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Tell Us Your Love Stories
Do dogs bring us closer to our fellow humans?
Sure you love your dog but does that love translate into more affection for two-leggers?

In his essay for The New York Times “Modern Love” column on Sunday, Bob Morris described how a nine-pound longhaired miniature Dachshund souped up his love life. What is wonderful about the story is that Morris doesn’t end with simply describing his newfound canine affection, he makes an important extrapolation: His love for Zoloft (the pup's name), as well as his partner’s love for same, has combined for more love all around. Any fears over competing for love have dissolved in a rising tide of devotion.

My husband once described how his family’s first dog had a similar impact. An effusive Golden Retriever named Minnie wiggled and wagged her way past the family’s Minnesota reserve until the outward expression of love became a little easier for everyone.

All this got us at The Bark wondering about how dogs bring people together or enhance existing relationships among humans. Have you seen canine cupids at work? We’d love to hear your stories and may include our favorites in a piece for the magazine. Post your story below.

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com

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Submitted by Angelica Forment | October 6 2009 |

Walking my six dogs tail in tail and hand in hand with my husband is an outstanding proof that love can conquer all, my six dogs have been rescued from a harsh life on the street, broken legs have been mended, hungry stomachs have been fed and fear of humans have been replaced to weird happy barks. But the greatest lesson we both humans have been tought is that when one has the will, one can conquer rashes and sneezes, my husband is allergic to dogs and nonetheless he adores pampering those wet noses. An little by little his allergies are diminishing. And we, six doggies and a human, get to pamper my husband ; ).

Submitted by Anonymous | October 6 2009 |

I think pets can have the opposite affect. I sometimes feel like my dog gets more loving than me and I can even feel a little jealous about it. It's a little embarrassing to admit it, but I bet I'm not alone.

Submitted by SaraG | October 6 2009 |

I hear you Anonymous. I actually felt that way too. At first I was thrilled when my boyfriend was all lovey-dovey with my dog. It was a whole new side to his personality. But then I felt like my dog was getting the better end of the stick. I told my boyfriend, who felt terrible, and now everyone is getting more love. The way I think of it is that my dog taught him how to cuddle, and I'm a beneficiary.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 8 2009 |

:)

Submitted by Anna Mclain | October 11 2009 |

We were petsitting a beautiful Choc.Labrador Retriever named StarBuck.The first we had been petsitting him he jumped in the pool and on the trampoline! Before I knew it 2 days had passed and his owners were there to pick him up,it was sad to say bye cause I truely loved that dog.StarBuck a.k.a. Buck was the kind of dog that would just jump right into the vehicle,and I guess he was sad to say bye to because his owners practically had to lift him into the car,a 70.9 lbs. dog!

1 day had passed and here came Buck running up our driveway,he had walked 2 miles! His owners called us and asked if he was here and we said yes,and his owners said that they knew how much he loved us and that we could have him!!!!!!!! You know how good chocolate ice cream taste on a warm summer's day,well Buck is my ice cream,my icing on a chocolate cake,my Fudge Pup,My Chocolate Bliss!

Submitted by Valleta | October 12 2009 |

what a wonderful story of love and companionship!

Submitted by Leah | October 12 2009 |

Nothing like a heaven sent pup!!!

