The Westminster Kennel Club holds its famous dog show each year in Madison Square Garden. My wife, Mattie, and nine-year-old daughter, Jessie, watch every minute of the six-hour, two-night telecast. As they snuggle under a blanket, eyes glued to the TV, the oohs and ahhs from the sofa continue nonstop.
“I want that one.”
“Ah, it’s sooooo cute.”
When the public-address announcer calls, “May I have the hound group into the ring,” they shriek like we won the lottery.
While Mattie and Jessie enjoy their dog fantasies, I might as well be invisible. They’d probably notice if I rode a camel in front of the TV, before promptly responding in unison, “Get out of the way!” Simply put, Mattie and Jessie love dogs.
Don’t get me wrong. I like dogs, too, and have had a few great ones in my lifetime. However, I also remember when we lost our beloved Shetland sheepdog, Ginger, to a stroke after a year of fighting kidney disease. I’ll never forget Jessie’s wails, which were striking in both volume and duration. It was my worst day as a father.
Plus, puppies and dogs are a lot of work. As a stay-at-home dad, I knew who would perform most of it. Doggie needs taken out early or late. Dad. Walks in unpleasant weather. Dad. Trips to the vet, clean up accidents, keep the little chewer from ruining our furniture. Dad, Dad, Dad. So, you can see why I was less than enthusiastic about adding a furry new member to our family.
However, I knew it was just a matter of time. Probably deep down, way deep down, I wanted another dog, too. We welcomed Sadie, a Shetland sheepdog puppy, into our family two years ago. Just as I expected, my workload has increased by all the above tasks and more.
Dogs need lots of love and attention. Frequently, Sadie puts her front paws on the arm of my desk chair or brings her stuffed gorilla and uses her big, brown eyes to guilt-trip me into playing. I throw the gorilla and she brings it back, over and over, as I try to type a few words. Yes, it’s harder to focus on my work. And somehow, Sadie became a sofa dog, a privileged place to shed that we kept off-limits to our previous pooches. Maybe it’s time for Jessie’s perspective on why we needed a dog.
Jessie, Age 9
Our dog Ginger died. It had been a while since she died. I told my parents about a trillion times, “I need a dog.” It’s important to have a dog greet me when I come into the house. A dog licks between my toes when I’m feeling bad. I like a dog to cuddle up with at night, a dog to dress up in my baby clothes, a dog to play with, and a fluffy thing to love. Finally, we got one, Sadie.
I need another dog. I would like to get a Havanese. They are priced at $2,000 plus. They are super cute. They don’t have many health problems. It will give Sadie a playmate. Two dogs will also protect both sides of my bed at night, and I’d have a dog for each hand when I’m holding the leashes. Now, let’s get back to Dad.
Instead of giving 2,000-plus reasons on why we don’t need a second dog, I’ll concede that Sadie has been a welcome addition to our family. The first sentence of Jessie’s bedtime prayer sums this up. Every night, she opens with, “Thank you for Mommy and Daddy and the best dog in the whole world that I love so, so, so, so, so, so very much.”
We did need a dog … but not a second one!
But no matter how many dogs share our home, one thing is certain ’tween daughter and dad, I love my girl and my girl loves me.
Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. Happy Father’s Day! Enjoy the sights and sounds of fatherhood – even a few untimely barks.