I spend a lot of time with other people's dogs. A lot of teachers and students bring theirs to school and supposedly there are more located in San Francisco than children (anyone under eighteen). The dogs here are all friendly, they sit patiently tied to parking meters and watch their owners eat inside adjacent restaurants.
I approach others' dogs with enthusiasm. I can have entire conversations with dogs without acknowledging their owners. It's weird perhaps, but I really miss having a dog.
Growing up, I had two dogs; Bruno and Emmy.
Bruno was a German Shepard mix who had previously been owned by an elderly couple. He was an outside dog, though we would bring him in at nighttime. He was docile and quiet, and a comforter. Though, now, I realize how absent he is from a lot of childhood memories. I remember him escaping the backyard a few times, but for the most part he was a distant part of our family, busy digging holes in the backyard. We had to have him put down when I was eleven because his hips and bowels had given out. I had taken him on walks, and he once dragged me down the street for several yards when he decided to chase a squirrel. That had been my first time being allowed to hold him on his leash by myself, but aside from that time I don't recall very many Bruno-specific memories. However, I was crushed when we had to have him put down, we weren't close, but he was my dog.
Emmy was brought home about eight months after Bruno had died. I had convinced my Dad that if we got another dog, I would be responsible for it. My mom was not so convinced, but my dad would drive me around to different shelters after my softball games anyway. We had driven around to many of them to the point that we recognized staff. I had thought about the name Emmy for a while, Rookie if it had been a boy -- I was twelve, these seem to me acceptable dog names.
Emmy was in a pen with one other dog -- a significantly younger pitbull mix. The pitbull mix looked to be hovering above the ground she was chasing her tail so furiously. Emmy sat in the furthest corner and was not amused with the puppy's behavior. We knew she was the one.
When the volunteer brought her to us, she was timid, but warmed up to me pretty quickly. She was about four years old and had definitely been treated badly by her former owners. It took her awhile to become comfortable with my dad and any other men.
My mom was not pleased when we brought Emmy home. She had said that she would end up taking care of Emmy more than anyone else and that she was done with pets. We kept Emmy anyway.
Emmy slept on a rug in my room and stayed close on walks, to the point that she didn't need to be leashed. She was never really interested in other dogs, or really being a dog. She didn't chase moving objects, and she wasn't interested in eating by herself. She would eat when we did and bring individual mouthfuls of food into the dining room, spit them out, and proceed to eat each piece individually before repeating the process. If left outside too long she would take herself for a walk. If she was mad at us she would look at us square in the eye and pee on the carpet. She had an attitude, but was harmless and served as my closest friend for the duration of middle school.
Once I was in high school I became busier and took her on shorter walks. After I could drive those walks were reduced to a lap around the court most days, where they had been miles a few years before. Though, she still spent each night by my side.
During thunderstorms she would wake me up by placing her paws on my bed and shaking. I would sometimes lift her up into bed with me, or pet her until she fell asleep, and occasionally I'd sing to her changing the name Lucy to Emmy in the I Love Lucy theme song (I had to learn the song for eighth grade chorus, I also had to dress up as Lucy for the performance).
When I left for college she sat next to me in a car full of half my things while my parents drove behind us. At that point I thought of her as a younger sibling, someone that I would miss and see whenever I went home. And I did, and she still was excited to see me when I visited, but as I settled into Richmond and came home less, she grew less enthusiastic.
When I moved home for two months prior to moving to San Francisco last fall, she became my responsibility once again. She slept on a rug by my bed in my old room. While there I took her on more walks, which she enjoyed, but not as much as she had.
I woke up one morning and she had wet herself. She had never done this before and seemed out of sorts. I went to take her outside, but she couldn't move her back legs. We called the veterinarian and took her in. By the time we arrived, she could use her legs, but seemed to be walking differently than before. After the vet ran some tests he explained that she was on her way to kidney failure. She was about fourteen, and I had known as I'd learned with Bruno to expect this.
I got all the pills the doctor recommended and special food and took her home. After trying to get her to swallow her pills several times on her own, I dipped them in peanut butter with success. We went through this ritual a couple times a day for about a week, and she was back to herself.
Exactly a week before Christmas she was feeling better and took off when my dad left her in the backyard too long. We spent that night frantically walking and driving around and putting up signs after calling animal control to see in anything had been reported about a dog similar to her.
It was late that night that I pulled off the road after driving by what appeared to be a dead animal in the road. My parents had seen it too and were parked a few yards in front of me. They had gotten a better look than I had, and told me it wasn't her. After we all got home I went out some more to no avail.
My dad and I got into some kind of disagreement about what to watch on TV and I went upstairs to get a snack. I couldn't find a utensil I needed and became angry that my parents let the dishes pile up the way that they had -- I had been doing them every day at that point. I started to empty the dishwasher and ended up hyperventilating and threw several bowls on the floor. I sat in an area free of shattered glass and cried for awhile. My dad came upstairs and swept up the glass around me and asked if I was alright yet. "You lost my dog. I'm not ready to babysit you yet," was all I said. I recognize that may have been harsh, but he lost my dog.
About four days later a nice couple found Emmy in the parking lot of a Lowe's about four miles from my parents' house. She was incredibly unscathed. She left with us two days later to spend Christmas with my sister and nephew in North Carolina. She did well over the trip and was comfortable in the car.
I had two more days with her before I set out across the country. We made the drive in five days and the morning before we arrived to San Francisco, my dad told me she wasn't eating. About a week later my mom told me that had put her down, but my dad didn't want to upset me while I got settled here. I was walking around Chinatown, and sat on a nearby wall to process it.
I had the opportunity to brace myself for it, and I was fortunate to spend those last couple months with her, but even now seven months later, I start to miss her more when I realize she won't be there when I visit.