I was proud watching them take ownership. At the bus stop, kids would come up and ask if they could pet or walk the dog. “Sure,” they’d say without hesitation and then demonstrate how Sport liked to be stroked and instruct not to tug his leash. I found myself thinking about the summer when I was 10 and lied to my camp bunkmates about having a dog. It didn’t seem like a fabrication, since my grandparents left their toy poodle with us whenever they went on vacation. Not only did these girls brag about their private schools and country homes, they went on endlessly about their dogs. I just wanted to be part of their club.
Now, I could say I was an official member. Nothing says you’re a dog owner like getting your pup to give up a squirrel that he’s hunted by offering a hot dog, using baby talk to coax him out from under a chair at the vet’s, or throwing him a party. For Sport’s first birthday, the girls each invited a friend, and I invited the Newfoundland dogs and their child companion from across the street. Thankfully, only one of the two 150-pound canines showed up, since there was only so much homemade, doggie meatloaf cake to go around.
My husband and daughters may have fallen in love with Sport at first sight, but for me, it took a little longer. It wasn’t until his rambunctious puppy period had passed that I really noticed his sweet, affectionate disposition. It wasn’t until we were settled into our new home and daily routines that I fully appreciated having a pet, one that would follow me from room to room and sit at my feet while I worked at the computer.
Today, Sport is 14. My older daughter races to him when she comes home from college; the younger one has framed photos of him for her freshman dorm room. He’s thinner than he used to be and has mild arthritis and cataracts. When I walk him after dark, along with Candy, our second Bichon (two dogs for a family, after all), I wear a headlamp to guide him. At night, he moves from the foot of my bed, to the spot at the curve in my body, and then to the edge of my pillow. I take comfort in listening to his gentle snoring. Come September, when the girls are gone, I will take comfort in having him near.