Dog slobber, shedding is worth it in the end

Andrea Joseph

I’m a dog person. Actually, I’m an animal person, but if I had to choose, I’d step to the dog side every time.
I’m a dog person. Actually, I’m an animal person, but if I had to choose, I’d step to the dog side every time.

Some people don’t care for dogs – or any animals – claiming they slobber, shed and are just too needy.

They have a point.

It’s true that I regularly clean streaks from both the inside and outside of my car windows, I keep lint rollers placed strategically around my home and my dog needs to be fed and watered, bathed, brushed, walked and loved. But I enjoy doing those things.

Perhaps I’m the needy one. Maybe I need to feel like I’m doing something good, and I get that acknowledgement from my dog. She’s greeted me with a tail wag for more than 10 years, starting on the day I adopted her from the Watsonville animal shelter when she was 5 months old. Maybe she knows she was scheduled to be euthanized the following day and she’s appreciative. I like to think so.

My family always had pets as I was growing up. Even today, I have a special fondness for English springer spaniels – my favorite breed of those I became familiar with under my parents’ roof. Katy (Trinity Katydid’s Lady) and Freckles (Tucker Kilroy Ladies Boi) were liver and white and AKC registered. Katy stole my heart when I was just a child with her kind eyes and sweet disposition. Freckles joined our family several years later, and won me over with his enormous paws and goofy personality. They remained in our family until their deaths – Katy while I was in college and Freckles while I was working my first newspaper job.

But through the years, we also had a cat named Angel, a turtle we called R.A.N.K. (the initials of his human owners) and Hammie, a one-eyed hamster. I even had a salamander named Newt who survived for 9 years under my youthful care. I loved them all in one way or another, but the dog is something special.

So of course the time came when I found myself wandering through various animal shelters on a quest for one to welcome into my home. A rowdy blond pup with ears much too large for her head caught my eye. It took several days before she had an official name, as I waited for my cousin’s young daughters to finally agree on “Pumpkin.”

Have there been moments when I’ve shaken my head and wondered what was I thinking? Yes, especially the time I came home and the rascal had torn up a corner section of carpet. But she was a puppy then and we both learned. She learned “bad dog” and I learned that a squeaky rubber chicken will keep her occupied while I’m away – and drive me crazy when I’m home.

And not much irritates me more than her barking directly into my ear while I’m driving, but she can’t help her excitement. I’ve learned that a doggy seat belt is not only good for her safety, but for my sanity in keeping her further away from my eardrum.

And those times when I have to pay a vet bill – shots, teeth cleanings, emergencies – always make me catch my breath. I’ve learned that I went into the wrong profession.

But those are all fleeting moments of frustration, and after more than 10 years I can barely remember what life was like before that 17-pound mutt.

What I do remember are the training sessions when she was a puppy. She was the smallest dog in a class full of German shepherds, a class led by my friend, a K9 police officer. Pumpkin was small in stature, but following those weeks of training, she regularly placed first at behavior and agility competitions.

And I remember why she’s skittish around cats. While visiting a friend’s home many years ago with her at my feet, my friend’s cat launched off the staircase. Before I knew what was happening, Pumpkin was flat on her back, feet in the air, with the cat straddling her and batting her face. (She’s never been the same.) If she knew how many times I’ve told that story and how many laughs its gotten, she’d likely have run away by now out of humiliation.

But she hasn’t. And if I’m lucky, she never will.

Unfortunately, I see her slowing down. She still loves to fetch, but not for quite as long as she once did. And when she hears the word “go,” she’s dancing around my feet. But once we’re on the road, she’s more often lying in her dog bed for the duration of the ride rather than nipping at the wind.

I’m well aware that one day I will have to put Pumpkin’s needs ahead of my own and make the decision no pet owner wants to make. And a recent lengthy health issue made that even more real.

But in the meantime, we’ll continue our games of fetch with Squeaky Chicken, road trips, dog park visits, trail hikes and walks along the beach – just at a slightly slower pace.

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