Love dogs? If you are reading this, we know you do.

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I grew up in a family that loved dogs. Each of us four kids had our “own” dog at some point growing up, and we also had some dogs who were just indiscriminately part of the family, belonging to no one in particular. The high point of the family’s dog ownership – or perhaps low point, the way I see it as a responsible dog owner today – came during the years when I was about five to 10 years old. During that period of time, I can safely say we always had at least five adult dogs (the number changed frequently). And in the year that I was about 7, we had three different females who all had litters of puppies within a few weeks of each other. Puppies were everywhere! I was in heaven!

For perspective, that was 1970. Spay/neuter surgery was unheard-of. We lived in a rural area in Northern California, and our dogs slept outside (with a few exceptions for the purebred miniature Poodle and a male and a female Cocker Spaniel we owned for a time) and mostly ran free – meaning, not one of my childhood dogs lived into anything like old age. Many died after being run over by cars. That seems outrageous today, but it was normal then. Most of my childhood friends had also lost dogs because they had been hit by cars. (It was so common that veterinarians used an acronym for it: HBC.)

My dogs were my buddies.

I was the youngest of the four kids in my family by five years, which meant that when I was 7, my siblings were 12, 13, and 14. None of them wanted to hang out with me! And the closest kids my age lived a mile away!

So, it was dogs who kept my childhood from being really pretty lonely, although I never would have recognized any of that as truth at the time. What I did know is that the dogs were always there for me, always ready to play a game, snuggle, or go exploring with me. They were there when my feelings were hurt by the rejection of my exasperated older brother and his friends (there were a lot of boys his age who lived close to us, he had plenty of friends to choose from). They were there when my parents were loudly fighting about something (now I can understand; my parents were so young! And with that many kids – and dogs! – money was always tight). They waited with me (at the roadside!) for the school bus in the morning, gleefully ran to greet my school bus in the afternoon, and on days with no school, kept me company all day long.

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Which is why this video resonated so much with me. Made by a wonderful organization (Pets Add Life) whose only purpose seems to be to promote the adoption of pets from shelters, it brought me right back to why I connected so much with dogs when I was a kid – a connection that has continued through to today. Whose dog has not soaked up some tears or joined in a celebratory dance?

Share the story of what your dog has gotten you through – and share the video! If you follow the link to the website, it points you to adoptable animals in your area –nice!

31 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve never had any children so guess what my dogs are my kids practically I have for the youngest being a-year-old German Shepherd the oldest being a 16-year-old beagle Rottweiler mix that is still hanging on he has some arthritic issues but he eats and drinks and sleeps and is still relatively happy to be alive, my other two are a corgi and a corgi mix the corgi is a delight such a personality a corgi mix was a rescue I love my dogs so much I just want to do the best for them they are always a companion there’s always somebody that would be willing to go for a walk with me or explore the woods or just go for a ride in the car .

  2. My experience is similar. My siblings were older and didn’t want me hanging around with them. I was born with a nuero-muscular disease which makes me weak, having droopy eyelids and always being the last one picked for the team. My dogs didn’t care what I looked like or what I couldn’t do. Which makes it particularly disturbing to have someone write that I shouldn’t have a dog if I need to work full-time and can’t afford to pay to have someone walk them after 6 hours.

    • I think it is also about the needs of the dogs too though isn’t it? Do they have access to the outdoors so can empty their bladders at some point during the day? Are they adequately exercised and mentally stimulated? I have a disability and work part-time but I would not have my dogs if I had to work full-time. Their need for company would come before my need of them.

      • So you feel fine about doubling or tripling the amount of dogs in shelters because you think a working person shouldn’t have a dog?

      • I agree with Stepanie, but also feel sympathy for Mary Jo. There must be some solution that brings the best answer for both the dog and the person. It is so very hard for a dog to be left alone for so long, not only for bladder reasons, but for emotional reasons. Is there someone – a friend or neighbor – who would be willing to look in on Mary Jo’s companion while she is at work?

  3. My mother was afraid of dogs so we never had one. But when I was 10 or so my aunt, who lived three blocks away, adopted a beagle puppy. They used to keep him outside in the back yard during the day, and I would go and visit him. I was lonely and maybe he was too. We would sit quietly next to each other and I would just put my head against his. He wasn’t an angelic dog – he was a food guarder at mealtimes, no matter who broke up the Gainesburgers into his dish – but most of the time he was just my friend.

