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November 25, 2012

I’ve been a dog person since I was a little girl. I love all dogs, but I’ve got a real soft spot for the small ones. I grew up with a little dog; an eight pound mutt who was half Chihuahua and half Mexican Toy Terrier…

But, there were conflicting views in regard to pets of any kind in our house. My brother and I loved dogs, especially puppies, but we were kids, what kids don’t like dogs, cats, and all the other baby animals they encounter?

My dad was a dog lover, but my mom was definitely not.

I was too young to remember the details, but our story goes something like this…It was Christmas time. I was two, and my brother five. Dad came home one evening from work. He told David and I that he had a surprise for us…and naturally, mom’s curiosity was peaked as well.

Dad led the way into the living room and we skipped along behind him followed by our mother, who was understandably skeptical. Dad sat near the tinsel laden tree and us kids gathered close by quivering with excitement…we just knew this was going to be good.

Mom was apprehensive. And for good reason. She watched in horror as dad gently eased a tiny black and white puppy from his jacket pocket. She couldn’t have been more than two or three pounds.

Mom would rather have had him pull a rabbit out of a hat…At least then she could say it was a magic trick and the show would be over soon. The rabbit would go back to where it came from and everything would return to normal in our pet-free home. But it didn’t work that way with the dog.

Especially since dad said, unbeknownst to mom, that it was part of our Christmas present. We squealed with delight. Mom just squealed.

Apparently, mom decided she needed some control in this situation, since she hadn’t been consulted in the first place. She knew when she’d lost a battle so she decided that she could put up with a dog for seven or eight years until it got hit by a car or died of natural causes, but she was naming the little pest. Nuisance. She named her Nuisance, which, incidently, was mom’s favorite word for anything that annoyed her.

My brother and I didn’t care…we had a puppy! And we were too young to really understand the meaning of her name or the conflict going on between our parents. Or maybe we were simply oblivious, caught up in the excitement of getting the best gift in the whole world.
Nuisance and I became inseparable. Over the years, she would run behind my bike as I pedaled around the yard, sit and watch while I played on the swing set; she’d even sit under my chair at dinner. I spent countless hours in the kitchen playing with her and sitting on the floor while she slept on my lap. She wasn’t allowed anywhere else in the house except the basement. Mom firmly put her foot down on that subject, and I don‘t think my dad dared push the issue

He didn’t ask mom if he could get us a dog, probably because he knew she would say no. She did not like animals. Dogs ranked a notch above cats, but then, cats were at the very bottom of her list. Dad loved dogs. So he found a way around her. He went through us.

If he had been my husband, I would have had something to say about unilateral decisions…and I would have said it loudly. And clearly. I’d also have said something about respect, partnership, love, deceit, manipulation and more. And then he’d do time in the dog house. Maybe even eat dog food.

But I didn’t have to deal with all that. I had a puppy to love.

Mom didn’t have it in her to deny us the pup. She may have denied my dad a few things, though. Like dinner. Or at least his favorite meals.

But, after all was said and done, we got to keep the dog. And how we loved her! When she was eleven, she got sick. Really sick. We weren’t sure she would live. So, my parents decided, that Nuisance could sleep in my room, since she probably wouldn’t live more than a day or two anyway.

I emptied the bottom drawer of my dresser and lined it with my old yellow robe That evening, I carefully carried my dear friend into ‘our’ room and placed her in the open drawer. I laid on my stomach in bed , so I could reach down and lay my hand on my beloved pet while we slept.

Our Nuisance turned out to be a tough little dog…resilient, too. The change of nighttime scenery was just what she needed. After a few days, she began to recover; her appetite returned and she was up and about. All over the house.

Since her brush with death, she had full run of the house. She could even jump on the furniture and take a nap, much to my mother’s dismay. But Mom gave up the fight. She knew when she was beat, and after eleven years, even she liked the dog…but she was hard pressed to admit it. Nuisance was never again to sleep in the basement. In fact, she moved from the drawer to my bed. On a pillow of her very own.

She was still with us when I graduated from high school. Nearly blind and totally deaf when I moved out of the house six months later. She was bow-legged, too, so bow-legged that we wondered how her front legs could even support her weight, much less walk.
When I was nineteen, and Nuisance was seventeen, it became clear that she was suffering. It took her a long time to pull herself up to a stand after she’d been laying down, and she would frequently walk into walls. Even when the doorway was wider that the wall, like between the kitchen and living room. Two-thirds of that space was open doorway, one-third was wall. And she walked into the wall more often than not.

So we had to do the compassionate thing. We needed to end her suffering. She’d lived a good, long life, and it was time for her to go. It was the last gift we could give her.

So mom got the job of finding someone to help. Dad and my brothers refused; as did my uncles and cousins. So she had to call the vet, something else she disagreed with. But, since she didn’t know how to use a gun, she couldn’t put Nuisance down either. So she made the appointment.

Then she called me and told me what needed to be done, and that if I wanted to see her once again, I’d have to come home on the weekend. Which I willingly did. I got in my car and made the five hour drive home to say goodbye to my dog.

And after seventeen years, even mom missed her. But she was very clear with my dad…she did not want another dog. And this time, he complied.

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