Dogs are perfect playmates

Published 12:08 am Saturday, April 28, 2012

It’s amazing how an animal can wrap itself around your heart.

Wednesday when I started toward my back yard, my heart skipped a beat and I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had left the gate standing open for almost an hour! What if my daughter, unaware of the open gate, had let Minnie out in the back yard? I took a quick look around. There was no sign of the Minnie, the miniature pinscher. Had she discovered the open gate and taken advantage of the freedom it offered her? I dashed up the back steps and into the house to search out Minnie’s favorite places to snooze. The little black bundle was curled up doing just that.

It occurred to me at that moment just how much that I had come to love my sweet “grand-dog.” If it’s possible, she’s loved even more by her human parents, my daughter and son-in-law.

I was raised with two rat terrier sisters, Dolly and Streaks. They were as different as night and day. Dolly was particular to never let her paws get wet in the morning dew. Every morning when we let them outside, she walked daintily on the sidewalk, while Streaks lived up to the name my granddaddy gave her. She streaked across the yard and into the house with damp, dirty feet. They were the perfect playmates for an only child like me. I loved them dearly.

I recall a night when one of my own family’s dachshunds suffered a reaction to a rabies shot. My husband and I rushed her to an emergency veterinary clinic. Her obvious distress tugged at my heart strings. My fear for her life was proof that yet another dog had won my love.

Then there was Sissie, a little white and apricot-colored dog that unexpectedly wound up in my husband’s care. A family showed up at the church he served with an unusual request. The bread-winner had lost his job, but they had free transportation home to New York but couldn’t take the dog. Would the preacher please keep Sissie for them until they let him know where to send her? Looking down at a sobbing little girl who was holding the dog, he couldn’t refuse. After prayer meeting that night, Sissie escaped our grasp. We spent the next two days chasing her. Although it was my mother who finally caught her by tempting her with a bowl of dog food, Sissie latched onto me. Within a few days she was following my every step. She refused to sleep anywhere except in a chair piled with some of my clothes.

We shipped her to her owners wearing a collar that had belonged to Lillian, one of our late, beloved dachshunds. No other dog could fill the emptiness Lillian left. But in just a couple of weeks, Sissie gave it a good try. She, too, had a way of tugging at my heart strings.