  4. I grew up in a family with no pets. I lived in the San Francisco Bay area in a suburb and my mother did not like to clean up after pets. I longed to have a chow (why? Who knows) from a young age but had to make do with postcards of chow chows. I got my first dog As soon as I left home and I’ve had dogs ever since, of every shape and size, always with long or thick hair. I have had several rescued Chows, a Keeshond, an Elkhound, a few terrier mixes. Right now at age 70 I have a chow chow, a 16-year-old unidentifiable terrier, and a tall long-haired God knows what. No one in my family liked animals yet I probably was born requesting a dog 🐶 of my own. Only two have died of medical problems; all the others have had long happy lives.

  5. Struck a chord. I sometimes say I was raised by dogs. They were there – 2 and 3 at any time growing up. They continue to be my rock. Always steady. No drama.

    • Janine, We have had Chows and everything else. We vary their food so they don’t get bored. We feed them Petsmart Authority brand and Petco’s Whole Hearted neither are grain free.

    • Hi from Ruth. My chow Ruby is 6 years old, strawberry red, and from Canada. She is the first non-rescue dog I’ve ever had in fifty years. She is very sweet but medically unsound. If you get a chow, buy insurance! So glad I did. She will eat anything and I have her on a grain-free kibble and hamburger/rice/veggie home cooked topper. I cook that for my very old and fussy mutt so all three dogs get it.
      Ruby has had three eye surgeries and two orthopedic surgeries so far, so she is on supplements and Galliprant pain medication. I have lucked out because all four of my chows and chow mixes in the present and past were nice dogs. However… strong prey drive. No cats, no squirrels, horses or sheep …… ever.

  6. Enjoyed your remembrance – my dogs are the center of my universe – resulting in many friendships with other dog-loving folks and activities that keep me young. Glad to see you are aware of DCM and helping to promote the research. One of my golden retrievers was early into the study with Dr. Stern and thankfully she was cured.

  7. My family loved dogs. We had a puppy that died of distemper (late 50’s), my first experience at age 5 with death. Later we talked my parents into a collie (it was the Lassie years), and then a wire haired terrier. Years later, my parents went to Meijer’s (kind of like Walmart) and there was a lone cockapoo for sale for $3. They felt so sorry, they bought him. Wonderful dog killed by a “wild” dog pack when he was 10. Devastating. My parents grew up in the 1920’s, 1930’s. My mother especially was often photographed with her dog or kitty. Both parents taught us love and respect for animals and nature. As an adult, my dogs have gotten me through all sorts of life events. I am so grateful for each of them and what we were able to bring to each other’s lives.

  8. I grew up always wanting pets but the only animal I was allowed to have was hamsters, I’m guessing because they are contained in a cage. I had many of them over the years but when I was in my early 20’s I finally adopted my first cat. It wasn’t until I was married much later that I finally got my first dog, a chocolate lab. We’ve had labs or lab mixes ever since. Can’t imagine ever being without a dog in the house. It’s just not home without them. 🙂

  9. I can’t believe how timely this is. I’ve had Setters my whole adult life (I’m 70). Right now I have Branson, a 2 year old Irish Setter, and Gilty, a 5 year old Gordon Setter. I just came back from walking Gilty. While we were out, I tripped and fell. Got a couple of bruises but I’m OK. That isn’t the point. I’m writing because when I fell, Gilty was so in my face and so worried about me, I could barely get up. By the time I got home I was in tears, not because of the fall but because it meant to so much to me how much he cared. He thinks something’s wrong with me because I can’t stop hugging him. I live on my own, and sometimes wonder how I’d feel if I didn’t have them. I could never say I live alone. As someone else said, dogs are my whole universe. On a less serious note, I was running with Branson when he was a puppy and took a tumble. He took one look at me and bolted. I had to laugh…he was only 4-5 months old and probably figured the sky had fallen!

  10. What amazingly beautiful stories about dogs. My dogs are MY LIFE. I love them to bits. They are my everything and I do the best for them. The best time for me is when I get back from work after having taught noisy, boisterous teenagers and then I take the children out for a walk. We ‘talk’ about loads of stuff and they look at me and smile and everything is alright. Bob, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is such a big baby, he loves rough play and Baby is a fox terrier, who loves ‘chatting’ with me. I get smothered in wet kisses all the time and I LOVE it.

  11. I have always loved dogs. As a toddler I dreamed of having my own. I never had the chance to have my own dog until I was 18. I am now 68. Since then I have had 9 dogs, most of them mixed breed. They have all been my best friend and companion throughout the years Right now my wife and I have 3 dogs, Shaq a 13 y.o. female mix, Coco a 3 y.o. Pitty, and Fuzzy a 1 y.o. Female Pomeranian mix. They are the loves of our lives.

    • I have a friend who has had so many dogs as well. How do you get over losing them? When I think of losing my Beanie, I cannot wrap my head around it.

