Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How My Dad Became a Dog Person

It's difficult for me to believe, because he's such a GREAT doggie-daddie, but my Dad has not always been a dog person.  In fact, he was afraid of dogs as a child.  He grew up in a dog-less home, and his mother is still very much afraid of dogs.  (She is my one Grandma who doesn't like dogs.  She believes that they let therapy dogs visit patients in hospitals and nursing homes when the patients become too weak to protest.)

It happened one weekend at Mom's family's river house, during the summer of 1994.  Mom and Dad had been great friends for a while, but they had just started being something more.  My Grampa Booga and Grandma Gayle were going away for the weekend, so Mom thought it would be fun to take Dad to their river house for a little weekend get-away.  Grandma and Grampa had an awesome house on Healy's Creek (a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay) near Deltaville, and Mom loved to visit.  It was one of her favorite places in the world, because it was so peaceful.  Much of Healy's Creek was undeveloped at the time, and it was a wonderful place to kayak or swim or just hang out on the dock and watch the great blue herons and bald eagles fly over.

Since Mom and Dad were spending the weekend at Grandma & Booga's house, my Uncle Randy, who lived just down the road, asked if they would take care of his dog Lucy while he went out for a night on his sailboat.  Mom loved Lucy and always agreed to Lucy-sit anytime she was asked.  Dad was not eager to spend time with a dog but was willing to tolerate having a dog around in order to spend time with Mom.  And after a few minutes with Lucy, Dad quickly realized he was not going to be mauled by this sweet, friendly yellow lab -- although he might get a snout in his crotch from time to time.  (Lucy was not at all shy.  She especially liked men.)

Uncle Randy kept his sailboat at Grandma & Booga's dock, so Mom, Dad, and Lucy helped him untie the lines and watched as he headed off down the creek toward the Piankatank River.  Lucy sat on the dock, watching him go, and looked very, very sad.  Mom and Dad went up to the house and Lucy followed and sat down on the deck, looking down the creek toward the river where her daddy had gone in his boat. 

Mom and Dad went inside the house for a while.  When they came back outside, they couldn't find Lucy anywhere.  Lucy wasn't a wanderer and she usually just sat outside the door when the humans were inside the house.  She was so attached to Uncle Randy, she rarely strayed far from his side.  She went to work with him almost every day and was not accustomed to being apart from him.  

Mom and Dad were worried when they couldn't find her.  They called her name and looked all around the house and down at the dock and still couldn't find her.  Then they glanced out at the creek and at their neighbor's dock just down the creek, and there was Lucy, sitting on the dock, looking out towards the river where her daddy had gone.

Mom and Dad went over to the neighbor's dock and got Lucy and brought her back to the house.  They decided they needed to give her extra loving and attention because she was so sad that Randy went away somewhere and didn't take her.  So they let her come into the house with them (which was normally discouraged at Grandma and Booga's -- but Grandma and Booga weren't home, so they wouldn't know). And they petted her and loved on her and tried to make her forget that Uncle Randy wasn't there.  Dad hated to see any creature so sad, so he petted Lucy and spoke to her gently, and joined Mom in the effort to make Lucy feel better.  

Mom and Dad tried to keep Lucy occupied so she wouldn't be so sad.  They threw the stick for her off the dock and they took her for nice long walks.  On their walks, Dad loved watching Lucy leap and run through the soy-bean fields.  When she was running, all they could see was her tail above the soybeans as she hunted rabbits or whatever other creatures she could smell.  She never caught anything, but she clearly enjoyed the hunt.  (Oh, to be a country dog like Lucy!  Running off leash through soybean fields sounds wonderful!)  Dad loved it when Lucy stopped and put her snout in every culvert -- and to this day he loves it when I do that, because it reminds him of Lucy.  He even thought it was cute when she would squat and have an embarrassed look on her face while trying to poop.  They called it "making a Lucy face."

And a strange thing happened that weekend.  Lucy decided that my Dad would be an okay substitute for Uncle Randy, at least temporarily.  So she attached herself to him.  She followed him everywhere, and sat down right next to him when he sat down, and got up when he got up.  This really touched my Dad.  He had never before had any kind of bond with a dog and he was honored that Lucy had selected him.

