by Sarah Cavanaugh
When my husband and I were first married, we immediately adopted a golden retriever named Scout. I could so relate to the “Marley & Me” movie when it first came out. Scout was a spaz, a chewer, and a lot of work but we were in our 20’s, newly married and living in the mountains…it was a nice addition to our life at the time. Scout and I would walk miles and miles on the trails near our house in Denver. She and I were great buddies and she loved her big yard and her exceptionally jazzy parents.
Fast forward five years, a move back to Michigan with a much smaller yard, and the birth of our daughter. I will never forget sobbing in bed, nursing my newborn and saying to my husband, “Scout thinks she’s been replaced! We can’t forget about her!”
I was also flushing 1,000 hormones out of my body, and had become a human cow but you get the point: I loved the dog and was worried we wouldn’t have time for her again.
My biggest fears came true. Two kids in 21 months, jobs, diapers, needy short people…Scout was the extra “thing” in the house I didn’t have any time for. I remember resenting the time it took to put a scoop of food in her bowl. What a terrible doggy mother I’d become! Or, maybe I’d just become the mother of two really little HUMANS and the dog would just have to come second. Or third…or fifth.
It’s a sad tale, actually. Scout developed a brain tumor when she was seven years old and passed away quickly when the kids were only three and five years old. They don’t really remember her. I carry a lot of guilt about her last few years of life. I should have done more. I should have been more patient when she would stick her nose between the kid’s legs in the high chair, looking for a snack. I should have taken her on more walks instead of leaving her at home when I’d take the baby out in her stroller. Sigh.
So we waited and waited, and neither my husband nor I spoke much about a “future dog.” Four years went by without any dog talk. We tried fish, a hamster, but it just wasn’t the same. This past fall, my youngest went to first grade and I could finally breathe a little. To my shock, I actually spent some free time looking at dogs online and starting to fantasize about a puppy!
This past Christmas, we got our little “Whoodle” (that’s a Wheaten Terrier/Poodle) and named her Nellie Belle. All black, non shedding, sweet as pie. She’s almost six months old now and I am redeeming myself for the bad doggy mother I was to Scout in her final years. I’m walking her, taking her on trips, and even took her to six weeks of “puppy preschool.”
I’m hoping Scout is looking down on us, happy that we are loving another furry animal. Or, maybe she’s just furious about me being so hard on her. Either way, I loved her the best I could at the time. And we will love the heck out of Nellie. My hope is that she’s “the dog.” The one my kids cry good-bye to when they leave for college. The one we talk about long after she’s gone as our great, family dog.
I hope to start running Nellie around Reed’s Lake next year. I’ll be a better doggy mom this time, I just know it. Maybe with the kids growing up, I need her as much as she needs me.