Losing Fisher the day after Emily’s 11th birthday was a blow to our family. For thirteen years I’d looked into his sweet face and asked him, “are you Mama’s best boy?” He never had to answer. He knew it. I knew it. Everyone knew it. He was my best boy.
I didn’t make it until Thanksgiving even until I was looking for a new pup. I couldn’t do it, the no dog life. My heart broke every time I opened the door. The quiet, the empty space at the foot of my bed. (Who am I kidding? Up near the pillows…) I am a dog person. And a dog person without a dog is just a mess.
A listing for a “black lab mix” named Adidas led me to meeting a ridiculous little pup with sharp teeth and no tail. I wasn’t sure he was the one, but how do you know? Puppies are adorable, all of them. How do you say no to a puppy?
I asked the vet tech how old she thought he was and she flipped open a folder. “It says here that he was born on September 19th.”
Fisher left us on the very same day that this little black dog came into the world. Put him in the car, we are taking him home!!
He was a baby. So we spoiled him. My human baby was getting bigger by the minute, my big kid was a precocious pre-teen. I needed something to love and he was perfect. He was a menace, don’t get me wrong. But he was a puppy.
And then he got bigger and he was kind of still a pain in the ass. He ran away when we opened the doors; he was just a pest in a way that I didn’t remember from the last dog, the best boy.
And then we got some answers in the form of those dog DNA tests. He was a beagle!
Turns out that he is an American Staffordshire Terrier and Chow Chow mix on one side. So, he is strong, stubborn, perhaps a little bit of a challenge to train. But the lineage on one entire side as far back as they can see? Beagle, pure pain in the ass.
So, we got down to the business of training him. Cue the laughter. We took a puppy class, we stopped yelling at him when he followed his nose right out the door. We accepted that he is food motivated and I had dog treats in my pockets for about a year.
And here we are.
Today he is three. He whines at night if he is outside of the covers and will not simply burrow down on his own. You must lift the blankets and invite him to come back to bed.
He stares at me whenever I am in the house.
He steals food, paper, pens and television remote controls.
When I was pregnant with Lucy I worried that if I had another daughter I wouldn’t know how to love her as much as I loved Emily. It would be simpler to have a son, right? Then I would always have my favorite daughter and my favorite son. Experienced parents, including my own mother, had long told me that the heart expands. And sure enough, that has been exactly how it all turned out. I love my girls, both of them, more than I could imagine, and each so differently.
But my dogs?
You’ve heard the old song “Michael Finnegan?” We sing it in our house about the dog.
“There was a black dog and his name was Finnegan,
He fell down and broke his shin again,
The doctor said he will never swim again,
Poor black dog named Finnegan, Begin again….”
With Finnegan we truly did “begin again.”
I worried that I would not settle on new nicknames, new patterns of behavior. That this sweet pup would steal my heart and with time I would lose Fisher more and more every day.
I tell him every day that he is the “worst dog ever.” I put his face in my hands and I get very close to him and breathe in his god forsaken breath and I whisper to him “You are a terrible dog. Do you know that? You are a bad, bad boy.”
He remains unfazed.
The girls asked me yesterday what he was getting for his birthday. I replied quickly, “He gets to live with us for another year.”