Our Relationships With Our Dogs - Confessions of a Dog Slut

“If you ask anyone who’s ever known me well to describe me, you’re most likely going to hear, almost immediately, about my passion for dogs.”

 

Writing about Women's Empowerment carries a big responsibility.  I want my writing to empower women and contribute to the rich tapestry of diversity that makes up who we are and to the bindings that connect and enwrap us across the globe.  Along with my commitment to write about serious and important women’s empowerment topics, I also want to make sure I convey enjoyability, good humor, and lightness in the array of topics I bring to you.  So, it’s no surprise to find me writing about dogs as one of the early topics selected for Today’s Empowered Woman blog.

The Canine Connection

A universal link that describes most women is centered around Connection and Relationships. This comes from giving birth and raising their offspring; a woman’s bonds start with her family, expanding to friends, lovers and children. Women are connected to their dogs in a pure primitive maternal way. Sure, people have always talked about “Man’s Best Friend” and “A Boy and His Dog.” Yet I’ve never heard words that capture the essence of what exists between my dog and me, between the women I know, who share the same kind of feelings, and their dogs.  This essence can be seen and is palpable in the photos in the collage accompanying this blogpost. It’s reflected in the faces of the women in these photos. It’s there in the eyes of their dogs. Through this writing, I’m challenging myself to capture its true meaning. I invite my readers to find and share ways to express it in their own words.

The closest I’ve come to describing it purely and viscerally is the descriptor I often share with other dog lovers. I take immense pride in calling myself a “Dog Slut.” And yes, that definitely captures a big element of what I feel for dogs. It’s clever and humorous. It’s earthy and real. People get it. They laugh. I tell them they can borrow my phrase to use anytime they want.

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I took a break from writing just now to fix and eat dinner.  My evening ritual is to watch the PBS NewsHour. The last feature tonight was astonishingly in sync with my writing. It captured the heart of what makes dogs so extraordinary and provided the very descriptive phrasing I was seeking and would never have thought of without Marty and Adele: Watch this:

https://YouTube/watch?v=JhCLFLzffnY

As delighted as I am to call myself a “Dog Slut,” in sincere good humor, I find it quite an inadequate way to describe all that I feel about dogs. Calling myself this slang and rather dirty label only begins to get at how primitive and rich these feelings are.  After watching Adele and Marty, I know what I can add to “Dog Slut” to round out my description of the unconditional love I give to and get from dogs. “Soul Mate” feels like the ultimate descriptor for these beloved animals who read our every move, protect and guide us through life’s hazards and touch our hearts, with unfathomable magical love.

I can provide an example that demonstrates on a deep level the power of these dog-centric feelings: I adored my father with all my heart. Before his death, I’d said with frequency that I didn’t want to be in a world where he no longer existed. His passing broke my heart and brought me enormous pain and sadness. I grieved his loss as deeply as I’d ever felt loss. When my precious three-pound Papillon dog named Puffin died six years later, I felt heartbreaking stabbing agony beyond anything I’d felt when my darling father died. I felt guilty for having such enormous pain incomparable to any grief I’d ever experienced. After all, she was just a dog. She weighed almost nothing. How could her death cause me to experience huge enduring unbearable physical pain of such a grand magnitude, like a sharpened dagger plunged into my heart? How was that possible? Where did such agony come from? This connection that exists with a dog is profound and almost indescribable. Those of us who are privileged enough to experience it know exactly what I’m writing about, even if my attempts are inadequate and insufficient.

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Unconditional Canine Love

It’s hard to think of a timeframe of memories without dogs.  My favorite TV show when I was growing up was Lassie, the fourth longest-running U.S prime-time television series. I felt a connection to that Rough Collie that was personal and deeply emotional.  Lassie was depicted as a family member and I experienced her in an extremely intimate and connected way.  Lassie surely set the stage for my deep love of dogs.

Buffy

One night, when I was seven years old, just before the winter solstice gift-bearing holiday time of year, my father arrived home shortly after dark on a stormy evening. He came in the back door of the house and stepped into our kitchen drenched, with his hands buried deep in his pockets and his coat collar raised high around his neck. He was wearing a soaked trench coat and a dripping fedora pulled down over his forehead, almost hiding his twinkling blue eyes. With an unusual grin on his face, saying nothing, he stepped into the kitchen, pulling his right hand from his pocket and extending it out to my eye level with his palm facing the ceiling. Right there, just inches from my face, sitting in his hand, was a tiny Cocker Spaniel puppy who leaned out to lick my nose.  We named him Buffy within seconds; his blond hair demanded the name. He was my first dog and I loved him with the purest immediate love imaginable.

