Guest Post: Dog Love

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A guest post by writer Michele Regenold:

I’m a cat person. I love cats, even persnickety ones. I love their independence, their cuddliness, their snootiness, their sweetness.

I like dogs too, but it’s not the same indiscriminate affection I have for cats as a species. So I was surprised when dog love appeared in my life. It sort of snuck up on me.

One day in my late thirties I decided I wanted a dog of my own who would be my special running buddy. Hunting dogs make good running buddies. My husband has hunting dogs, specifically pointing dogs for hunting upland birds like pheasant, grouse, and quail, so we decided we’d get one my husband could take hunting.

I didn’t know then that this dog would become my travel buddy too and near-constant companion. I didn’t know then how much I would come to love this orange and white dog with freckles on his nose.

And when, in my mid-forties, I lost Diesel suddenly, unexpectedly, the pain of that loss was sharper and longer-lasting than any I’ve known. No more sniffing my breath as I rubbed his ears when we greeted each other. No more huddling next to me during thunderstorms. No more wrestling on the floor. No more runs together.

Running without Diesel on the winding, hilly country roads near my house felt incredibly strange after eight years of running with him, tugging the other end of the leash.

After a couple of weeks of running solo, I decided to try running with our other dogs. I felt like Goldilocks and the three bears. Chester wanted to go too fast. Dasher wanted to go too slow. Snowden wanted to circle me constantly and make me keep changing leash hands. Nobody was just right, of course, because none of them was Diesel.

Throughout the fall, winter, and spring I ran alone, imagining Diesel bouncing along beside me. Then as spring slowly warmed into summer, I tried running with Snowden again.

When I first ran with Snowden last fall, a few weeks after Diesel died, Snowden had just come to live with us, having recently experienced his own loss. His human companion, a shooting buddy of my husband’s, died of cancer and the man’s family wanted to find a hunter who would adopt Snowden.

So not only was Snowden thrust into a new human and dog family, but here I was trying to run with him at the other end of a leash, a process he obviously was not accustomed to. And since he didn’t know me or what I wanted, we didn’t mesh well.

Over the winter, Snowden and I got to know each other better, and as spring turned into summer, I decided to try running with him again. Although he’s not thrilled about the harness being put on him, he holds still for it (unlike maniac Chester), and he’s gotten the idea that we’re both running in the same direction. He’s still learning how to behave when a vehicle approaches us. And he still weaves in front of me sometimes, but he doesn’t do that annoying circling thing.

Snowden is a friendly, lovable dog who is burrowing into my affections. It seems that dog love is here to stay.

Michele Regenold, an aspiring children’s novelist, teaches English at Nicolet College in northern Wisconsin. She runs with Snowden, walks with Dasher, and cross country skis with Chester.

Photos: At the very top is Diesel. Next comes Snowden. The dog posing with Michele is Diesel.

23 responses »

  1. Lovely story! Good reminder that we can find love in unexpected places, have to learn to live with loss, and adapt to change. And the last two can be tough! Glad your story has a happy ending. Thanks for your post.

    • Thanks, Susan. Living with Diesel’s loss has been really tough. He’s been gone just over a year now and I thought maybe I was ready to spread his ashes, but . . . nope.

  2. Oh, Michelle. I feel your pain and loss. Reading your post made me cry as I remembered the pain of losing our dear sweet dog, Goldie. That was at least 9 yrs ago and I still can’t look at a picture of her without feeling really sad. I too am a cat person–I have 3 right now at my house. I have had many cats over the years and love them to death. But there is something different about a dog’s love and devotion and companionship. Enjoy your relationship with your new best friend and running partner.

    • Gail, I know just what you mean. Dog companionship and love feels different to me too. Maybe dogs are more extroverted with their feelings and cats are more introverted, less prone to share them where others can see.

  3. Michelle, that is beautiful. I feel like I know Diesel personally from your stories about him over the years. So I get sad when reminded of his loss. But you have managed to communicate what all of us pet owners eventually come to know— love Snowden and all of his awkwardness uniquely.

    • Yes, yes, yes! I wonder what our society would be like if more people took their (well-behaved) dogs more places, like to work. I would have loved to take Diesel into my office and classroom. Would we be more compassionate?

  4. I had the reverse. I grew up with dogs and when we lost our dear Mimi when the kids were young, they convinced us to get a cat. So we got two cats from the same litter. Now we are pet-less again and it is very lonely. We can’t decide which to get eventually! Maybe one of each! Dogs and cats are so different but they are all lovable and loyal and sure do take a hold of our hearts. Thank you for your sweet post.

    • Judy, dogs and cats are so different. My sister always compared her cat to a roommate and her dog to a child. Definitely easier to leave the cat home alone, though I once came home after a couple of days to find the cat had strung a trail of tissues throughout the house.

  5. We were blessed to have two fabulous dogs, each we had to put down after 10 and 11 years; some people don’t understand that its a huge loss. They’re such a part of your life. We adopted a 4 mo old puppy in July, after having a 10 year old dog…oh, what a difference, I realize I’m not as smart as a puppy. Our cat, however, was not amused that she wasn’t consulted on our decision to adopt.

    • Sad to say I was one of those clueless people before Diesel–despite losing 2 cats years ago. We’re thinking of getting a Brittany puppy next spring. We haven’t had a true pup in many years, but I figure if I have the whole summer to play and work with it, I can handle it.

  6. Great post Michele. I always think that dogs find the right people for themselves. We have Danes, they don’t like to run more than five feet and neither do I so we’re perfect together. Wishing good luck to Snowden in his new sport!

  7. Wonderful post, Michele. I got a Cockapoo two years ago and just last week bought ruffed grouse scent and a fake grouse. Josie is learning how to find it and I hope to grouse hunt near Eagle River next week. Our cabin isn’t too far from Gleason. Will you be at the SCBWI retreat this year? Amy Laundrie

  8. also Michele I am very sad for your loss! Diesel sounds like a really good dog and I can imagine how hard it was for you to have your runs all by yourself before trying with Snowden.

    • petite37, I still find myself getting impatient with Snowden when he doesn’t behave like Diesel during our runs. Diesel learned pretty quickly that although the noise of big trucks passing was scary, they didn’t need to stop him from running alongside me on the shoulder. Snowden, perhaps because he’s older, is less willing to live and let live with traffic. But it’s nice to have him along.

  9. I sure enjoy your telling of this story. My little Tess has recently recovered after being terribly, and mysteriously, sick for THREE WEEKS. I thought this might be the end, but she’s pretty much back to normal. We’re both looking forward to our visit with you; we’re heading northeast two weeks from today!

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