too young to be taken away from its mother cat. Nevertheless, she was undeterred not to have the kitty that she “reserved” it and promised her friend she was picking it up in a fortnight. Two weeks passed, my husband dutifully and patiently took Marie back to her friend’s house only to find out the kitty had died. As if a bagful of gloom washed over our daughter, without a choice, she and my husband went home.
Nothing could cheer our daughter up the whole ride home until my husband parked the car in the driveway, for as soon as they parked the car, something caught Marie’s attention. A black puppy was running around our tree in the front yard and was trying to play with her. She went straight to it, and petted it while looking at her dad imploringly to keep the puppy. My husband patiently explained that they needed to find the puppy’s owner, for if that was her pet she would want the one who found it to return it to her. So, off they went, up and down the street, knocking on doors, looking for the owner, and, eventually, they found him. Once again, Marie was empty-handed.
Apparently, the whole time she and her dad were walking down the street in search of the puppy’s owner, one of our next-door neighbors watched the whole “search,” and asked why our daughter was so glum. My husband explained that she first wanted a kitty, but that did not work out and told him the situation; then, she wanted the puppy that was playing in our front yard, but someone owned it. Our neighbor laughed, and in his booming voice declared his dog just had a litter, and Marie could come take her pick. That was all it took! When Marie heard our neighbor’s claim of having a dog litter, she jumped up and down and with her really almond-shaped eyes, now big with excitement, looked up to her dad and asked if she could take a look at the puppies. With a big smile, he acquiesced and off they went… again… into our neighbor’s house. Lo and behold! A puppy, white, speckled with hints of black and brown, came walking towards Marie. Happily, Marie held it in her arms, cradling it, as if afraid to drop it at any time. Right there and then, our Petra, a beagle and Australian shepherd mix, was found and came to live with us exactly two weeks after that fateful day when she and Marie bonded in our neighbor’s living room. That was in 2008.
(Source: Own photo – Marie with Petra loving each other ever since, 2011)
But, I mentioned we have four dogs, right? I did. I did not forget.
Our second dog is Diefenbaker, an Australian shepherd mix with black, and hints of brown and specks of white fur. With hair that is much longer like a traditional Australian shepherd, she comes from the same litter as Petra. In that litter, there were probably eight puppies, but the others have already been given away except for four, all black, left playing around in the front yard, our neighbor’s and ours. There have been complaints about these dogs, mostly from the mailman, who fears getting attacked by the dogs. Makes sense.
So, how did Diefenbaker end up in our family? While at home, our son Alex played with Petra, who, until this time, still nipped at our hands or chewed at anything she laid her eyes on in the house. Alex felt a little “shortchanged” because his sister has a dog, and he did not. So, one day the four black dogs I mentioned earlier, which we were told are still “up for grabs,” were playing on our front yard, our son went out the door, picked up one of the dogs, brought her inside the house, and declared, “This is my dog!” At first, my husband and I did not want a second dog, but changed our mind eventually. The way he grabbed the dog was too funny to resist, so we called our neighbor and told them that Petra needed a companion. Having Diefenbaker live with us stopped Petra from nipping at us or chewing furniture. Finally, she has a playmate, so we were happy, and very suddenly, the family of four became a family of six.
(Source: Own photo – Family of 6)
6 becomes 8
Because we love our dogs so much, we cannot help it but feel love even for dogs that do not belong to us. One day my husband Paul was mowing the front yard, there came two very cute puppies, barking frantically at him, chasing after him, then running away when my husband attempted to pet them. One of the puppies was friendlier than the other that it approached Paul several times more, barking happily as if asking to be picked up or petted, and held.
“Arf, arf, arf!” It yapped.
Finally, Paul picked it up, and showed us the puppy. At first, I did not want to hold the puppy, who was hungry, because it was dirty and it smelled, so I took it to the bathroom and bathed him. He was so adorable and sweet that I swathed him with a towel as if it was a baby. By the time my husband came back to the house to fetch the puppy to return it to the owner, I did not want to part with it.
“No,” I screamed playfully.
Eventually, I relented and gave it to my husband to return to its family, but when he did, he was met by the family’s teenage son and was told that my husband can have the puppy. The boy explained that they made a mistake taking in one more pup to feed. Though disgusted with the reason, my husband was happy to oblige since I pined for the puppy when he took it from me to return to its supposed family. Walking back to our house, he happily announced we have a new dog, a Labrador retriever, and we named him Jack.
(Source: Own photo – Left, Jack 2012; Jack, bigger than Marie, 2014)
Our fourth dog Sophie has a more unique story. We adopted her after we promised each other in the family that we will only foster her for a few days until we can take her to the shelter or find someone to adopt her. Just like Jack, Sophie also “found” my husband. She was a stray (or so we all thought for she did not have a collar and name tag) found by a custodian lurking outside the school where my husband teaches. It was a fortuitous meeting because that morning, all he wanted was to borrow a tool from the custodian to put a pencil sharpener on the wall, so he walked to her little office where he found Sophie sitting on a chair, looking wistful. You see, it was that time of the year when it was really cold outside. There was a cold snap in February 2014. My husband pitied her, so he knelt down and petted her, comforting her. Then, he sent me text messages that morning telling me about the puppy. He sent me pictures of her as well, which was weird because it was not our dog … yet. I asked him if he wanted to bring the dog home and he said, “No, we have too many already.” But he continued to visit the dog throughout the day in his free moments, and continued to text me pictures. That afternoon he came to pick me and my daughter up, coming straight from his work. He texted me that he was waiting downstairs in the car for us to come out. I texted him to come inside like he usually did. He said he couldn’t because he had a guest in the car. When we got to the car, Sophie (who did not have a name at the time) was curled up in my passenger seat. On the ride home, she sat in the back seat with my daughter, who had to roll down the window numerous times because Sophie had big time gas! She had been eating scraps off the streets that her stomach did not seem to agree with. We promised ourselves that we would foster her for only a few days until we could find a home for her. A few days turned into weeks, and now a year and a half later, she sleeps at the foot of our bed every night.
(Source: Own photo – Left, Sophie in 2014; Right, Sophie and me now in our small library at home)
Today, all four dogs are very much a part of our family. So, what used to be a family of four became six, and finally became a family of eight. We cannot fathom life without our dogs and we “spoil” them every which way we can. They are our family, and we are their pack.