Dog-less

Michael Baugh CPDT-KA, CDBC

I promised myself I’d never buy a dog again and I intend to keep that promise. I wonder if you’ll join me in that commitment. There are lots good reasons that have nothing at all to do with full-bred dogs. They don’t have anything to do with money either.

I bought a golden retriever 11 and a half years ago. Juno died last week. And she was probably the best dog I will ever have. The cancer that eventually took her most certainly had a genetic cause. Too many goldens die from the same disease to deny that. But genetics isn’t the problem either. I’d have another golden. I just wouldn’t buy one.

Juno was my only dog. Once she got into her senior years I promised her I wouldn’t trouble her with a puppy and I kept that promise. Now that she’s gone I find myself dog-less. It’s an odd state. The house echoes with her absence. I sometimes think I see her from the corner of my eye. But it’s just the cat who seems equally perplexed. It’s a quiet time for tears and old pictures. But on the edge of things there’s the hint of another dog, the next dog, the one who will never take Juno’s place in my heart, but may someday take the one at the foot of our bed. I don’t know her. But I promise I won’t buy her.

If you’re a dog person, people are always clamoring at your door to take in the dog with the sad story. If you’re a dog professional or even a dog writer, it’s twice again as bad. Juno had been gone less than 48 hours when I got the first email: two Labrador retrievers whose owner was moving away. Then it was a spaniel, a stray. And the clamoring in my head is just as bad. I admit, Tim and I went to the Houston SPCA this weekend to visit the dogs there. They were all good dogs and I can’t stop thinking about them. If I’d had a few dozen people with me we could have emptied the place. None of them are for sale.

I’d have paid anything for one more week with Juno (I did pay a lot in the final weeks and months). But at the end the price in pain was too high for her and nothing could stop it. We said goodbye on the cool wood floor where she loved to sleep. The vet carried her body to his car and she was gone. There’s no shame in telling you the sobbing cut me at the knees, sorrow drawn from the deep well of a happy life with a true friend.

Cancer took Juno from me and there was no choice in it. But so many other dogs live on without a home or a person in the world who cares. That wasn’t their choice either. It’s a strange thing. Some we love so much that even the thought of losing them catches in our throat. Others we cast aside without a thought. We offer them no love at all.

So in a few weeks or a few months one of those dogs will come home with me, one who was sent away and forgotton. She’ll soak up the love and attention someone else decided she didn’t deserve. And, yes, she may be a golden. I’ll suffer the risk of cancer again. And certainly there will be expenses: vet bills, food, supplies and even an adoption fee. That’s okay. It’s not about the money. It’s about a dog I don’t even know yet, one who may not even have a name.

I won’t buy her. But she’ll be mine just the same. And I’ll be hers. And no, my home won’t be her first. It will be her last. That’s a promise too.

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