I was born and raised to be a dog lover. So it’s no surprise that my first “accidental” pet in adulthood won my heart faster than I could say the words, “I’m not responsible enough to take care of a dog”. I was completely smitten when an adorable eight week old puppy with one floppy ear leapt into my lap. It was love in an instant and I named her Zoe.
As a young and naïve twenty year old I quickly discovered that puppies are not that different from tornadoes. Their lightning fast speed and sharp little teeth are highly capable of creating a whirlwind of canine destruction. In the blink of an eye, one can suddenly find themselves standing in the aftermath with pages from books ripped from there bindings, garbage strewn about, and shoes torn to shreds. Puppies, quite literally, have expensive taste.
In truth, all puppies want to grow up to be good dogs. Training them to be socialized and obedient pets demands a significant amount of time, patience, routine, and repetition; attributes that were not high on the priority list for this young woman living a life of spontaneity. But Zoe and I did alright, she may not have learned any fancy tricks but she yielded to my commands and I managed to keep her out of harm’s way on our many adventures.
Zoe grew up to be a remarkable dog that was faithful to her mixed pedigrees. She had the loving playful nature of a Labrador, the loyalty of a German shepherd, and a natural talent for herding people into walls and chasing down bicyclists which came from her New Mexico Heller side of breeding.
We shared fifteen wonderful years together and when old age finally caught up to her she let me know it was her time to go. When that emotionally painful day arrived my faithful companion comforted me to the end and she departed this world with dignity, confidence, and courage.
As the months slowly passed by, my loneliness and sadness were replaced with fond memories and laughter from the good times Zoe and I shared together. So it’s no surprise that my second pet in adulthood won my heart faster than I could say the words, “I am responsible enough to take care of a dog”. I was completely smitten when an adorable one and a half year old puppy with a spotted tongue tackled me to the ground and slobbered me with kisses. It was love in an instant and her name was Raven.
Raven is a black Labrador, German shepherd and Akita mix who has the strength of an ox with a very loving spirit. She is an intelligent, clever, sweet, and playful puppy that enjoys doing somersaults, making dog angels in the snow, and sitting like a Buddhist monk in meditation. When she isn’t stretching like a cat or making sounds like Chewbacca, she is showing off her Kung Fu moves while chasing flies. Although she is an adept huntress her most prized possession is her stuffed animal monkey that she lovingly treats like her own puppy.
As a stray with a mysterious past I knew there would be gaps in her training when certain essential commands like “come” and “stay” fell deaf on her ears. So I literally ran into OWL to pick up every available dog training book and happened upon Catch Your Dog Doing Something Right: How To Train Any Dog in Five Minutes a Day by Krista Cantrell and Dogs Behaving Badly: An A to Z Guide to Understanding and Curing Behavioral Problems in Dogs by Dr. Nicholas Dodman. These two books have helped me gently guide her beyond some of her fears with positive reward training and taught me to keep our training sessions short. These days Raven can “slap me five” with enthusiasm and no longer tries to pull my arm out of its socket when we take walks together…unless there happens to be a deer, turkey, bunny, bird, squirrel, mouse, mole, or insect nearby.
Both Zoe and Raven “rescued” me exactly when they were supposed to and in all my dog years I have been blessed to spend very few of them without a canine companion. A dog’s love is unconditional; they accept us exactly as we are, comfort us when we are sad, and live their lives in the present. In my opinion, these qualities are just a few of their gifts to humanity.
The Oliver Wolcott Library has an extensive collection of books about dog training, pedigree history, veterinary care, and amazing true stories of dogs that will make you laugh, cry, stand up and cheer. These are just a few of the intriguing books I have read:
101 Fun Things to Do with Your Dog by Alison Smith- Not only is this book easy to understand it’s also jam packed with activities from training and memory games to obstacle courses and speed tests that are guaranteed fun for your dog and the whole family.
The Mythology of Dogs: Canine Legend and Lore Through the Ages by Gerald and Loretta Hausman. This fascinating historical book is filled with the best myths, legends and lore of the world’s top breeds; from the imperial Akita to the Yorkshire terrier, the stories within these pages are both entertaining and insightful.
Going Home: Finding Peace by Jon Katz. This very moving book deals with the difficult but necessary topic of saying goodbye to a beloved pet, and offers comfort, wisdom, and a way forward from sorrow to acceptance.
Sophie: The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog by Emma Pearce. Sofie is an inspirational story of luck, survival and spirit about an Australian cattle dog who was lost at sea. After swimming six miles through shark-infested waters to a remote island, Sofie survived in the wild for five months before being rescued and reunited with her family.
Tricia is the Library Assistant and Publicity Coordinator for the Oliver Wolcott Library.