I was very happy as a “cat person”. Cats are such lovely and independent fur-kids. They are content to sleep for 15 hours a day and then remind you with incessant meowing that it’s time for their dinner before prowling the house for mystery prey all night. They sleep on you when THEY want to and rarely if ever will come when called. Dogs are needy. Your life revolves around a dog. You always feel guilty when you have to leave the dog home. Cats WANT to stay home. My husband and I had both had dogs earlier in life, but we’d already done the move from America to Australia then Australia to America then (yes, again) America to Australia (hopefully for the last time!) and having an emotional and sensitive dog just never seemed like a good idea. January 26 (Australia Day) 2014 I fell sick with a mystery illness. After 36 blood tests, MRI’s and X-rays, doctors and specialists still couldn’t tell me what was wrong. I’d lost both my brother and my father to cancer and a good friend of mine had just passed away, so perhaps I was a bit of a fatalist at the time, but the truth is, I was terrified. The worst possible scenarios were keeping me up every night. Then the lack of sleep was making the dark places in my mind even more bleak. I really had always been a positive person, and I had always lived in the moment and made most of the decisions about my life based on maximizing happiness and the motto “life is short, live it to the fullest” or #YOLO as the teens call it. My husband and I loved to travel and we made that a priority in our life, sacrificing other wants and needs for the priority of feeding our gypsy-vagabond souls. But something was missing. My dad passed away in 2007 after a long and painful struggle with Melanoma. I know I get my love of all animals and respect for nature from him. Dad always had a dog and was rarely seen with out one. His fondest childhood memories were recollections of his dogs. He loved them so much and would do absolutely anything for them. They were always rescue dogs – ‘mutts’ dad fondly called them. My dad was adopted, considered himself a ‘mutt’ and so he felt those were the best kind of dogs to have. When he was a young boy, his dog, Vargis, went everywhere with him and was even his partner in crime. One day, Vargis and my young dad spied a banana cream pie in a window, cooling, and they took it. They went behind a building and ate the whole thing. Both of them became sick and my dad never liked Banana Cream Pie after that. My dad also never stole again.
Dad was always a very healthy and active man, and I believe much of that can be attributed to his life long daily walks with his dogs. Though he wasn’t an emotional guy, and the only time I ever saw tears in his eyes were for our dogs. I remember when our English Pointer rescue dog Dolly was near the end of her days and had stopped eating (we would later find she had a large tumor in her throat). Dad drove an hour into town to buy an entire case of baby food after someone suggested she might eat it. My big strong dad was down on his hands and knees begging our sweet poor starving girl to eat it, and she wanted to please him so much she licked it off his fingers and gave a sad little wag of her tail and and then her eyes let him know that she just couldn’t have any more. He told me later, after she was gone, that dogs made our hearts bigger. He always said that there were three things that were important in this life. Your family, your friends, and the dog.
When Dad passed away, one of his very close friends wrote a beautiful piece in his memory. It was a list of my Dad’s “Rules to Live By”. Though too long to include here, some of my favorites are:
- Make a decision and then move on.
- Be devoted to and love your family without fail.
- A well told story is worth telling twice… and then some.
- Brag on your friends and give loud compliments.
- Let your friends brag about you; be humble about yourself.
But at the top of the list was the one that kept running endlessly around in my head….
- Have a dog.
I finally let the thought settle and solidify in my heart and I told my husband that if I started to feel better and things turned out ok, then we were getting a dog. Yes, I know, it doesn’t sound like he had much of a choice in it all and perhaps he didn’t. I had made my decision! It was a full year later before I felt like I was well enough to physically care for a dog (and the special needs dog that had stolen my heart) and the conviction was so strong that I don’t think anyone could have talked me out of bringing Karma into our lives. Thanks Dad. For everything. She’s come home and she has already made our hearts so much bigger.