      • For me, just like losing people, I don’t really “get over it”. I’ve lost 3 so far and I miss each of them. But I love dogs, all dogs, and I’m healthy and financially secure enough to care for more than one dog at a time (we have 2). I never look to replace a dog I’ve lost , I just look for a connection. In my experience, it’s been true that the best dog for you will pick you – you only have to be open to the fact that it may not be what you intended. When my last ‘he picked me’, oh-so-perfect dog, Nigel, passed about 2 months ago, I took a few weeks and then started up on Petfinder. I wanted another about his temperament (super chill) and about his size (50 pounds) who would be respectful of my current 65 pound timid, Norwegian Elkhound, Cassie. At the shelter, though, the 20 pound active Beagle/Terrier mix who wouldn’t stop starring at me had another plan. He and my dog seemed to get along fine so I took a chance and here he is – a hilarious bright light during what could’ve been a long, dark time. It’s about been a month and I couldn’t adore him more. I really do find that love is infinite – particularly with dogs.

          • Thanks, Rebecca! I thank Flynn every day that he was so insistent! I wasn’t in the market for a small dog and had looked at EVERY OTHER medium/large dog at the shelter. Eventually, though, he broke me down with this super intense fixation on me that made the shelter volunteers announce that ‘he found his mom’. They were right, of course.

      • We tend to outlive our dogs, and we need to help them “to the rainbow bridge” when they are injured or terminal. It’s hard … I always feel like a murderer. A friend of mine got a cat as she could not stand getting another dog after her beloved rescued Pit mix died suddenly of hemolytic anaemia. I started being a multiple dog household because my chow/corgi was 15 and had a stroke and I was terrified of losing him. Well he lived, walking rather wobbly, to nineteen, by which time I also had a terrier and a blonde shaggy. I’m selfish and can’t live without the pitter-patter (or thump thump) of dog feet on my old wooden floors,

  12. OMG. When I was very young family dog Rex was a beagle and we let him out in the a.m. and he came home in the p.m. I remember one time he came home all beat up. He had been in a dog fight and he was bleeding from cuts. My parents cleaned him up and that was it. I remember that he would never sit next to me and I was so upset. I was really young, like 5 or 6 years old. We would all watch TV around the black and white TV (showing my age!) and my parents even tried moving me to the seat where Rex would sit. But he just didn’t “take” to me.

    We went to Drake’s Island, Maine one year and of course we took Rexxie. My parents rented a place every year for many years there. We let him go in the a.m. like always and I remember playing outside where we rented and I heard this horrific sound of a dog yelping and it was my dog. He got hit by a car in Maine during our vacation. I remember crying and crying and that is all I remember about that year except my dog screaming when he died.

    That is probably why I hang on to my Beanie, my first dog, my love, my Yorkie, so tight when I walk her. When I think back at how cavalier we were about our dogs! We would never have thought about trying to save them, they were just put down. I cannot in any part of my brain imagine thinking like that about Beanie. I would do the same to save her and keep her safe as I would a human child. She IS my child.

  13. I grew up in Miami and only had two dogs during my childhood. The first was a terrier mix we got as a 6 week old puppy when I was 6. We were attending a Christmas party at some friends’ house in 1962. A neighbor’s dog had had puppies and my Dad got one for me. He was a male, and remember many afternoons of riding around the neighborhood on my bike looking for him after he had escaped the yard – we suspected he had several “girlfriends”! One day, when he was about 9, he got out and didn’t come back. My mother and I searched the neighborhood, including the busy streets nearby, and also went to the shelter for weeks and we never knew what happened to him. Around 1972, my Dad had gone to another friend’s house. Their neighbors’ cocker spaniel had had puppies, and the father was a standard poodle – we ended up with a “Cockapoo” before they were popular! He was “my” dog, but quickly became my mother’s as well. I was in high school, and then college, so he was her constant companion. He stayed with her when I got married and lived to be about twelve.

  14. Beautiful stories! We had poodles when I was growing up. And they were my constant companions. The brown one named Teddy Bear, hated the mail man. Lol. And he would just go crazy when he came by. He disappeared one day and we looked and looked, but I think the mail man might have let him out. Idk. I’m 57 now with four children and six grandchildren. My husband and I had a miniature sheltie for 12 years (Toby). He was Our Boy! It took two years before we could get another dog. But last year we got Daisy Mae (a miniature labradoodle) and she has been a God send! I have never meet a dog like her, she’s almost human! Oh well I treat her like she is anyway! Lol. She lays in my lap while I trim her hair and turns when I ask her to. We love to run and play in the backyard. I have fibromyalgia and a few other things and she has just been an ANGEL in disguise. I’m not sure how I ever lived without her!

