A Place in 
Our Hearts 
for the 
Furry Ones

I’m not claiming to be akin to the great dog whisperer Caesar Millan or anything. It’s just that I have this way of interpreting small snippets of “stuff” from my dogs. Lest you think I’m getting carried away or need to be carried away, it’s not like my dog, Bandit, is walking up to me and saying, “Gee, Mom, that recent Hubble photo in the constellation of Canis Major is a bit ironic in its structure, don’t cha think?”

It’s more like, “Gotta pee, NOW,” that gets my attention…quickly. But there are subtleties in our lines of communication that fascinate me.

It started when I was about 12 years old, and a family friend showed up at our door with the most adorable black lab puppy I had ever laid eyes on. As luck would have it, my parents weren’t home, and the friend was traveling through town, and she thought she remembered last summer when we were at the lake together that my mom and I had said something about wanting a puppy. Fireworks went off in my naive little head, and I took the dog and closed the door, elated—for a moment.

My dad didn’t like dogs. He had been bitten by a small Basenji that was guaranteed to be the perfect dog: no shedding, no barking. They didn’t say anything about no biting. My mom, on the other hand, was as married to the canine species as she was to my dad. When my parents arrived back at their domestic domicile, our lives were forever changed.

Deals were struck that would make Bob Barker whimper. We kept the dog, and she and my mother developed a kind of language that I can only call precise and intuitive. Piccy (short for Piccadilly) would sit and listen to my mother tell her tasks. “Piccy, I want you to be home at 2 p.m., sharp. Do not leave the neighborhood.” Out she’d go, tail high in the air, and at exactly 2 p.m., scratching on the door would ensue…day after day. We even spied on her to make sure she was still on our street when she went out for hours at a time. She never strayed, and she NEVER missed a deadline. We forgot to tell Piccy not to eat things without reading the labels first, and one night she came home seriously ill, but on time. She lived to tell about it, but when we lost her finally, we all—even my dad—grieved beyond belief.

Since then, I have had many wonderful canine companions. Each is so different from the other. Every time I lose one, and think I can’t possibly go through this again, another completely fresh face shows up and wins my heart again. They look through me with their eyes. They know when I’m sad. They know when I need one—and only one—paw on my lap. And they know when I need the whole dog on which to sob. And I, in return, know when they need a little TLC, as opposed to a Snausage.

Just a few minutes ago, Bandit told me he was a little nervous about having his name in print, but I assured him there would be a tummy scratch in exchange for his indulgence.