I Never Thought I'd Have Another Dog And Now I Have Two

Matthew Donnellon

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There are few things in this world more precious than a dog.

They are four-legged friends who come into your life and in a short time dig their way into your heart, among other places.

I, like many people, had a dog growing up.

She was a massive beast, a mixture of German Shepherd and Lab, but she had a heart of gold and a gentle demeanor.

Shortly before I was born, my uncle found her along a rail line. He gave her to my parents as he was living in an apartment and couldn’t keep her.

She was covered in fleas and malnourished, I was told, when I asked where we got her. They nursed her back to health and they kept her.

She became a part of my parents’ life. I may technically be their firstborn, but she was their first child.

My father worked nights and when he was at work, the dog, named Mandy, would sleep in bed with my mother. My mother told me she never worried about being home alone as Mandy was always there.

Then I came along.

Once I was able to see a home movie of the day I came home from the hospital. My grandfather took it. And there Mandy was, the first to greet my parents as they brought me home. She jumped and pranced and was eager to see what was in my mother’s arms.

The video showed me a bassinet, with Mandy at my side. A position she would never leave.

She would sleep next to my bed, and after her routine nightly patrols she’d end up right back where she started. I would dangle my small head over the edge of the bed and rub her massive head. When I was that young it felt like patting the head of a grizzly bear.

She was my constant companion. I remember crying the first time I had to go to school because I didn’t want to leave her.

But when I was home, we were always together. She wouldn’t let me or my brother or sister out of her sight. If we were outside, she would follow. She was much a nanny as a pet.

It was like that for nine years.

Then, one day in the fourth grade, I came home from school to find my best friend was gone. She had passed while I was at school, in her favorite place under the deck.

I cried like I had never cried before or since really. It had all the fury of a nine year old who didn’t understand how the world worked yet.

My parents decided not to get another dog. With my siblings’ schedules becoming increasingly more filled, it wouldn’t be fair to a new pet. We weren’t home much.

I agreed. In fact, I swore then that I’d never have another dog. Nothing would be able to replace her.

I spent the next 10 years avoiding dogs. I didn’t pet them. I didn’t seek them out. If my friends had dogs, I left them alone. Each time I saw one it just reminded me of what I had lost.

I thought it would be that way forever.

But, I was wrong.

When I was 21, 12 years after my juvenile oath to never have another pet, my pact was broken.

That’s when Emme came into my life.

She was a rescue too. She was found in a garbage bag as a puppy with her brothers.

She was a handful. She’d been returned twice by other people because she was aggressive, but I can’t blame her. I would be cranky too if I had been tossed in a trash bag by the side of the road.

She wouldn’t listen.

She was crazy.

In fact, I was essentially living with a wild animal. She refused to stay inside. She would come in to eat and then spent the rest of the day outside and most of the night outdoors. Luckily, I had a flexible schedule, and between me and my brother, someone was always there, because she did what she wanted, when she wanted.

It was like that for a few months.

Until one day it finally changed. It was like she finally realized that I wouldn’t be taking her back. That she didn’t have to fend for herself anymore.

She’s also part Chow, and research told me they essentially don’t listen their whole first year. They were right in this case.

But she calmed down. She started staying in the house.

Oh, and then there was the small matter of her size.

When I got her, they estimated her to be 60–70 pounds. They were wrong. Very, very wrong. She’s at least double that now.

She’s become another companion. We walk together. She lies in her bed next to me while I work much like another dog did so many years ago.

She taught me to love dogs again. Now, I can’t help myself when I see them. I play with my friend’s dog all the time. I forgot how it felt to be around them.

And now she’s not the only one.

A few years ago, my brother moved and couldn’t take his dog with him. And so another dog joined Emme and me.

He’s smaller, and crazier, and it took the two of them a while to get along but now they do. He’s a little more work, as he’s diabetic so he needs more attention.

He also has a bad habit of stealing space in the bed. But I know much of the time he doesn’t feel good so I let it slide.

So now while I sit here and write this with two canine companions, I think about how I swore off having pets at one point. I’m glad I didn’t follow through.

It was a good lesson as well. They aren’t replacing the first dog. No one could replace that. But I learned that it’s okay to move on. Loving them doesn’t take away from loving my first dog.

Besides, if I’d stuck with I my oath, I’d have missed out on the two best things that ever happened to me.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI
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