Submitted by Lesley Dormen | October 16 2009 |

Times Three

The young woman with the adoption paperwork tucked under her arm chatted easily with my husband and me as she led the way to a small, plainly furnished office. (“Let’s adopt her!” I whispered to my husband.)
The Day had finally arrived.
We’d been married for twelve years, a couple for sixteen. And we were happy together, just the two of us. We loved our apartment on Washington Square, loved our New York City life. Neither of us had grown up anywhere near Manhattan; we’d each found our way to the city and each other in the usual improbable ways. The miracle of Manhappenstance.
But no children save my husband’s three boys from his first marriage, all grown by now into superlative men. I loved picturing my husband as the young father of those boys. But when little girls showed up on TV, something in him lit up. “I bet you were just that way when you were a little girl,” he’d say when the little girl was more saucy than sweet.
This man needs a little girl, I’d think.
The nice woman with the folder sat down at the desk, and we perched uneasily on the edge of the two straight-backed chairs. She opened the folder. There was paperwork to read and sign, medical records she wanted us to look over, and there were printed handouts that seemed to be lists of instructions, about feeding and such. “The adoption can be open or closed—it’s strictly up to you,” she was saying. “But you don’t have to decide now. Why don’t I go get her so you can get start to get to know each other.” I had already learned her name—Eliza. The rest was a blur. “She’s playful, but she settles easily,” the woman who called had said.
“No dog,” my husband had said the first time I brought it up. “Please?”
Nonnegotiable, despite the please. But it wasn’t, not for me. My earliest memories were of Taffy, the cocker spaniel of my babyhood, run over by a car the very week my mother gave birth to my brother. I was two. Hello, sibling rivalry. My hand remembered stroking that silky head the way you remember love.
I was getting a dog.
“Please don’t get a dog.”
Was it possible I had married a man who didn’t like—no, love—dogs? No. It was impossible because it was unthinkable. Wasn’t it? How was it we hadn’t covered this territory through our courtship?
“What about Kip?” I asked him, referring to the dog of his own childhood.
‘”Kipper. What about him?”
“You liked him, right?”
“I think so. It was a long time ago. Yes, I guess I liked him.”
Liked? Liked?
I wanted a dog, and by that I meant a real dog, a dog-sized dog, not a little New York City, stick it into your tote bag, taxi-sized, go everywhere little dog. I wanted a Labrador retriever with a silky yellow head.
“They shed. It’ll ruin our apartment,” he said.
“Our apartment is basically yellow.”
An acquaintance told me about a special Labrador retriever adoption program. The Guiding Eyes for the Blind organization bred their own dogs, sent them to approved volunteer puppy raisers for the ABC’s of obedience training, tested the dogs periodically for developmental markers and, at a year or so, the dogs entered the school’s final training to become working companions for their sightless owners. Some dogs didn’t it make it to graduation. Some young adult dogs, between one and two years, didn’t make it all the way through the final program for health or temperament reasons. Puppy raisers got first dibs, then the dog went to the next name on a closely held list.
I called for an application. “Do all the members of your family want a dog?” was one question. I held the pen over the page for a moment then guiltily checked Yes. There was a two-year wait for these highly trained dogs, especially the yellows, the nice woman who processed the application told me when I called. Wow.
I’m a stubborn woman, but I’m patient.
Two years came and went. I noticed that when my husband and I were in a group of people, and someone happened to ask, did we have pets, he’d say, “No, but Lesley is getting a dog.” Other times he’d say to me: “When you get your dog, promise you won’t dress it in dog clothes.” When. There was something to be said for a two-year pregnancy after all.
Even a three-year one. But I was writing a novel, and it was taking a long time. My brain was in another place entirely, not in a dog place. One day the book was done. Four years had passed since I’d filled out that application. I placed one of my infrequent calls to the keeper of the list. “It shouldn’t be long,” she reassured me. But suddenly I wanted my dog now. She explained that Guiding Eyes’ testing and training had improved, so fewer dogs failed. “Would I get a dog sooner if I said I wanted a black Lab?” I asked her. Yes. “Okay,” I said. But I called back the next day to change my mind. I wanted the dog I’d been waiting for. Now fate was in charge.
A week later, the list-keeper called again. “We have your dog. She’s perfectly healthy. She is being released from the program because she continues to be distracted by squirrels.” Squirrels! She! My heart melted.
When the door to that office opened again, the most wriggly Labrador I’d ever seen, and definitely the leanest, bounded in. Eliza. As soon as she had given us a cursory sniff or two she returned to her rubbery bone, holding it deftly between her two front paws, skidding after it when it went bouncing around the room. I got down on the floor, ready to be invited into this game. Within another ten minutes or so, papers were signed, a check written (my gentleman of a husband beat me to the draw), and a packet of information handed over: family lineage, health records, a list of the commands she had mastered. She was housetrained, and would sit, down, stay, come, drop it, get busy, go to your kennel on command. As long as we were consistent, we were told, she’d be. I suppose every new parent doesn’t stop at the first infant version of PetCo or PetSmart that they come across on the way home from the hospital. But once I was handed Eliza’s leash, once I walked her (she walked me) onto the green grass, once I saw her take her first pee (Good girl! Yes, you are a good girl!), once Eliza leaped into our rental car, positioning herself between the driver’s and passenger’s seat, head and front paws between us, the rest of her an afterthought (How cute was that?) I moved into maternal mode, toting up the necessities I hadn’t thought to get ahead of time. I could do this.