  15. We lived in the city, 4th floor and I had a hamster, lol. Now I have cocker spaniels which are a lot more work but so much fun. Had them since the 80s and have never been without one. I was wondering were the original article was going because it sounded so ‘inappropriate’ for today. Maybe if we were less policed by public opinions and legal restrictions kids would grow up into well adjusted adults just as the author did. Loneliness is just as common today with not much of an outlet but social media. Often not a good outcome going that direction. Never heard much about young people shooting anyone in those days either, deprived of human company or not! The HBC was a huge problem as a lot of gas stations had a resident dog just roaming. So did other businesses. Seems that most people were never bitten or attacked so I am not sure if dogs didn’t lose in the long run. Live longer but what a regimented life! Fenced, crated, leashed or inside four walls and de-sexed of course.

  16. We lived in the city, 4th floor and I had a hamster, lol. Now I have cocker spaniels which are a lot more work but so much fun. Had them since the 80s and have never been without one. I was wondering where the original article was going because it sounded so ‘inappropriate’ for today. Maybe if we were less policed by public opinions and legal restrictions kids would grow up into well adjusted adults just as the author did. Loneliness is just as common today with not much of an outlet but social media. Often not a good outcome going that direction. Never heard much about young people shooting anyone in those days either, deprived of human company or not! The HBC was a huge problem as a lot of gas stations had a resident dog just roaming. So did other businesses. Seems that most people were never bitten or attacked so I am not sure if dogs didn’t lose in the long run. Live longer but what a regimented life! Fenced, crated, leashed or inside four walls and de-sexed of course.

  17. I grew up rurally in the 60’s/70’s, so I definitely remember dogs roaming free. We had a Basset Hound from my birth to age 12. He was left outside while the whole family went off to work and school. He travelled a 4-mile round trip each day, stopping a various homes for snacks and pets. He was also outside at night, but came in to sleep. I distinctly remember one of my parents getting up during the night because he was scratching on the door to come in. At age 12 he was found dead in a ravine by distant neighbors.
    Out next dog was a Malamute. He lived his life in a 20′ X 20′ chain link enclosure. He got to come in for visits, but he would get so hot that he wanted to just get back outside, including in sub-zero temperatures. He and I wandered far and wide in the local forests together. He struggled mightily with skin problems — no doubt due to a diet of Alpo and Gaines Burgers.
    I look back on both of these dogs and feel sharply dismayed by our ignorance about dogs!
    As an adult I have enjoyed the love of 6 dogs of my own. I got my hands on the right books and great positive training classes. No more free-roaming, outdoor-only dogs … lots of training and adventures together. I’m so glad I know better now.

  18. I loved this article. Thank you so much for printing it for us. While I do not have a fantastic story, I will say that we always had dogs and cats growing up. My girl, now I adopted while my Dad was dying with Dementia. When he had a good day I showed him a picture of the dog I wanted to adopt. He told me to go get her and so I did. I named her after my Dad”s nickname in baseball and made her a therapy dog. I think when my Dad died his love for dogs poured out into me as well as his grandkids. I already have 4 granddogs and four grandkids. Christmas is a full house!
    P.S. Our dogs could not ever roam free as they chased cars and the traffic was too much. Not only did we have one hit twice but our cat was also run over. I know they love the freedom but frankly, our pets are spoiled rotten.

  19. I cannot honestly remember the time I didn’t have a dog! My first one, I don’t remember because I was too young. Smoky Lady was a six month old German Shepherd, and according to my mum, we could often be found nose to nose, apparently communicating silently.
    The next dog came when I was three. A friend of my da’s had a bitch with too many puppies and not enough room at the milk bar. I met Tuffy (real name Tuff Stuff) when she was 15 minutes old. She was my constant companion until she died when I was 15. She even suffered having her windpipe crushed by the Weimaraner next door. She was certainly named appropriately! Although I’d never in a million years recommend a Chihuahua/Toy Fox Terrier for a three year old, she totally belied both of her breeds by being calm, not a digger, and barking only when there was something to be barked at.
    Hollyn (another dog who belied her breeds: Border Collie/English Springer Spaniel/Shetland Sheepdog) was my heart dog. We adopted her from one of our local rescues. A lot of people were interested in her (she was gorgeous), but put off by her “growls”, which were, in fact, her way of communicating. The second we met, she attached herself to me, and that was it. I set the sun, moon, stars and planets revolving in her universe, and she did the same in mine. I can’t for the life of me figure out what it was, but we connected on a deep level. I was devastated when she had to be euthanised, and even though it’s been four years (and another dog), a huge part of me still misses her.

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