Must Love Dogs?

I had an epiphany this week. Every woman I have married came with a dog.

Dating these women didn’t come with a “Must Love Dogs” conditional statement, but the implication was clear enough — you marry me, you get the dog too. They saw it as a bonus. I just smiled and considered it a small price to pay. 

My high school sweetheart, Tootie, had a poodle named “Sissy.” When we married in our early twenties, Sissy was part of the package. I didn’t complain. I liked dogs. Besides, Sissy was well-trained, and she had taken a liking to me during our dating years.

When I lost my beloved to cancer in 2011, I had no plans to remarry. Yet, six years later, I found another love in Patrice. She came with a dog too. “Emma” was a long-hair English Dachshund. It took Emma a while to warm up to this new man in her life.  Belly rubs and bacon treats sped our love affair along.

So, I had to ponder the obvious — how did the pets of my future brides influence my dating life?

I suspect, in hindsight, that both of these ladies closely watched my relationship with their canine companions.  How I treated their dogs gave them insight into me. They, no doubt, also wondered — would their dog be a showstopper for Me?

Fortunately, dogs were never a problem for me. They are “man’s best friend,” right? They (usually) become part of the family as faithful, loyal, and affectionate canine companions. What’s not to love?

Now cats are a different story.  

My apologies to cat lovers, but I would have been reluctant about a relationship with someone with a cat. First, I am slightly allergic to them. Plus, I have always viewed cats as having a royalty complex — humanity exists to serve them. Pardon the exaggeration; I know many folks who adore their feline friends and find them just as comforting as a canine companion. But for me, I always thought twice before pursuing any such relationships.

How a loving act became a laughable moment.

Tootie and Patrice had dogs when I met them. At the time, I recognized the need to embrace their pet that would share our home. But that went for all future pets as well.  Case in point, years ago, my first wife and I had a four-pound bundle-of-bark Chihuahua named “Cha-Cha.” Once, when one of our daughters dropped by to visit, she noticed a small bump on Cha-Cha’s belly. Since my wife was ill in bed at the time, my daughter strongly encouraged me to take Cha-Cha to the Vet to check out that suspicious lump. Not wanting to worry or bother my wife, I agreed and quietly sneaked Cha-Cha to our local Vet’s office. Once inside, the Veterinarian closely examined Cha-Cha and, no doubt, with all the self-control he could manage, calmly explained, “Mr. McElhannon, no worries.  This lump you are concerned about is Cha-Cha’s belly button. Your dog has an outtie.” I appreciated the Vet allowing me to leave before bursting into laughter and adding my story to the inventory of his client’s most embarrassing moments.

Once home, I confessed to my wife what I had done.  Despite the embarrassing outcome, she laughed but didn’t give me too much grief as she saw it as a thoughtful and loving thing to have done. I had always told her I would be a fool for her, and Cha-Cha gave me a chance to demonstrate it.

Mr. Wiggles?

While I like dogs, I like them one at a time.  I’ve never been one to want too many four-legged creatures running around the house. My one-dog policy had never been formally stated until one evening four years ago when Patrice and I were watching a romantic comedy movie on television. My bride suddenly became inspired. The lead actress in the movie played a veterinarian. During one scene, she stated that her next appointment was with a dog named “Mr. Wiggles.”

Acting as if the clouds had parted and a heavenly message had just been delivered, Patrice jumped out of her seat, looked at me, and fervently declared,  “That’s what I can get you for Christmas. I can go to a local animal shelter,  find a cute little dog, and we can name him Mr. Wiggles.”

With my eyes fixed in a determined stare at this feminine face beaming with unbridled enthusiasm, I uttered a firm, no-nonsense, over-my-dead-body response, “Absolutely not! There is no room in our home for Mr. Wiggles!!!”

Knowing I needed to quickly dispel any notion of her heavenly vision, I reminded her that as the man of the house, I only had a few rules. One rule being that we have no more than one animal as a pet, and we already had a dachshund.

Still laughing, she vainly suggested that our diminutive dachshund, with such an innocent name (quite deceptive in my opinion) as “Emma,” was only half-a-dog.  Au contraire, mon cheri.  That sharp-tongued, long-bodied, short-legged, stubborn canine sausage has a big-dog bark that could cut a tough steak.  Nicknamed by me as “Madame Defiance,” she has a jealous streak on display whenever our grandchildren receive too much attention. Said streak was often rendered as puddles in conspicuous spots on the kitchen floor. Emma, while usually lovable and adorable, was far more than half-a-dog — she was a footlong frankfurter with all the condiments.

That evening, hearing our discussion, Madame Defiance, aka Emma, alertly lifted her head and began staring at us.  Patrice thought she was being cute and wanted a treat. I thought she heard the half-a-dog comment and was already contemplating the location of her next puddle. No, a second pet was out of the question. No telling how Emma would react to sharing her home with another canine. Besides, how could there be room for Mr. Wiggles when this bantam beast of a dog had already marked all corners of our house? Queen Emma had enough subjects to rule. 

Maybe I should apologize to cats — some dogs have a royalty complex too!

Grieving a Loss

If your spouse has a pet — canine or otherwise — be sensitive to those moments when a loss occurs. Those not so attached to a pet often fail to realize the pain of losing one. Of course, pets are not human, but the grief over their loss is genuine. Offer your help and your shoulder for their tears, but never minimize their loss or try to excuse it away. The grief is real, and your comfort and support should be equally real.

We recently lost our Emma. It was a quiet, tearful home for a while. My wife had had her for sixteen years, and Emma had seen her through some rough times. True love survives the good and bad times and never ignores those emotional land mines that can create lasting resentment. I simply asked my wife, “what can I do?”  The truth was, there was little to do but to let her vent her feelings, cry her tears, hold her, and grieve. Just being there for her was a testimony of love. Again, never underestimate the power of being a comforting presence in the lives of those you love.

Yes, your significant other may have an unspoken expectation that you “Must Love Dogs.:  But that’s ok.  You just may discover how easy it is to fall in love with your spouse’s pet too.

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  1. npwcorp@bellsouth.net

    Sorry to hear about Emma… I did not know.


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