Karen B. London
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Memories of Dogs
First childhood experiences
I have fond memories of the Sheep Dog I knew as a child.

My parents, who are otherwise absolutely lovely people, are not that fond of animals, so I did not have a dog growing up. The year I was three, we spent one year away from Wisconsin in Palo Alto, California while my professor Dad was on sabbatical. I was ecstatic to learn that an Old English Sheep Dog lived across the street from us. I loved that dog! I used to go over to visit him as often as I was allowed.

I have no memories whatsoever of the people who lived there, but they must have been very nice because they tolerated me coming over to lie on the floor next to their dog (whose name is lost to family memory) and talking to him. (Even back then I would talk to anyone—some things never change!)
I would gently use my finger to hold up all the hair that grew over his beautiful eyes so that I could see them. He was remarkably patient with me, and it’s really a wonder I was never bitten with that kind of fearlessness and presumptuousness around dogs. (Some things DO change and I know better now!)
This is my earliest memory of dogs, and it’s such a fond one. I still feel all warm and fuzzy when I think of the time I spent visiting that dog, and I’m grateful to have had such a positive experience.
In contrast, my husband’s first memory of dogs is of being terrorized by Dobermans who lived behind him. He and his brothers were never actually hurt by those dogs on the other side of the fence, but the growling and barking certainly scared them. My husband loves dogs (Thank goodness we’re not a mixed marriage in that way!) but his warmest thoughts of canines don’t go back to his earliest memories of them.
What are your earliest memories of dogs and how have they influenced you?



Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by FJM | March 24 2010 |

My parents brought home our first puppy - a black standard poodle called Mitzy - when I was barely three. I remember she tore through a bed I had been carefully making up for my dolls, and I was not a bit impressed! She was a mistake on my mother's part (my mother rarely made mistakes) - Mum had intended to get a miniature poodle, then newly fashionable, and was persuaded by the breeder into having a standard instead - a delightful dog that in the long term she could not afford to feed, and lacked the time to exercise. Mitzy went to a local poodle rescue a few years later, and my sister and I were devastated. When I was 7, and we were about to move to a bigger house and bigger garden, we got Popsy, a puppy from one of my Grandmother's miniature poodles. She was a love - she accompanied us children everywhere, had litters of beautiful pedigree puppies that we dressed in dolls' clothes and wheeled round in our dolls' pram - all the things that were the norm in the 1950s and would be frowned upon now! I think I learned much of my love of animals from Popsy - and I am sure that is is no coincidence that now, in my 50s and retired, my new pup is a poodle, and called Poppy. Some things set your idea of perfection for life!

Submitted by Carolyn | March 25 2010 |

My first dog was a little mixed breed pup we named Peppy because he had so much "pep." I was 3-4 yrs. old and recall taking a walk with my dad, my brother and Peppy near our house. It seemed like a long walk into the wilderness (actually a couple hundred yards in a new subdivision!) and was so exciting. I was entranced with Peppy. He died though, shortly thereafter, from distemper.

Our next dog -- and this will zero in on the decade -- was a collie puppy we named Kelly who arrived in an Easter basket. Gorgeous dog, great with 3 kids. Loved him to pieces for 3 years. Then he took to chasing cars in the now rapidly growing subdivision. So my parents rehomed him to a nearby farm with a widowed woman where he could "run" to his heart's content. What a sad day that was ... lots of tears saying goodby to him, especially from my mom. I think it was the first time in my short life that I'd seen her that inconsolable. Sad though it was, my parents were, I think, responsible owners for the times.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 25 2010 |

My earliest memory of a dog was being attacked by an Irish Setter at the age of 5. It pinned me down and terrified me. My family got a Beagle when I was 6, whom I dearly loved and I was not afraid of her, ever. But then at age 9, I was chased down on my bike by a Standard Poodle and had to get rocks removed from my knees. At 13, I was chased onto the top of my car by the neighbor's two German Shepards. Needless to say I grew up terrified of dogs. A lot of this fear was alleviated when a college roommate had two big dogs that were kind and loving and then I got my own dog. I used to walk blocks around houses with dogs in fences. I still stiffen a bit, but I'm no longer traumatized. I've even picked up a few strays. I just needed to have the chance to learn that not all dogs attack.

Submitted by Shauna (Fido & Wino) | March 25 2010 |

My first Dog Memory was my neighbours' black poodle. That dog was terrifying. To my 4 ft self he was as big as a horse AND he killed my other neighbours' kitten. Or somewhere along the line we concocted the story that he killed the neighbours' kitten, which to an 8 year old is pretty much the same thing. That guy was forever banished to Bad Dog Land and the poor pooch probably didn't even do anything wrong! Ah, kids are mean.

Second memory: Another neighbour had a whole slew of puppies for one reason or another and I fell head over heels in love. I sat them one at a time on my lap and loved them to bits, marvelling at how warm they were... until I realized the reason they were so darn warm was because one of them peed all over my lap.

For some reason all the peeing and kitten chomping did nothing to deter my fascination or fondness for pups- I absolutely LOVE dogs and couldn't wait to adopt my own (which I did: Mickey & Kayloo) :).

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