Buffy was a car chaser and had to be constrained from leaving our yard.  We lived on a corner and our adjacent street had a public bus line and a fair amount of traffic. On Buffy’s first day of freedom from being on a long, staked leash in the back yard, our front doorbell rang around 4:00 PM. When I opened the door, a man was standing there with his shirt covered in blood and with my whimpering Buffy held closely to his chest. My mother rushed to get a towel to lay Buffy on and I promptly lay down across my blood soaked doggie sobbing.  The vet’s examination revealed a broken pelvis that fortunately Buffy recovered from, but unfortunately, he did not get over his passion for chasing cars.

My father took Buffy way out in the country and gave him to a farming family who lived far from any type of traffic.  Despite my father’s sworn-to story of gifting Buffy to a life on a farm, I always suspected my father may have just left him somewhere far from any roads. I never pleaded for a confirmation because I knew my father might tell me the truth I didn’t want to know.  I told myself my sweet Buffy had a good life far from cars and lived happily with another little girl who would love him as I had.

Minuit

My parents had friends whose small female French Poodle gave birth to a litter of seven puppies. My mother, sister, and I fell in love with the runt of the litter and brought her home to become a part of our family.  She was black as midnight and my sister, an avid French student, translated this description of night’s darkness to our new puppy whom we named Minuit.

Minuit was the smartest little dog I’ve ever known.  When I took her to obedience school, she and I were invited to go “on tour” and on television to promote dog obedience training.  She would rest her right paw on my left foot while standing still next to me on heel command. With that paw placement, she made sure I was right next to her while perusing the world around her. Whenever my sister would have an open suitcase on her bed, while packing to go back to college, Minuit would get inside the suitcase to try to get my sister to stay home or to show how much she wanted to go with her.  Minuit knew all my secrets and felt like a sibling to me. We were inseparable and I adored her passionately.

Toby

When my son J. turned seven, we got him a brindle-colored Cairn Terrier for his birthday.  We named him Toby in tribute to Dorothy’s Cairn, Toto. Toby was typical terrier and the descriptor “feisty” did not come anywhere near to this little dog’s stubborn and determined terrier personality.  I called him my little “cigar-butt” dog because I could so easily imagine him with a cigar butt sticking out of his mouth saying, “Oh, yeah! You think you can make me …!”

When J. was thirteen, he got the chicken pox.  I had always believed I might be immune since I had never gotten chicken pox following many exposures growing up.  On the 22nd day after J. first got sick, I spent the day skiing to celebrate my continued immunity.  That evening I went to a party and celebrated further, drinking champagne and rejoicing in my wellness.  I had worn a wool headband on the slopes that had irritated my forehead.  Wool always caused itching so I didn’t associate my itching forehead with anything other than my wool apparel.  Oops! That was the beginning of a horrible case of adult chicken pox that laid me low for almost three weeks.

On my first day of wearing make-up again and looking like a normal person finally, I was sitting on the floor next to J., leaning back against his bed, playing a video game with him. Toby was lying on J.’s bed with his head between ours so the three of our heads were lined up in a row.  J. took a bite of a cookie as I simultaneously turned my head towards J.  Evidently Toby thought I was going to take J.’s cookie from him and he lunged for my nose cutting both nostrils causing blood to pour down my face.  This sweet little faithful dog had always had a ferocious growling mouth on him when he didn’t like a reprimand or removal from his engaged endeavor.  I had put my hand directly into his snarling mouth on multiple occasions to test whether he would bite the hand that fed him.  I had told my son if his dog ever drew blood, he couldn’t live in my house any longer.

On the night of my recovery from chicken pox, Toby was sent to J.’s fathers home to live where he spent the rest of his life until J. went away to college and took Toby to Boston.

The Papillons: Puffin and Bianca

Puffin, the three-pounder whose death crushed my heart came into my life following my sister’s death from horrendous virulent metastatic breast disease and from my subsequent year of prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgeries. Puff was as tiny as a rabbit with a personality bigger than imaginable.  She went with me everywhere and her death felt catastrophic, as if I would never recover. When she died, I swore I would never have another dog in my life.  It felt like I could never be able to endure that kind of attachment and loss again.  Three months to the day following Puff’s death on December 7, 2007, I brought Bianca home.  That day I went to get her is captured in the top right photo in the collage.  She is wrapped around my heart in ways I can never adequately describe.

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a dog junkie.  And now you do too.

With empowered  words and in solidarity,                                                                                                                                    Cindy

 

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