There are probably a half-dozen people I know who added a dog to their household about the time their teens got all gnarly and, well…like teenagers. Most claim it was so they would feel loved during this sometimes difficult stage of parenting.
Indeed, unlike most teens, a dog likes you no matter what. They are always glad to see you. They don’t mind hugs. They don’t ask for money. They won’t talk back.
But having a pet as a teen replacement? Nah, I think there’s more to it. I think these new dog owners were planning ahead for the empty nest. Don’t you?
We’re over a month into this new life without our child around. I have to say the thing that gets me the most is the quiet.
Don’t get me wrong, I am rather reclusive and enjoy my space and quiet. As a matter of fact, I must have solitude, or I’d go even crazier. (And we sure don’t want that now, do we?) But after a while, coming home to a silent house can be a little lonely.
Thank goodness for our Bella Bunny!
She thinks that I am the almighty goddess of her dog kingdom. When I arrive home she sees me in a flowing white robe, gold tie belt and a golden crown on my head. I’m pretty sure she is in awe of me.
No human has ever made me feel this much adoration.
Maybe it’s just because she can’t speak.
Anyway, I have loved and been loved by many dogs over my fifty-one years. I will tell you about all of them here, but please note that I will not mention when the ones who have gone before left this world. It’s just too heartbreaking.
The first family dog was settled in before I was born. Lady was my brothers’ dog.
She didn’t adore me.
And after she snapped at me, my parents sent her away to a new home. I’ve always wondered if this was why my brothers didn’t adore me either. I’m just joking…Well, sort of.
My second dog was named Rebel because he rebelled against staying home. He took off not long after we got him, and never came back.
Then there was Brandy.
We first met when my mother took me to catch the bus to Camp Sycamore Hills. One of the other mothers had a cardboard box in the back of her wood panel station wagon, and it was overflowing with irresistible puppies. And even though I wanted to, I don’t recall begging for one. I think my mother was just as in love as I was with those cute puppies. So, for my 7thbirthday, one of them came home with us. She was a toy poodle, the color of apricot brandy.
Brandy was a perfect name, except for the time my mother was running through the neighborhood looking for her, calling her name. It wouldn’t have been that bad except she was carrying a glass with her. See, Mom was an ice chomper. You know the kind. They keep a cup of ice going all day long, and chew and chomp. When Brandy got out the door, she just took off after her, not thinking to put that glass down. She was waving it in the air yelling, “BRANDY! BRANDY!”
Who knows, maybe this was the beginning of my neighbor issues? (See Mommy in the Skype with Diamonds posted 9/15)
Since my brothers were 9 and 11 years older than me, I was like an only child, and it was good to have Brandy as a companion. She played dress up with me, slept with me and we had grand games of chase in our backyard. At Christmas, we would sometimes come home to find that the decorations from the lower limbs of our Christmas tree had been removed. We would find the ornaments under our pillows, unbroken, left there by Brandy as a gift.
The next dog in our household was Muggs. We named her after a character in a James Thurber short story. She followed me home when I was out riding my bike one morning. She was my running and biking companion, and let me tell you, that dog could run!
Muggsy not only loved to run, she loved to ride in the car. She would stick her head out the window and dream that she was running 55 miles per hour. We took her pretty much everywhere we went. When I had to deliver photos on Music Row, she would go with me. I was doing a lot of work for MCA Records. There were many dog lovers who worked there, and she knew exactly where their offices were. She would run in the door and make her rounds while I took care of business. When I was ready to leave, I would just whistle and she’d meet me at the front door. There was one office assistant at the Musician’s Union who kept a desk drawer of dog treats. Muggs made a bee line for her office when she would go there with me or Sweetbuns.
I found Sweetbuns and Muggs the same year. It was a good year.
Muggs was around when we were dating, and she was with us when we married.
My mother was so worn out during the wedding planning stage. One night, I told her that I would like for Muggs to be at the wedding and reception. I wanted her to wear blue ribbons and to have blue and white balloons tied to her collar. I can still see Mom’s face. She was so tired that she, for a few moments, actually looked like she was considering it. I could see her mind working, trying to figure out the logistics of this added plan. Who could be the pet wrangler? How many balloons?
Muggs was our baby. She was our first and only child.
Then came Punky.
All I could think of was Lady and how she was not happy with a new baby in the house. Thank goodness, Punky and Muggs had a wonderful relationship. When I put Punky down for naps, Muggs was right with her. She followed her around when she began to crawl and walk. Muggs ate many a goldfish cracker and Cheerio, just cleaning up after the resident toddler.
We found Sugar Bear, the tutu wearing Australian Cattle Dog at the animal shelter when Punky was about 7.
It was a match made in heaven. The dog loved to play with Punky. We had wild games of tag that would send us into fits of laughter. (Note: We played tag, not just chase!) She loved to dress up so much that when Punky would take off her favorite tutu and put it in the dress up closet, The Bear, as we sometimes called her, would go stare at the door until we’d get it out and put it back on her. We were her herd and she was like Punky’s sibling.
Our current little furry friend is Bella Bunny. Punky named her Bella after the main character in the book series Twilight. (It’s true, what you’ve heard. I’m a Twi-Mom.) Sweetbuns protested, saying there were too many dogs named Bella, and that she looked like a Bunny. So, Bella Bunny it is. Sometimes I call her Bella Bon Bunny or Cute Stuff, and Punky sometimes calls her Bells. She was rescued from Doggy Death Row.
We joke that during a storm she ran away from some little old lady who taught music lessons and lived in Kansas, and ran so hard that she ended up in Nashville at the shelter. How did we come up with this crazy idea? Because Bella B. loves live music, she loves to run, she loves my mother, and she is deathly afraid of storms.
With Punky away in college, she will go in her room, look around and come back out. I think that she believes that she has gone to camp.
For the past few months, Bella Bunny has a new service project. She visits the folks over at the local rehab center. It is very heartwarming to see the joy in those faces when they hold or pet her. Miss H. pets her and says her name over and over in a monotone voice, and eventually it turns from Bella Bunny to Lil Bit, whom I’m sure was a pet from her past.
Bella Bunny is my constant companion when I am at home alone. She’s not a replacement for my Punky. No animal or person could be. But I believe it would be way too quiet around the house if she were not here.
I’m thinking every empty nest needs a dog. Or at least an aquarium (See Gucci Mane and Mr.Pooey – Project #1 posted 9/3)
It’s a bonus if you have a Skyping dog!
Happy wagging tails to you!