Lesson #1: Vacuum the rental car before turning it in.
What is a family, anyway? You’ve got your Norman Rockwell families, all done up in idyllic colored pencil for eternity, and your dysfunctional families, the ones enshrined in all the memoirs that fill bookstore shelves, and let’s not forget commonly combined families, step this and step that, not to mention one-parent families, and the families that decorate all the catalogues in cozy pajamas. There is the First Family and The Simpsons, gay families, handicapped families and families made of friends. Everyone wants to be part of some family, no one chooses, really chooses, to go it alone.
My husband and I had made a family when we married. But here’s a guilty secret. It wasn’t until Eliza came to live with us that I truly felt we were one. We’d added one more team member to our tribe, and our twosome turned threesome felt exponentially stronger.
Eliza was My Dog at the start, and the division of dog labor was decided accordingly. My husband always took an early morning fast walk, down to the Brooklyn Bridge and back. Eliza went with him. All outings for the rest of the day and evening were up to me. In the morning, she creeped quietly into the bedroom, to Quent’s side of the bed, and just sat there, willing him awake with her stare. The shake and rattle of her tags followed him to the bathroom, played keepaway with his socks. When I heard the two of them come in an hour or so later, I’d be just getting up, with the help of a wet nose pushing itself insistently into my pillowed cheek.
Had my husband and I ever said pee and poop to each other? Um, don’t think so. We’d certainly never said it had so many times a day, every day. “What was her score?” became the official question. One, Two, or Trifecta the possible answers. “How was your walk?” I’d ask as we read the paper and drank our coffee, Eliza lying across someone’s feet. “Anything interesting to report?” There almost always was. “I never noticed how many people had dogs…she poops in the same spot right in the middle of Barrow Street every day…she was unusually frisky this morning…there’s a Beagle who wanted to tussle but Eliza just turned her nose up.” The man who didn’t love dogs had been transformed.
And of course our girl—that was what she was, almost from the start—was an exceptional dog. Perfect manners—except when it came to the aforementioned squirrels.
I was pulled off my feet more than once that first month. But my husband and I both took to working with her, in our own ways. That’s something probably familiar to parents of children. Our own ways. “Don’t let her pull you—hold the leash like this,” I’d say when we were out as a threesome. Or “You’re not giving her the command correctly. You’re not supposed to say her name with Stay.” I was the controlling mom, the authority on all things Eliza. He was more relaxed, but he could be firm, too. “Did you let her up on the bed?” he’d say when he came in from work to find me supine, working on my laptop, Eliza on the floor next to the bed. “No!” I’d say. He had insisted that we draw that line: No bed! But it wasn’t true. I’d tried to invite her up onto the bed with me, but it was contrary to Eliza’s training. Finally, I had overcome that verboten behavior with a treat. “Up!” Good girl! Only to hustle her off when we heard his key in the door.
Eventually we decided on a compromise. “Only when invited.” Let me say, she had an awful lot of invitations, especially on the weekends, when the three of us snuggled up for a double feature of Netflix. By summer, she was sleeping with us. By the following fall, we’d all decided we liked our own space. By then Eliza’s crate had been replaced by a giant pillow, and she’d sleepily toddle off when it was bedtime. She had full run of the house then, too. We could trust her, and she never ever betrayed it.
“He’ll fall in love with her once you get her,” had been the unanimous response of dog owners when told my husband didn’t want a dog. But inwardly, I believed I was married to the one man who wouldn’t be won over. I’d come reluctantly to accept that not everyone who wasn’t a dog lover was ipso facto a bad person. But he did fall in love. At his own pace and in his own way. “Her Dogginess” became his endearment for her when he sat in his chair reading the paper, and Eliza insistently placed one paw, then two, up on his lap, demanding his attention. His fascination with her play. My fascination with his fascination. She’d sit at the window, head resting on the radiator cover, staring out the window and he’d nudge me to take a look. Or he’d chuckle happily when he saw her trotting after me from room to room. On weekends, coming in from a walk or a turn in the dog run, we’d both marvel at her outstanding qualities. So balanced. So willing to play with every dog. Just walks away from a fracas. Loves every two-legged animal that walks through the door.
I found myself part of two new communities of dog owners--those in our apartment building, invisible up to now, and those in the Washington Square Park Dog Run. Eliza even had a best friend, a goofy Viczsla named Raymond, six floors up.
We’d rented a house for the summer, and Quent commuted daily from the city. The two of them romped in the backyard with a ball as I prepared dinner, and when she abandoned the game to race after a rabbit or a deer, he knew exactly how to lure her back. Once, though, she wouldn’t be lured—she’d disappeared into the high grasses. That night, as she leaped onto the bed with her usual nimble grace, he admitted to me how frightened he’d been. “I thought, how am I going to tell Lesley she’s lost?” And when that silky head happened to rest itself on his knee and not mine, I felt a twinge of something like jealousy. Hey. What happened to My Dog? The answer was becoming more and more clear. Eliza had become Our Dog.
In January, Eliza will turn five. I love lying in bed, hearing their early morning conversation drifting in from the living room. It’s not exactly baby talk—Come here, you rascally dog you!—but it sounds to me, as she play-growls and he croons, like love begetting love. Times three.

