When I first met my late husband, Rich, I understood that he was a true lover of dogs. And they loved him. He seemed to have a way with them; in command with a gentle touch. It surprised me then, that early on when I suggested that it would be nice for us to have one he’d adamantly refused. He explained that he’d lost too many and didn’t want to experience that loss again.
But I prevailed.I’d recently become intrigued with the Portuguese water dog breed and believed Rich would too as we lived in a waterfront community and owned a boat. Surely he’d love an aquatic-loving companion. While he was happy to learn about Porties, as they are called, he still did not want one, or any dog for that matter.
Soon after, the world was changed forever on September 11, 2001. Watching those tragic events unfold just an hour or so away from the World Trade Center, I was filled with fear and anxiety. Rich was at work literally in a dark room (he was a lithographer) and it seemed everyone in my neighborhood was at work, too, and my calls up North went unanswered. I recall longing for the companionship and comfort of a dog to sit by my side or lead me outdoors to commune with others.
That December, a litter of Porties was born just 30 minutes from my home. I’d been in touch with the breeder and had put down a deposit for a pup. At the time they were very difficult to come by as there were not too many to be had. I couldn’t wait to welcome Hooper in to our lives. Rich had named “him” already for the character, Matt Hooper, in JAWS. When we went to fetch Hooper, the breeder surprised Rich with a girl puppy as that is what he’d wanted. We kept the name and Hooper came home with us. Hyper Hooper was not an “easy” dog, but she brought some happiness our way during a very sad time in the world. Hooper would pass 11 years later and once again Rich declared he’d have no more dogs…
As part of my dog-writing activities, I decided to write a series on fostering dogs and of course I believed that it was important to experience fostering first-hand to be able to genuinely relate.
I successfully fostered and released a couple of dogs, but then along came Teddy, a gorgeous 3 year-old Havanese mix. He came to us in the wake of Hurricane Sandy at a time most homes in our neighborhood stood vacant and darkened. Teddy had been rescued; neglected and emotionally shutdown. Rich deemed him the most Boring Dog in the World. But Steady Teddy as I came to call him had a Master Plan. Over the course of a few weeks he became a bright spot in our lives, successfully winning over Rich. He never left our home. Foster Fulfillment, not failure. Seven years later, Teddy would pass from a Mast Cell Tumor despite extensive treatment and once again Rich declared, “Please, no more dogs.”
On Monday of this past week, my little Maltese-mix, Quint, turned two! As many know, “Q” as he’s known, came in to my life just 7 weeks after the passing of my husband, Rich. Quint was born in Southern California on the day Rich entered ICU care. The videos of Quint, momma Shasta and littermates were a soothing distraction from the somber events surrounding Rich and I. When I’d showed him these photos, he nodded his head and said, “No more dogs!”
Over the next several weeks as Rich’s condition worsened, I found myself distracted by the drama surrounding Quint and those pups, especially when at one point law enforcement became involved. As I already thought of Quint as my puppy, I watched helplessly as he and his littermates entered a challenging period. But due to the work of an enlightened rescue group, the puppies soon found a safe haven in which they thrived.
When the time was right, I made good on my pledge to adopt the puppy I’d begun to call Quint, another dog named for Rich’s favorite movie. Quirky Quint’s gift to me is one of hope and guidance through the darkness. He gave me a reason to get out of bed (often at all times of the night) and be accountable on days that are still not easy. Born blind, he is confident and doesn’t let anything get him down. From the start from our first night together in a San Diego hotel room, his funny antics and sweet habits have cheered me up and carry me through challenging times, one day at a time.
For me, that is truly the gift of dog. Happy Birthday Little Q!