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  • Kristin Ramey

My dogs have made my life better

I have had several instances in my life of folks who have lost a beloved pet, and the pain was so much, they swore they would never get another. My Grandma was one of those. I can't remember which dog was going to be her last... Snoopy? Blackie? Brannigan? It may have been all of them, and something would happen and another dog would come along. But she would always swear there would never be another.

For me, aside from my childhood (let's not talk about how I had 4 different dogs before I left for college, and the longest they lasted in my house was 6 months before my mother handed them off to a shelter. Yes, there is some over compensation from those experiences...)

I got my first dog randomly. It was actually my brother's. I was still in college and moving twice a year, but things happened and he couldn't keep his dog. At first, he was mine temporarily, and then he said he was mine for good. Which is good, cause I wasn't giving him back.

From my Grandma's stories, she always had all this sadness from the times she lost her pets. I think it was one time, when Daug died, they already had Snoopy. I might have the details wrong, but she led me to believe that Snoopy helped her handle the grief of losing Daug. Daug died before I was born, but I knew Snoopy. I think she was the first dog that I lost in my life. Snoopy grieved for Daug, and it helped my Grandma's heart heal because she could share that grief with Snoops.

So when I got Ditka, when he was somewhere around 6ish, I realized SOME DAY he would die, and I would be left with that empty hole, and dealing with that grief, possibly alone. I didn't even know what the grief was like, but I knew I wouldn't want to face it alone.

Which is why I adopted Hobbes. OH, I also was a single 20-something living alone, and really wanted a little more fire power with me when out jogging, or home alone. I felt like a bigger dog would send a stronger signal to potential burglars and people snatchers than my Beagle. He was an addition to my home security system, and a good jogging partner. So many excuses to adopt a second dog.

As life went along, before you know it, Ditka and Hobbes were no longer owned by a young, single, suburban woman - but moved to a farm, with man and wife - and man had two German Shepherds. Suddenly it was a dog pile. Sheep and chickens made us also add some livestock guardians and BOOM before we lost a single one, we suddenly had 6 dogs.

So with 6 dogs on the farm, when we lost Ditka, I was not alone. I had my Hobbes-er-Bear to help me grieve. When we lost Grish, Athena grieved with us. When I lost Hobbes - Atlas and Goliath had been on the farm and I could bury my face in their fur when I needed to. It wasn't until Hobbes that I felt like something was missing. That took us down to 3 dogs. 3 dogs never feels right here. 6 seems to be the upper limit, but 4 is my lower limit. We need 2 working on the farm, and then Larry and I both need one we can call a companion. So when Hobbes left, I found my Moose. Athena also left us, and when Larry spent a year in New York, I convinced him that I could adopt a senior dog. I just needed that 4th space filled, an older dog that needed a place to live out their last days. And we found Nina.

When Larry returned from New York, and Nina also left us, we knew that Atlas and Goliath would need replacements so they could retire. That led us to Hercules. When Herc turned out to be deaf, it lead us to Loki. Atlas took his leave a while after that, and then the house burned down. Our 4 boys did well, but Goliath eventually also needed his rest. With Herc being deaf, and Loki being sick, when someone sent me a posting about Odin needing a home, it was just the right thing to do, to bring him in. What a super star he is!

Then Moose decided to go, and I leaned on Herc for my support. And now Herc is gone. We are down to three.

I can't say that I always want to race out and replace a dog. Sometimes, we really need a specific dog. When I lost Hobbes, I really wanted a buddy who would do chores with me. Moose was exactly that dog! Sometimes the farm at night is a bit spooky, it's good to have a pup with you! Sometimes, we have needed a new Livestock Guardian to protect our sheep and our birds.

With Moose's departure, it allowed that 4th space to be filled with a companion for Larry, which is why he adopted his companion, Skadi

This time, all my buddies are suddenly gone. I know that the next dog will be an LGD. Someone to provide Odin some back up, and to allow Loki to retire. He's only 5, but with his auto immune disease, he doesn't need to work. But Loki is an LGD. Unlike Goliath who was constantly trying to convince us to let him move into the house, Loki is the opposite. He wants to work. He doesn't really want to go for walks in the neighborhood, and I don't think he'd want to go camping and hiking with me. I'll let him retire when the next pup comes, but I'll be missing my buddy dog. It's the first time since Ditka that I haven't had my own companion. I "got" Ditka in college, my Junior year. That's 27 years of companion dogs... That's 27 years of jogging, hiking, camping, and road trips. That's 27 years of dog hair on my couch, dogs sleeping on my bed, of vet visits, chewed up shoes, tipped over trash cans and poop baggies. That's 27 years of never being alone. That's 27 years of snoring, snuggling, playing and barking.

My heart hurts with so many of my boys being gone. We now have 9 dogs buried on the farm. But my heart isn't empty - it's full. It's full of love for them, and the love they returned to me. It's full of memories and happiness. It's full of stories.

The spot that's left right now, is a spot some lucky dog will get to fill. I don't know where I will find that dog, and right now I don't even want to look. That right dog will find me when the time is right. Like Odin. Like Nina. Like Moose. Like Hobbes. There's another dog out there, he'll find his way to me when the time is right. And he'll fit right in. And that hole in my heart, it may never fully heal, but it'll stretch open just enough to let the next dog in.

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