Submitted by Pat Faulhaber | October 20 2009 |

Love Keeps Max’s Broken Heart Beating
My life-saving, life-altering journey with Max, one of our mini-schnauzers, started just a few hours after our black Labrador died. And, against so many odds, that same journey continues today.
On a very cold and snowy January morning in 2003 our black Lab, named Black Bart, lay in the living room waiting for me to get dressed to take him outside for his morning ritual. My husband was out of town on business so it was just Black Bart and myself at home. As I was walking into the living room, I noticed he was standing with his head bent and was swaying from left to right.
I called his name and he tried to step towards me but could not move. I walked over to pet him and quickly realized the level of distress he was in. I ran to the phone and called my son for help to drive us to the local emergency animal hospital. Less than two hours later, Black Bart was gone.
He was over sixteen years old and one of the best dogs our family had experienced. I was devastated. Empty. Not completely sure what to do next.
My son said, “Let’s go to the puppy store before we go home.” It was cold, wintery, icy, and I was in no mood to replace my sixteen year best friend. My son insisted. So off we went. A few hours later, after looking at half a dozen or more puppies, I was sitting on the floor of a meet and play cubicle looking at a shaggy, uncut, un-kept, non-social, mini-schnauzer puppy.
The puppy was sitting, leaning against the wall farthest away from my son and I. The puppy would not come to us. He would not wag his tail. He completely ignored all of the toys, balls, and other enticements in the cubicle. He did not bark, puppy growl, or whine. I tried to pick the puppy up and hold him and he made a whimpering sound and he squirmed, clawed, and whined until I put him back down on the floor.
“There is something wrong with this puppy. He won’t play, jump, run, or any of the normal things puppies do. I’ve never seen a puppy that doesn’t love to play”, I told my son.
That seven month old puppy ignored all of or our efforts to ignite some excitement or interest. He just sat there looking at us. We stayed in that meet and play cubicle a long time. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the puppy but I also was worried about taking him home.
The pet store worker told us that the puppy was half price because he had been there three months longer than they normally keep puppies and that they were going to send him back (to where the clerk didn’t say) the following week if he didn’t sell.
With a knotty, shaggy, dirty, long coat, a crooked little smile, and with him hugging the wall tighter than when we first got there, my son said the magic words, “That puppy really needs you mom.”
“Pack him up. I’m taking him home”, I told the clerk.
It took well over a week before Max would let me pet him and almost seven years later, we still cannot hold him in our arms. All we can assume is that he was handled so much and so roughly during his seven months in the pet store that he feels traumatized and abused. In the first week I had him; he got a big dog schnauzer hair cut and went to our veterinarian for his first visit.
The hair cut gave him a whole new handsome look. The vet on the other hand had the worst of news. Max had a heart murmur and would probably not live out his first year. The vet’s best advice was to take the dog back to the store and get a refund.
“What will they do with him”, I asked.
“By law, they are not allowed to sell puppies with heart murmurs so they will probably destroy him”, answered the vet.
My heart sank. I just could not accept what he was telling me. And, my mind was screaming, I just lost a dog, I can’t lose another so soon. In other words, it was already too late. I could not bring myself to take the puppy back, besides my husband had not even met Max.
The next logical solution for me was to change vets. The new veterinarian said that yes the puppy had a heart problem but he thought he had longer than a year to live. The second, new veterinarian was right.
The heart murmur stayed the same until about two years ago. During a regular examine, the veterinarian listened to Max’s heart, turned to me and said, “His heart sounds like a washing machine.”
The veterinarian recommended we take him to an animal hospital that specialized in heart disease, cancer, and surgery for animals. After an EKG and other tests, we found out that all four valves of Max’s heart are damaged.
Two of the valves have mild damage, one has moderate damage, and one is severe and life threatening. His heart is actually four times bigger than its normal size. Surgery involved a procedure much like angioplasty for humans. The surgeon would insert a balloon through his jugular vein and down the heaviest clogged valve. The surgeon would have to try to thump on the blockage to make it move. All it would take to end Max’s life would be the smallest of slips through the jugular and he would die on the table. If he did survive, the procedure would maybe add five years to his life.
