Puppy Love: Heart-Stealing Dogs
They can transform a couple into a family.
Quent and I had been married for 12 years, a couple for 16. And we were happy together, just the two of us -- no children. Quent had three boys from his first marriage and didn't want to raise a family again. So I put away my baby fever, which, to be honest, had burned in me only for a very short time. Once it was gone, however, that other fever roared through, one that had been there all along. I wanted a dog. Yes. I had to have a dog. My dog.
"No dog," said Quent. Non-negotiable, said his tone of voice.
I was getting a dog.
"Please don't get a dog."
Was it possible I had married a man who didn't like -- no, love -- dogs? No. It was impossible because it was unthinkable. Wasn't it?
I wanted a Labrador retriever with a silky yellow head.
"They shed. It'll ruin our apartment," Quent said.
"Our apartment is basically yellow," I argued.
He wasn't the only naysayer. Friends who'd have been thrilled if I had a child behaved as though I were a lunatic to want a dog. Why was everyone against my dog? Did they think I didn't carry the maternal gene? My resolve and commitment strengthened. I was getting a dog.
A friend told me about a special Labrador adoption program. The organization Guiding eyes for the Blind breeds its own dogs and trains them, but not all the trainees are cut out to be service dogs, so some become pets. I applied for one and, after a three-year wait (and lots of arguments with Quent), Eliza was mine.
Quent and had made a family when we married. But here's a guilty secret. It wasn't until Eliza came to live with us that really felt we were a tribe. We'd added one more team member, albeit four-legged, and our twosome-turned-threesome felt stronger.
Once Eliza was around, my husband and I began relating to each other somewhat differently. Had Quent and I ever said pee and poop to each other? Um, don't think so. And if we had, we'd certainly never said it so many times a day, every day. "How was your walk?" I'd ask as we read the paper and drank our coffee, Eliza lying across someone's feet. "Anything interesting to report?" There almost always was.
"I never noticed how many people have dogs," Quent would say. "Eliza pees in the same spot right in the middle of Barrow Street every day. She was unusually frisky this morning.... There was a beagle who wanted to tussle, but Eliza just walked away." The man who didn't love dogs was capable of fatherly pride.
We'd rented a country house that first summer, and Quent commuted daily from the city. Eliza's joy in seeing Quent as he got out of the car was a splendid thing. The two of them romped in the backyard with a ball as I prepared dinner, and if Eliza abandoned the game to race after a rabbit or a deer, he knew exactly how to lure her back.
Once, though, she wouldn't be lured, and instead disappeared into the high grasses for a while. That night, as she leaped onto the bed with her usual nimble grace, he admitted to me how scared he'd been: "I thought, How am I going to tell Lesley she's lost?" And when that silky head happened to rest itself on his knee and not mine, I felt a twinge of something like jealousy. Hey -- what happened to My Dog? The answer was becoming clearer and clearer. Eliza had become Our Dog.
-- By Lesley Dormen