Dogs & Me

Duffy and me late 1990s

Growing up, I never expected to have a dog one day. For some reason they terrified me. Maybe because they could bite? Before I was 10 years old, I remember being in a luncheonette and refusing to move because a woman had a dog with her. The owner eventually realized my problem and told me it was OK. Another time I saw a dog outside a house and ran — and the dog ran after me. Over the years I got a little more exposed to dogs and became a little more comfortable around them especially through a couple of friends who had dogs. But if I saw a dog, I would go out of my way to avoid them. As late as my birthday in 1988, when I was visiting Carla in Holland, we visited her neighbor who had a huge Belgian Shepherd and I insisted that the dog be in the backyard when we were there, because I was afraid of a big dog. I was really silly! My parents were happy about this dog phobia. They did not want a dog in our home.

Carla had a wonderful dog named Snuffel that she got in 1975 and that I met on my trips to Holland in 1987 & 1988. I felt comfortable with Snuffel, she was a very sweet dog. In early 1989, after Carla had been married to me for a few months, she asked what I thought of having a dog. I honestly don’t think I said yes on the spot. I might have said I needed a few days to think about it. But I knew some women really wanted children and some really wanted a dog and if I wanted to have a good relationship, it was something I should agree to. So I said fine.

Unknown to me, I had signed a very anti-pet clause in my lease. I had gotten my one bedroom apartment in June 1985 and was thrilled to have an affordable one bedroom apartment in a good location in New York. Having a pet was the last thing on my mind. We discussed the situation with our landlord, offered extra security, promised the dog would behave, etc., but it got nowhere. Back then, the apartment was still a great value. Carla & I used to discuss moving to another city and we did not want to make a commitment to moving somewhere else in New York. Also, when you’re in your 20s and 30s, the age you’ll be in say two years (the normal New York lease) sounds very old and you’re hesitant to commit. I can tell you today that my age in two years sounds pretty much the same.

Finally in 1994 we moved to an apartment that would let us have a pet. In our experience, most places in New York won’t let you have dogs so you have to be lucky to find one for an affordable price. On November 19th we brought home a 12 week old female Cairn Terrier that we would call Duffy. Carla had done research and knew that Cairn Terriers were good for apartments and knew from experience that they have fun personalities. We were also told that Duffy was born on August 25th, which is our wedding anniversary so we thought it was meant to be. Before we brought Duffy home, we spent some time with Duffy who was “teething” and kept biting our fingers. In the back of my mind I hadn’t gotten over my fear of dogs and hoped that Carla would say Duffy wasn’t for us. Hey, this dog should have been jumping up & down and licking our faces! Carla said this was our dog, a taxi took us home, we had some basic things for Duffy in our apartment and we had a new member to our family.

The first few days we didn’t click with Duffy, or at least I didn’t. Then on Thanksgiving, November 24th, I spend time in the kitchen with Duffy. Back then we restricted certain areas of our home to her. I developed a bond and felt very comfortable. It’s been nothing but a wonderful experience having Duffy every day since.

Duffy is now 17 years, 2 months and 4 days old which is very old for a dog. She has slowed down but is still healthy and enjoys every day. One day when Duffy is no longer with us, I tell you about our years together. But now is not the time. There’s still more to come!

A few years ago I told Carla that the best thing I ever did was marry her and the second best thing I ever did was getting Duffy. Carla said the best thing she ever did was get her first dog Snuffel, the second was marrying me and the third was getting Duffy. I know how she feels and I take it as a compliment.

So….if you ever get a chance to get a dog and haven’t had one before, go ahead! Make sure the breed will fit into your lifestyle. It might be the first or second or third best thing you ever do!

Snuffel and me in June 1987