I will submit that I have a classically codependent relationship with my dogs, Charlie and Sam. If I'm still single when my teenage son, Ethan, moves out in the next year or so, I run the risk of becoming the Crazy Dog Lady of the neighborhood. Y’know, the unkempt old maid shuffling around in a caftan and slippers, reeking of kibble and wet fur, chattering away in third-person baby talk. (“Mama wuvs her widdle angels, YES SHE DOES!”)
Charlie and Sam have the same mom and dad, but were born of different litters. They are a trendy mix, called Teddy Bear, which is not officially recognized by the AKC or whatever entity it is that makes breeds official. My best guess is they have Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise and possibly terrier in them. Charlie is a 3-year-old boy who weighs about 11 pounds, and Sam is a 1-year-old girl who tips the scales at around 15 pounds. Neither are technically babies anymore, but I frequently refer to them as "The Puppies."
I love my furry little monsters to pieces, and I have an empathy for them that I don’t have for a lot of humans. They do pretty much whatever they want, if it makes them happy. I’ve found that there are virtually no limits in my generosity toward these critters. (In my defense, they are super healthy, well-groomed and blissfully content.)
Here’s a perfect example of the puppy spoilage going on in my house:
The staircase between the first and second floor of my Highlands bungalow is both steep and slick. The treads are painted and shellacked, so you have to be either barefoot or wearing shoes when you traverse them. Socks are dangerous.
Early in their lives, each of The Puppies fell – hard – as they enthusiastically tried to navigate these stairs for the first time. See, they are always on my heels, and they don’t like for me to be upstairs in my bedroom without them. They are very vocal about it, as a matter of fact. One of the greatest joys about having dogs, in my opinion, is allowing them to sleep in my bed with me. So getting these pups up the steps, one way or another, is absolutely necessary.
So what’s my solution? I carry them. Every time. Oh, and I always have to make two trips because they are just cumbersome and wiggly enough that transporting both at once is too much to manage.
They each willingly jump into my arms when it’s time to go upstairs. All I have to do is say, “Come to Mama,” and extend my hands. Charlie always goes first. Sam plays this game where she has to crawl under a chair, but when I call her after I have deposited Charlie at the top of the steps, she wiggles out to meet me.
It’s all ridiculous. I know this.
I resisted getting a dog for years because I had such an attachment to the one I grew up with, Susie. She was 11 years old in 1993 when we had to have her put down due to kidney failure. I was devastated ... I must have cried for a month afterward.
The loss was so acute that I swore I would never, ever get that attached to an animal again. And I didn’t, until – against my will – I got Charlie as a gift for Christmas in 2009. It was love at first sight. When I got Sam as a gift two years later (OK, technically she was a gift for Ethan, but I claimed her immediately), I was a goner again.
Today, I love coming home to the single best slobber-laden greeting in the world. I enjoy the hell out of playing ball or toy tug-of-war with The Puppies, snuggling them, and having long philosophical conversations with them (just kidding on that last part, sort of.)
Their personalities are as opposite as a holler and a whisper, but they are best buddies. I’m sure I hold onto a lot less guilt when I leave them home alone because I know they have each other. (Yep, I am one of those idiots who believe my animals have complex emotions.)
Anyhoo, here’s a short rundown on each of my widdle angels.
Charlie (aka Charles Xavier, Charlie Bear, Mr. Poo)
Charlie is a neurotic, dainty, delicate, high-maintenance, bitchy diva. He hid in the corner for the first six days after he came to live with us. I still wonder if he had been abused by the breeder, as skittish as he still is to this day.
I single-handedly coaxed him out into the open – a few of my friends say I “loved him out of the corner” – and he has been attached to my hip ever since.
He is a little asshole, though. He’s a nipper and will go after the ankles of any stranger who comes into the house. But he only goes after them when their backs are turned – he’s a total wuss. I have tried several different techniques to try to break him of this, with no success. I’m sure my lack of consistency is part of the problem. (Suggestions are welcome, by the way.)
He has a white stuffed bear named Zuzu that he literally puts his arms around to snuggle. It’s the damndest thing. He will chomp down on her head, wrap his paws around her waist and lay down with her. For hours. I have to wash it periodically because his doggie saliva makes her stinky.
He’s also super picky and has a weak stomach. He will only eat certain food, treats and chew on certain bones. Deviate from the ones he favors and he gets sick. He also likes to be hand-fed his dinner. And of course, I indulge him. I’m not as bad as I used to be, but I still do it a few times a week.
He is a pain in the rear, but he was my first puppy love after nearly 20 years of celibacy, so I’m more than willing to put up with his quirks.
Sam (aka Samamtha Blue, Sammi Sue, Miss Poo)
If Sammi Sue were human, she would probably ride the short bus. She is a little slow, but she’s the single most loveable, cuddly dog I have ever met. She is also super laid back and friendly. She loves literally EVERYBODY.
Sam is so clumsy that when she jumps on the couch, she frequently undershoots and slams right into it on the first try. Stunned, she just shakes her head and tries again. It cracks me up every time. She also runs around in circles, very aggressively chasing her tail, at least once a day. She catches it sometimes, but mostly she just gets dizzy. Another endless source of amusement for me.
Sam’s not overweight, but she is always hungry and will eat anything, so I have taken to calling her “Fat Girl.” She’s four pounds heavier than Charlie, and she’s as solid as Charlie is dainty. She’s also a tomboy. Whereas Charlie hates to go outside for any longer than it takes him to lift his leg, Sam will hang out in the yard for hours if I let her. She is a digger and often comes in with a dirty nose.
When my alarm goes off in the morning, Sam does this thing where she lays her face across my neck and snuggles up with me. If I don’t rise pretty soon, she uses her whole head to cover my nose and mouth, which cuts off my air flow, so I am forced to get up just to catch my breath. (Maybe she’s not so dumb after all!)
Sam is the yin to Charlie’s yang. I think the fact that she is so easy to deal with balances out Charlie’s high-maintenance issues. Depends on the day as to who is Alpha Dog between the two of them. It's a constant and adorable power struggle ... They have a wrestling match at about 10 p.m. every night in my living room.
Anyway, Ethan has mentioned to me on more than one occasion that he thinks I treat our dogs better than I treat him. I suppose I can’t argue with that. (Hey, they don’t leave dishes in the sink or wake me up in the middle of night because they forgot their house key, buddy.)
Codependent or not, I am so grateful for the puppy love I have in my life these days… It’s therapy that soothes my soul. I’m glad I opened my heart to it, and to them.
I hope you’ll excuse me while I go haul a couple cuddly canines up the stairs.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.