My husband is not a dog person. In his more youthful days, he donned a one foot tall Mohawk that was fluorescent pink. Maybe it spurred dogs into their more territorial pre-domestic behavior, or perhaps they just didn’t like that color on him—either way, it made for a lot of dog chasings.
When I met Jamie, he’d tell me stories about neighborhood dogs chasing him down busy sidewalks while passersby stood and watched. There he’d be, a young boy with a bright pink Mohawk running for his life from toothy-growling doggo.
Jamie did not have fond memories of these times. It gave him a bad taste in his mouth about dogs and continued to be wary of the animals for the rest of his life. I, on the other hand, grew up with large dogs. I was born into a dog-adoring family. When I was very young, we had a German Shepherd crossed with a wolf named King. I don’t know how my dad came to own such a beast, but there he was all the same.
King was, in truth, a gentle giant. He loved our family dearly and never showed aggression to any of us. A famous piece of family lore was the day Mom walked into the living room to find a 3-year-old me with one hand and half of my head wedged into the dog’s mouth. I was playing “dentist” with King. He sat like a good boy while I poked and prodded at his large and very sharp teeth. You’d think this would have spurred panic in Mom; however, it was the ‘80s, and people didn’t get so worked up about that kind of stuff back then.
King was a loyal dog, but eventually, his wild roots got the better of him, and one night, when Dad let him out for a pee, he jumped our fence and headed back to the wild woods of central Alberta. At least, that’s what I tell myself happened.
After King, we took on more German Shepherds. First there was Duke, whom we had for five years until he had an unfortunate run-in with a truck on the gravel road in front of our house. Then Prince, a beautiful Shepherd from the city pound. Prince lived with us for the next 13 years. These big dogs were so much a part of our family we speak about them to this day like they were beloved relatives who have passed on.
I married Jamie in 2011, and we adopted his mom’s dog, Chevy, a Bichon Shih Tzu who had a mind of his own and loved to escape the confines of our little yard. Chevy was a wandering man, and there was many a search party sent out on his behalf over the years. His frequent escapes must have been good for the soul, because this dog lived to the ripe old age of 19 (nothing short of a miracle in dog years).
We weren’t going to get another pupper, especially a big one due to Jamie’s PTSD from all the dog chasings of his past. But then we met Lucy. She had been my brother’s dog, but when he and his family moved into the city from their acreage, they found that Lucy and their Saint Bernard, Penny, were too much for one small in-town yard.
As soon as I met Lucy, I was smitten. She reminded me of my past pups. The ones with whom I’d walk the canola fields for hours on chilly September days while daydreaming of boys and what might become of my future. Jamie was not on board with Lucy, but seeing how much I already adored her, he relented, saying, “It’s fine, she can come live with us, but I don’t want to be responsible for her. She’s YOUR dog.”
Like a small child might say to a reprimanding parent, I replied, “Yes, of course! I will feed her and walk her, and you won’t even have to worry about the dog at all.” What neither of us had taken into consideration was that Lucy had her own plans.
In the beginning, Lucy was satisfied to stick with the kids and me. We took her on long walks and gave her all the love in the world, while Jamie pretended she didn’t exist. But every so often, I noticed Lucy looking up at the man with a mischievous gleam in her eye.
Jamie got laid off from his job in the early spring due to the health crisis. All of a sudden, he was home a lot more than usual with no idea as to when he’d be back to work. This took a toll on his mental health. I don’t know if Lucy could detect this or if she simply wanted a new snuggle buddy, but it was then that she started making her move.
There Jamie would be, sitting on the couch, maybe constructing a puzzle out of sheer boredom, and our eighty-pound German Shepherd would sidle up beside him ever-so-discreetly (but not discreetly at all because a dog of her size is incapable of it). She’d lay her snout on his knee and look at him with puppy dog eyes, a bit of a smile peeking up at the corners of her mouth. Next, she would take her chances and lay at his feet and ever-so-quietly begin licking his toes—her signature love kisses. Jamie would laugh, and Lucy would wag her tail. Then, after a few more days had passed, Lucy would again casually saunter over to the man of the house and back her fluffy bottom right onto his lap. There she’d be sitting atop him while he no longer could stifle his laughter from this dog’s crazy antics.
Jamie and Lucy found common ground playing tug of war and fetch in the backyard. There would be times I’d go to feed Lucy but couldn’t find her anywhere. I’d look out the window to see Jamie and Lucy frolicking and jumping together as if they’d been best friends for years. I knew for sure that Lucy had stolen Jamie’s heart the day he came home from the grocery store and had purchased a jumbo bag of her favorite treats.
“I noticed that she was running low, so I figured I’d get her some while I was there,” he said, blushing a bit at the neck. There was still half a bag of treats left.
The love of a dog is a powerful thing. These dogs help ease our depression and curb past trauma with as little as a wagging tail. They allow us to be vulnerable in ways we often feel we can’t show to the other humans in our lives. Something as simple as a lick on the toes can lift our spirits by reminding us that this animal loves us so endlessly, they will actually lick our feet.
So yes, the dog stole my husband’s heart, but the great thing about our canine companions is that there’s always enough love to go around.