About a year ago, a wonderful woman named Heather came into my life. The circumstances of our situation forced the velocity of our relationship to accelerate at an alarming rate, which resulted in our sharing accommodations within about 4 months of establishing our mutual attraction. While outsiders (most of them) saw this as absolute insanity, it seems to have worked for us in an incredible way. One of my hesitations at the time was, however, that Heather would not be the sole new occupant.
Heather brought with her Oscar and Gemma. Three additional mouths to feed and shelter. Three more bodies to occupy the two-bedroom apartment that I was currently sharing with my webcomic partner Jeff Moss. Oscar is a four year old, and Gemma, two.
Oscar and Gemma are dogs.
Gemma, a rambunctious little scruffy mutt, looked like something dragged out of a soggy cardboard box and haphazardly cleaned up for domestic use. A mix of what we believe to be an Australian Shepherd and a Wheaton Terrier, she is small, fast, and covered in long, wiry gray hair. It’s often remarked that she looks like a raccoon. She is always eager to lick your face, arm or belly button. At first, when I met her, I thought she was a kind of not-quite ugly I can’t describe – something a little off from what I expect a dog should look like. But now, now I’m totally in love with her, and think she’s probably the cutest dog ever. And I can’t help talking in a ‘cutesy’ voice around her.
Oscar is a black standard poodle. He can be grumpy, preferring people to other dogs. He behaves much like a cat when in the presence of new people he likes, rubbing himself in a cat-like manner in your legs, a move Heather dubbed ‘poodling.’ He tends to be shy around other dogs, or downright mean if he’s trying to ensure they know that a stick or ball we might be playing with is his ball or stick. But once he knows another dog, he often loves them so much he has to hump them. Especially if it’s another male dog. Although Oscar doesn’t have a ‘gay’ haircut (no poofs!), he is most definitely gay himself. Which really isn’t doing much to help the general Poodle breed reputation.
Up until about six months ago, no one would have mistaken me for a dog lover. Most people interpret this to mean that I was a dog hater. While I likened myself to be more of a cat person, my “hatred” for all dogs was greatly exaggerated. I had little animosity for dogs. It was just my perspective that I preferred the far lower-maintenance and relative independence of cats. This disposition can be blamed on several factors:
- When I was three, our family dog attacked me. Blue was a dog that my Mom had rescued from a shelter, and although he had shown no signs of aggression previously, this attack warranted his being put down. Though I don’t remember the incident, I know there was some residual fear surrounding dogs as I grew up.
- The first pets I remember having were cats. Misty, our family’s first cat, was run over when we moved to Toronto in 1984. My brother and I each received a cat (sisters) not long after her death. Both lived to ripe old ages; Thumper (originally my cat) lived to 14. Pebbles lived to 21, the last year or so soley in my care, which has left an indelible attachment to the little furry creatures.
- My family’s second dog, Mandy was brought home in 1992. While I initially enjoyed the experience of the little puppy, our relationship soon soured when she took to eating her own poop, and then coming to beg at the table (or the couch) from me for food. There is nothing more unappetizing than having fetid dog-poo breath pulsating at you as you try and eat meatloaf. The rumors of my distaste for dogs stemmed from a written declaration of my growing dislike of this eager dog’s poo-breath.
It took me a few weeks to warm up to these new four-legged roommates. Not being particularly fond of dogs throughout most of my life, I kept my distance at first, and refused to walk them alone, nor would I consider picking up their poop. Fast forward six months, and not only am I picking them up, often I’m the one taking them for all of their three walks a day. I spend all day working from home, so they’re around me all the time (Gemma sleeps in my office), and I spend upwards of three hours a day out on walks with them – which, in addition to changing my diet has led me to shed nearly 45lbs to date. So, thanks doggies.
I’ve given all of this, as background so that when you read this, you understand that while I may not have started out as a dog-lover, I am one now. I can’t get enough of these two, and would do just about anything for them. I treat them as well as I did my cats (if not, better), and I even get a little separation anxiety if I’m away from them for more than a day or two. I love these little ruffians as though they were my own, as they have become mine as well as Heather’s. I’ve adopted them, and they’ve adopted me. I’m rather proud when people comment on the relationship I enjoy with my dogs. I hope this helps you to understand how devastating it was when I nearly completely lost one of them.