The loss of a treasured pet robs humans of a non-judgmental friend that offers comfort and company. It takes months, if not years to grieve the death of a dog; sometimes people decide the bereavement is too much to endure again.
That’s how my wife and I felt when our beloved Sandy, a Yellow Labrador Retriever that captured our hearts from the first time she became ours in April 2016, died at the end of January 2021. Her absence left a hole in our lives.
We decided that Sandy was irreplaceable. We need only to take care of ourselves. We no longer were responsible for a dog; we were free from the care and feeding of a canine animal.
A friend predicted we would adopt another dog by August. I dismissed his speculation. My wife was determined to be dogless. Her resolve seemed immovable.
Then life intervened. Our youngest daughter adopted a Chocolate Lab from Kuwait. This same daughter urged her mother to lead with her heart, not her mind in considering acquisition of a pet. Subsequently, my wife and I began “what if” conversations, focused mainly on finding a small, pure-bred dog that was at least five or six-years-old. We definitely didn’t want a puppy.
My wife initiated a search in her typically thorough way. She found a breeder in Western Pennsylvania of English Toy Spaniels, which include Prince Charles Spaniels. Our quest for a new family member looked very promising—and imminent.
A turning point happened to us about three weeks ago. We sadly spread Sandy’s ashes in familiar surroundings near our former home in Easton. Perhaps we found closure, a commonly used word these days, but an apt one.
Last Thursday, we met the talkative breeder in a nondescript shopping center parking lot in Morgantown, WVA, not exactly a midpoint for us. Nonetheless, we met Dorian, paid the breeder, received plentiful advice and went home with a pug-nosed dog who loves human laps.
She is still nervous. Her owners are unfamiliar. The apartment smells are different. The elevator is scary. She doesn’t seem to like a leash. The outside terrain is a bit intimidating.
Her anxiety is understandable. Dogs mirror how humans feel in a strange environment. Nervousness can disappear quickly. We are making progress in our relationship. She is beginning to eat, seems utterly content in our laps and has not had an accident in 24 hours.
We took the plunge. I’m glad we did. I think that Dorrie is cute in her inimitable way, unaffected by her lofty royal lineage.
I think our lives already have improved. We can care about each other and still pay sufficient attention and affection to an exceedingly small dog. Our world is more complete.
Politicians like to say about their elective ambitions, “Never say never.” Dog owners are similarly minded; death of a precious pet hurts deeply. Time can ameliorate the grief.
We were emotionally ready to adopt and love another dog, much smaller than Sandy, but equally adept at grabbing our affection, even after only six days.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.