Even when Randy came back the next day and they all went out to Wake Beach to go windsurfing, Lucy stayed at Dad's side, sitting right next to his beach chair.

That weekend my Dad fell in love with a dog for the first time.  He believes that Lucy was imprinted onto him, which is why he prefers labs above all other dogs -- although he pretty much loves all dogs who don't try to eat him.  (Yes, a number of dogs have tried to eat my Dad, although none have managed to take too big of a chunk out of him.)

Mom and Dad visited with and dog-sat Lucy many times after that.  And after Lucy died, they dog-sat Sally, Uncle Randy's new chocolate lab, when Uncle Randy went away.  For Mom, it was a way to spend time with dogs when she couldn't have a dog of her own.  For Dad, it helped him realize that maybe he was a dog person all along, he just didn't know it.  (This was a very good thing for Mom and Dad's relationship, because if he was going to continue to hang out with Mom, he simply had to like dogs.  That was non-negotiable.)

But dog-sitting is a poor substitute for having your own dog, and Mom wanted her own dog more than anything.  She lived in an apartment, so she felt that first she needed a house with a yard.  So when she had saved up enough money, she bought a house with a yard surrounded by a tall privacy fence.  And she and Dad moved into the house and started thinking about having a dog.  And when they were ready, they brought home their first baby -- an 8-week-old black lab puppy named Jake.  From the difficult car ride home -- during which Jake cried and cried and only Dad was able to get him to stop crying -- Dad took to puppy fatherhood like a natural.  I think he's the best doggie-daddy ever, and Mom and I are extremely lucky to have him!

This blog post is dedicated to Lucy, one of the sweetest yellow lab girls who ever lived.  We know she's playing on a beach right now with Jake and Sally and Grandma Gayle.



  1. What a wonderful story! Your Lucy sounds like a wonderful girl. She reminds me of my Aunt Kaitlin, who was my Grandma and Grandpa's dad when Mom was younger. I'm glad she helped bring another dog-person into the world!

  2. This is such a fabulous story! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. My dad wasn't a dog person either, but Mom and my fur-brother Truffle turned him into one.

    As I read the post, I kept hoping there'd be a picture of Lucy :)
    She looks so sweet!

    1. Glad you liked it Tootsie! I always enjoy your stories and photos too!

  3. Oh, what a super wonderful story! Thank you ever so much for sharing it with us. I bet Lucy is watching from the Bridge and is SO very much happy that she was able to help your dad get in touch with his inner dog-lover. I bet now he can't even imagine his life with a doggie by his side!

    My dad always liked animals but he never had any that lived inside with him. They had hunting dogs that lived outside in kennels. Then he married my mom and she brought her kitteh Annabelle with her and then along came the rest of us and now my dad can't believe that there are peoples who actually make their dogs and kittehs sleep outside. BOL! He's a good dad. We're lucky to have good dads, aren't we, Garth?

    Wiggles & Wags,

    1. Glad you liked it Mayzie! Yes, we are very lucky to have great dads! Now no one can believe my dad hasn't always loved dogs.

      Mom says that when she was a kid, their labs weren't allowed in the house, but they were still very much a part of the family. So she just spent a lot of time outside so she could be with the dogs!

  4. We are really enjoying getting to know you and your humans!

    love & wags,

  5. Great story...loved reading it. Our first dog was a chocolate lab named Sally and her best girl buddy was named Lucy! Yu are a lucky dog Garth.

  6. What a great story. Loved reading it. Our first dog was a chocolate lab named Sally and her best girl buddy was named Lucy! Great names. You are a lucky dog Garth.

  7. Garth,
    Your dad sounds like a great guy. How wonderful that he found his inner dog lover. Lucy changed his life.


  8. I LOVE this story, because I was just like your Dad. I didn't grow up with dogs, and I was a little bit afraid of them. It all changed when I met a Chocolate Lab named Moses who belonged to our neighbor. He made me fall in love with dogs, and not too long after that my hubby and I got our first dog (my hubby had grown up with dogs and also loved them). We now have a Golden Retriever who we named Moses in the Lab's honor!
    Jan, Wag 'N Woof Pets