The recovery would be long and painful because his heart pounds so hard now trying to get the blood through that his heart would have to learn to beat normally again. My regular veterinarian commented that some animals do not survive recovery because they can’t understand the idea of time healing the wounds and they just give up before the recovery is over.
All of which meant our choices were either to take a chance on the surgery and the painful long recovery or take a chance that the heart condition would stabilize for a few more years.
We did not take the surgery. Two years later, Max is very active, looks healthy, walks every morning and evening, and takes care of all of us including our younger mini-schnauzer, Cowboy. Every morning Max gives Cowboy a quick sniff and a quick nose rub before he goes downstairs to man his watching post in our living room.
Having a dog with a serious medical condition and a personality disorder should be a downer but it has been just the opposite. In this case, Max and I have saved each other’s life more than once and in more than one way.
At the time we got Max, my husband had started traveling around the world and spending months on end in Houston while I stayed in Ohio. My adult son had moved out of the house into his own home. After losing two siblings, and an aunt to cancer and my father and father-in law to heart failure, my heart was full of hurt. Then of course our Lab died without any warning.
My job was not going well and I was feeling lost and without much hope for better days. Then I got Max. He needed so much love and attention, had never lived outside of a cage for the first seven months of his life, and had never played in the grass. We walked every day in one of the many parks in town, watched television together, slept together, he waited in the bathroom every day while I showered and dressed, he started to play with toys, went everywhere in the car with me, and we just started forming this unbelievable bond.
The more time we spent together, the more relaxed and social he became. He loves to run in the backyard even running at full speed completely around our house. To this day he is at my feet everywhere I go. He greets me the same way whether I’ve been gone five minutes or five days – with kisses (the only time he gives kisses), jumps, and tail wags.
Max still won’t let us hold him and he still won’t let anyone pet or touch him but my husband, myself, and our son in limited amounts. Because of his personality problems, he has really taught me to love unconditionally. And, with his medical condition, he has taught me to live and enjoy every detail of every day. Both conditions have taught me to think of someone other than myself.
He has returned my love in great amounts. When I’ve had a rough day or I’m on the verge of tears, Max will stand or sit next to me, put his paw on my leg or arm, and when I look at him, he gives me his best crooked smile and wags his tail stub a 100 miles per hour.
Max loves to travel and we have taken him on a number of cross country car trips. While he may not be people-friendly, he loves to play with other dogs. He is highly intelligent and demonstrates logical thinking patterns. He is obsessive compulsive about many of his routines. He has to walk twice a day around the same time. If we are late, he starts pacing, and clawing at our legs.
He likes to jump up on the bed from the same side every night and likes to sleep at the foot of the bed and on the same side of the bed every night. Max loves to help make the bed every morning and has to assist us when we change the sheets.
He likes to sit at the front windows of our house most of every day and watch the neighborhood go about the business of life. Max has one toy he still plays with – a tattered, smelly, stuffed bear. Of course, the bear has to be in the living room with Max while he does his daily people and dog watching.
Everyone, including his veterinarians, looks at him and say they can’t believe that he looks as good as he does and that he gets about like he does with such a damaged heart. I’m sure one day he will start to show signs of congestive heart failure. For today, he is living as though he is healthy and has eight more years versus possibly a few months to live.
How has he been able to escape the death sentences assigned to him? How does he keep such an active schedule without sleeping most of the day away? Why is he still going when all odds are stacked against him?
I believe he has a decided determination to live. Every time I look at him, pet him, or see that tail wag, my heart fills with so much love for him. He knows how much I need him and how much our family loves him. I’m convinced that it is this love that keeps his broken, damaged, and over-sized heart beating.

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