When my four children were small, the youngest being three, we all drove to Ocean Springs one Sunday afternoon to pick out a puppy and fill the void that unavoidably appears when a long-lived house pet moves on.
We had been referred by a friend to one middle-aged lady who was hoping to give away a litter of five. We were promptly shown a gaggle of three month old puppies, each with distinctive markings, the mother a beagle-type and the father a chow-type.
It didn’t take long before the selection process turned into a dilemma. The three boys favored one pup, while our only daughter was smitten by another. At first my wife attempted to lobby Lauren into liking the majority favorite. But like any parent attempting to logic with a 6 year old girl holding a three-month old puppy, she could’ve just as well been talking to the I-10 overpass. The dilemma was resolved when I blurted out (perhaps the result of an auditory hallucination) “Why don’t we take both of them home?” – which after a brief gasp, then realizing the possibility -- we actually did.
This being double-dogged turned out to be a new experience. The black and white mottled beagle-ish female, we named Molly. And the white chow-ish one Bear. (Our family constitution said kids name pets.) Anyway, Molly and Bear, brother and sister, were inseparable and partners in crime when it came to squirrels, a stray cat, possums, and treeing coons. Sniffing out hidden food was a breeze. If left to their own devices they would’ve had no problem living off the land, almost regularly dragging in the corpses of unfortunate critters.
Like most pets, they provided much fun, play, and love, but like all living things, they aged, passing away at the age of 12, Molly from heart disease and Bear with advanced liver and kidney disease. They were special.
Years go by, kids grow up, and times change. Really change. Almost three years ago my wife Angie and I decided to repeat what we both done in the past and that was to rescue a puppy from death row. The strong recommendation of my five-year old granddaughter who attended the selection event at the Humane Society was a lucky fella who was a Lab-Shepherd mix, multi shades of white and cream, with one ear drooping (the Lab ear) and the other pointing up (the Shepherd ear). We named him Roscoe. Don’t really know why. Just did. Perhaps it came from the kid in me.
Anyway, like many mutts, Roscoe turned out to be rather smart. With little effort and being a quick learner, on verbal command he’s learned several tricks, including fetching the morning paper, and chasing and catching Frisbees on the fly. I think he can dance but Angie calls it something else.
But even aside from doing all these tricks, I happened to be taken aback the first time I took him to the Biloxi Dog Park. Before even parking the truck, seeing the other dogs, he began ecstatically whining and barking and making never before heard undog-like guttural sounds, truly excited about making new friends. His level of joy and happiness to be able to pack-around with canine friends was so obvious I continued to share this observation with my wife Angie, Chairman of the Dog Committee, suggesting I thought that Roscoe, a pack-animal by nature, would be even happier at home if he had a partner in crime – a two-pack.
Almost a year’s worth of Second Dog Vetoes passed when a few weeks ago I came home one day and shared with the Chairman that a nice lady patient who raises boxers had shared with me that she had a puppy to give away, but not a boxer. Turned out that her beloved breeder boxer Itsy, came traipsing up the back porch one day, and, looking twice, she saw something black hanging from Itsy’s backside, which turned out to be her beloved dachshund, Louie, having such a special moment that a few months later there came to be two little Doxie-Boxies.
When my patient asked if I knew of anyone who would be interested in taking one, I asked her to forward photos, which I promptly shared with the Chairlady. Chairlady was smitten. Doxie-Boxies do that. The following day, while running errands we drove out to see this tiny wonder of Nature, which immediately tweaked the heart of the now gushing Chairlady, who ruled on the spot that I take a photo. Which I did. A few weeks later we brought her home.
We named her Phoebe and it’s interesting to see the difference a second dog makes with another. Like all puppies she loves to eat and sleep, frolic and explore, and chew and chew. Phoebe and Roscoe are bonding galore, which has validated my original thesis that dogs can be happier with a dog pal.
The science is rather weak when it comes to validating whether pet ownership is good for one’s health, like lowering blood pressure, alleviating depression, and preventing heart attack and strokes. I believe it does make a difference. But the general medical consensus seems to be that the benefits outweigh the risks, with the risks being falls and long grieving periods when they die. The academics that suggest pets are more risky than not to one’s health are probably the same ones who would cheer if they discovered that pumpkin pie causes cancer.
Our family here now includes us two hominoids and our two canines – Roscoe and Little Miss Phoebe. So far, the risk has been zero, but the only ‘fallout’ for us to date has been two episodes of inside Number 1, and one episode of inside Number 2. But like humans whose behavior conforms to incentives and disincentives, Little Miss Phoebe’s improving each day. They’re both a lot of fun, we love ‘em, and wouldn’t trade ‘em for anything.