Friday, August 1, 2014
How One Woman Went From Not Caring for Dogs to Loving One
“You’re an animal hater.”
Although the word hate was a bit strong, I didn’t deny those words. I was not interested in having a pet, especially a dog. Other people’s dogs were fine, but I wouldn’t be fussing over some four-legged creature.
As I looked back to childhood, my baby brother was the one who brought stray dogs home. I’m not sure if they followed him or he coaxed them into our back yard. We got to keep one for a bit—outside under the wisteria trellis. Dad built a dog house from wood. Not long after that, this dog had puppies and we named one Buffy. Buffy, like her mother, was an outside doggie, but one day she got into the house. Like a crazed beast, she ran all over the bedrooms. She stopped long enough to chew my doll furniture. Pink cushions from my Barbie house were bitten and left strewn around my bedroom floor. I was infuriated and glad when Mom shoved Buffy out the door to go back to her dog house.
My brother was the only one in our family who really liked dogs. Strays continued to follow him home, but soon, although I’m not sure when it happened, we had no more dogs.
He made up for it though. He’s fifty now and has had dogs in his house as pets for years.
I, on the other hand, was not an animal lover. Yet, when my children were in elementary school, they begged for a dog. So after careful research, my husband and I bought a beagle for the kids and gave it to them for Christmas. My husband and kids agreed on her name—Dixie. We bought a book on how to care for beagles and gave it to my kids as well.
Dixie was a pretty and sweet doggie, although her nose got her into trouble. Like a typical hound, she followed her nose, and it led her to run away on a number of occasions. I ended up taking her on walks and even though she was a Christmas gift for my kids, I’m sure I did more for her than I’d bargained for.
Ten years later, when my second husband said he wanted a boxer, I cringed. Carl had grown up with dogs and as an adult had had boxers— his favorite breed—as pets. Dixie was still with us, yet, she had slowed down quite a bit. One dog is enough, I thought. But in a moment of weakness, I told my husband that he could have a dog and within a day of my saying that, he brought home a six-week-old boxer puppy. Carl, my kids and I felt that the name Levi suited this new addition.
Another dog. And a puppy to house train. What had I gotten myself into again? I was not one of those who cared deeply for dogs. I could take them or leave them, preferably, leave them. I would never call a dog “baby” or let him sleep in the same bedroom with me.
I’m not sure if I have mellowed with age or that boxers are my dog or perhaps it is just this one, but Levi has captured my heart. In the mornings, he slithers out from his quilt, I open the door and together we leave the bedroom. “Go outside, baby,” I say to him as my husband makes the coffee. Out through the doggie dog Levi heads and then comes back in to be made over by my husband, his stubby tail wiggling like Jell-O.
Levi has chewed my favorite sandals and used to love to steal my pink cap and take it outside. He once was caught on the counter eating a pumpkin pie I had just baked. But he has made up for his sophomoric behavior by cuddling on the sofa with me and looking empathetic when I’ve cried. He’s even learned how to sing (howl) when my husband plays the harmonica. He has such a cute face with such expressive eyes as he belts out a soulful howl. He likes ice cubes and expects them as treats. And he is so good looking; I call him the George Clooney of dogs!
He’s also been the dog we photograph for our business, Carved By Heart. Among many products we offer, we carve from photos of pets. Customers send us photos of their pets’ faces and we create from the picture into wood. Levi’s puppy face has received much attention. But when I try to pose him with our plaques, he usually doesn’t sit still long. I understand; I don’t like posing for the camera either.
As I write this at the computer, Levi curls around my feet, softly breathing in his sleep. I think he needs a treat and when I stand, walk into the kitchen and open the freezer, he jumps up to join me. I motion for him to sit; he knows the routine. Patiently he waits until I get a small cube for him, place it near his mouth and then he takes it and chews. I get an ice cube for myself and let it melt in my mouth.
I’d chew if I could, but I have to be careful not to crack any more of my molars. I smile at Levi as we head back to my computer. It’s amazing how the two of us grow more alike every day.
Alice J. Wisler is an author of five novels, three cookbooks and a devotional, writing instructor, and the co-owner of Carved By Heart (visit their shop on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/CarvedByHeart ). She and her family live in Durham, NC.