I might have kept this open to everyone but there are a few sensitive details.
Freedom Smith blogged about her family dog Emerson recently. She was worried for a while that they might have to give him up. That turned out not to be the case, but while the option of a new dog was being considered, there were conversations in replies/comments that got me thinking… a lot.
If you'll pardon me, dear readers, I'll rewind a little further back in the story for context.
Some years ago we got a dog when I was in… high school, I think, when I still lived at home with my folks. He was a mutt, but we were fairly certain of most of the mix. We were looking a puppies an older couple was trying to get rid of. The mom was their dog, a cockapoo mix (cocker spaniel-poodle) and the apparent dad was the neighbor's dog that dug under the fence, whom they figured was a Scottish terrier. One pup they were keeping, which was mostly grey in color. There were two others available. One was pretty much all white like his mom and very energetic. The other was black with a white stripe on his torso like a little tuxedo suit. He was obviously the runt of the litter and was much more calm.
We picked the latter.
The owners said he was born on Halloween, but we couldn't think of any names that sounded right or that didn't have racist connotations. My father suddenly declared his name was to be "Fred", or "Fredrick" as a full name, and that was that.
He stayed downstairs in the utility/laundry room, next to my bedroom. He howled a lot that night so I let him stay with me for a while. We eventually paper trained him and every morning, first thing, I'd let him out when he was ready to poop outside.
My sisters might like to claim (well, sister second-born at least) they had a hand in raising him, but most of that fell to me. I spent most of the time taking him for walks, playing with him outside, and teaching him tricks. We discovered he was crazy about carrots, and so we couldn't really dig carrots from our garden without him going nuts. (The garden eventually became my project, too.)
He didn't age well. He was eventually moved to a pillow on the top level and I wasn't terribly happy about that. He had problems with his ears, had back problems, and eventually developed canine dementia. He was a bag of bones after a while. Then one day I came home from college and found he wasn't there. I looked around and saw a suspicious looking urn with his collar on it. About at the same time, my parents said they decided to euthanize him and cremate his remains. I was very angry for a long time that they didn't have the courtesy to tell me about it first. I probably still am, but that's not the point of this post.
Some time before that last incident, after many nightmarish years in counseling, I began treatment for mental illness. It was ADD at first (and the medicine left me terribly skinny), but it was later changed to bipolar (and I have been fat almost ever since). Anyways, in the struggles after that, I didn't think I'd ever be in the position to own a dog again.
But one day a friend was telling me over the phone about how she got a therapy dog. Her diagnosis is somewhat similar to mine, but more in that I could imagine how she got approval for it. But it sounded like it was a small breed, one of those yippy dogs I have little patience for and my father-in-law definitely would never abide. You know, any one where there's some Chihuahua lineage somewhere. And I wasn't sure how we'd keep one as we've been apartment dwellers for many years now.
But in one of Freedom's posts someone mentioned greyhounds. So I looked it up on Wikipedia. Sounded very good, especially the part where they could adapt well to apartment living. And I talked to that someone, as it was mentioned that Neighbor was a dog breeder. She seemed a bit annoyed when I sent her a message… "wish people would stop picking my brains" was about what she said but she confirmed what I had read.
And then my daughter had to have some dental work done under sedation. My father came to help me look after my son, and when I mentioned it, he said some family friends of ours used to have a pair of greys. (This confirmed what I had read about greys– some owners alleviate the breed's separation anxiety by having two.) He said one liked to run the perimeter of their backyard at the time. I said I remembered it, since I had been there at the company picnic where his supervisor had spoken so well of him to me. Oh, and the family friends are Jewish– they ate lamb while asking everyone to take the roast pig home (they keep kosher). So I realized that if greyhound was the option, well, we'd have to move into at least a duplex unit with a yard, because we would want the dog to be able to run so often.
Then Friday night, when we were at Chuck E. Cheese, we saw a woman that was training a border collie for therapy purposes. It just deepened my desire more.
Finally tonight I went to a board game social. The woman of the house is someone I have known for some years now. The man is someone I'm still getting to know but a nice guy. They have two daughters that are about between my children's ages. Anyways they have a cat– and luckily my allergies were fine– and a black Labrador. So at the end of the event I was talking to the woman about my thoughts of late. She confirmed again everything I'd heard about greys– when they aren't sprinting, they are couch potatoes. Their lab Chief, she said (as I was petting him) was mellow and I agreed that labs could be. My long time psychiatrist had a pair that used to come with him to his practice– he called them his "therapy dogs". But Cimmy and I had lived with a friend (when we were homeless) that had a long string of dogs that had some hunting breed in them, and they were all very energetic. So I said I knew that individual labs could be mellow, but I didn't think it would be a good choice. (I didn't mention that my friend's wife at the time liked Corgies… but Cimmy and I definitely did NOT.) I did say that I was not going to be going for any of the toy/mini breeds. It'd have to be a small to medium sized dog. Oh, and that I thought a dog would help me relax… I can't fly kites for the same reason if the wind doesn't blow.
I also said that I did not want to move until I was well enough to do so. Our last move we were not well prepared for and those that helped us were very unhappy about it. I quickly explained how our housing situation was, as those of us who were guests needed to leave. It was 01:15.
So I came home (cried a little on the way) and related it all to Cimmy, plus some other things. They took on a friend who plays D&D with us as a housemate and the friend and I had been discussing our plans to regroup and revamp the game. I told Cimmy that I wasn't sure that I would get approval to have a dog specifically trained for therapy, but that petting Chief was very soothing and I still wanted one.
Damn it, I'm crying right now.