Friday, June 15, 2012

Puppy Love

I have two dogs……

Hold on a second.  If you’ll allow me a slight aside, please note what I just typed: “I have…..”  It’s been slightly more than three years now since Maggie’s Angel Day.  Yet that’s still difficult to say.  It’s much easier albeit incorrect to say “We have two dogs.”  The past tense phrase “We had two dogs” doesn’t work because the loving puppies are still alive and licking.  But “I have two dogs” just doesn’t fit.  They used to be “our dogs" - hers and mine - and even though she’s not here to share in poo duty anymore, they still seem like our dogs to me.  If it’s ok with you, can I start again?  (I promise it’s relevant to my post.)

We have two dogs, Niko and Kali.  Niko was the dog I never thought I’d have because I was blessed with allergies to everything: dirt, grass, mold, and especially hair: dog hair, cat hair, horse hair, rabbit hair, people hair... if it grows, I'm allergic to it.  So when Maggie declared about nine years ago that we should get a dog, I told her she was nuts, in of course the most loving, supportive way.  But she was a smart one, that girl, and rarely listened to me and what I called “logic.”  She went to researchin’ and found a rare breed of dogs that don’t have any hair called American Hairless Terriers.  While I was intrigued, I was skeptical so we set up a test.  We went to visit a home that had one of these freak dogs to verify whether or not I could comfortably snuggle.  And just days after the successful meet-and-greet, she had arranged to pick up our new puppy, Niko.  Just like that, we had a dog.

Kali came along much later at the request of my sweetheart who was having a tough time and, frankly, didn’t have much time left.  I argued against the additional responsibility.  I lost.  Maggie loved having Kali around.  Puppies are (mostly) fun.  But given the timing and the enormous challenges we were facing at that point, I don’t think either of us bonded with Kali like we did with Niko. (But she's still here and she's one of my babies.)

Niko was is our baby.  She went everywhere with us and we spared no spoiling.  It was quite the adjustment for Maggie and my three-year-young relationship and, as we both knew but didn’t discuss, this was a practice run for other things coming later.  It was fun.

But let me be very clear.  Despite my spoiling, Niko was Maggie’s baby.  They were connected in ways I couldn’t explain.  When Maggie would return home, Niko would go nuts with joy, running around the house, whining, bouncing, elated.  It was a sight to see.  She loved Maggie WAY more than me.  And yes, that hurt my little heart a little bit but I got used to it.  Heck, I loved Maggie, too, so I could see Niko’s perspective (but I still snuck secret treats to Niko all the time, just to ply my case.)

Flash forward to today.  These days, it seems like every couple of weeks there’s a video posted on CNN of a returning soldier greeting his or her dog.  Just yesterday was a lady soldier who walked in to greet a sleeping beagle who, after sniffing the unfamiliar girl in camo, comes absolutely unglued with joy.  The dog whines and runs around like a maniac, alternating between licking, whining, body-checking and other just plain nutso behavior.  It’s clear that the dog knew her mom was finally home.  It’s also clear that the dog dearly missed her mom.  It’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen.

Every damn time I watch that video and those like it, I breakdown into a sobbing mess.  It makes me so happy for that dog but seeing how happy that dog is breaks my heart, too.  I remember how happy Niko was when Maggie returned back from a lengthy absence.  She just went absolutely nuts.  It's clear that she obviously missed her.

I often wonder if Niko still thinks about Maggie and wonders "Hey, where'd Mom go? And when is she getting back?"  Does she even remember her?  From the videos of the returning soldiers, I can comfortably say that yes, dogs absolutely remember, without a doubt.  Do they ever forget?  And do they get sad when they remember, just like us?

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Niko light up from a smell that I suspected was from Maggie.  But, of course, the things that might still hold those smells haven’t been touched in a while.  One day when I push forward again, it’ll be interesting to see how she responds.  But until then, she’ll just be a pretty average happy dog, with no visible signs of the explosive joy that she might show if Maggie one day walked through the door.

I’ll tell you this, though.  If Maggie ever walks through that door, Niko is going to have to fight me for Maggie kisses.  I'm first.


  1. Interesting to read your post chris.
    I just returned from a trip and was worried my six month old pup would have forgotten me. . . she is so young.
    However, when I came through the door she was so full of joy and a kind of shock like "you came back!"
    It brought tears to my eyes and it also made me wonder if pets grieve. They say to dogs their is no past and no future. But how do they learn?
    Why do they remember us?
    I believe it is a form of love.
    So . . . like you my mind went to the joy I would feel if my husband suddenly appeared. It would be an explosive celebration.
    If every, someday, there was some kind of reunion. I know "that" moment will be all the heaven I need.

    thanks for sharing, such a beautiful picture.

  2. My dog was so depressed after the death of my husband. Rider only ate sporadically and stopped playing altogether. When I would enter a room or step over him, he would raise his head and look at me with his sad eyes as if to say, "What it's just you again?" My husband and the dog were best of friends. They spent every day together outside and inside. Rider and I are 7 months out and I see some improvement in him, he looks a little happier now and we have formed a relationship. He still waits at attention in the front yard, looking down the street at the way my husband always drove home. I have to think he is still waiting...Kind of like me.

  3. Chris, I catch myself all the time saying "we" when it should be just "me". Usually I have already said it, and I know I should correct it, but I just let it go, kinda awkward sometimes.

    And, yes, I do believe our furry friends grieve and remember those who take care of them. I am drawn to those videos of vets returning home to their animals, makes me cry every time. I don't think I would be where I am today mentally/emotionally without our/my pets. Whosoever they were, they're now mine, thank goodness.

  4. so true:
    I struggle with I have versus we have
    I wonder what my (now) dogs would do if their daddy showed up.
    I long for getting to find that out, but part of me hopes that they don't remember them. I hate to think of them missing him like I do. I can't bear to watch those videos.

  5. I have a difficult time watching videos of soldiers returning home. I am truly happy for them, I am! But the overwhelming joy I see in the eyes of their pets, spouses and children only reminds me that I can never give that opportunity to my,(our),sons.

    I miss my husband and my sons miss their dad. He was not in the military, but I wish I could arrange a reunion with him, like the reunions I see in the videos of the soldiers returning home.

    It has been nearly three years since my husband died. Our lives continue to move forward and we are doing well, but it would be nice to have the opportunity to surprise my sons, (and our dog), with a reunion.