We added a new dog, a four-month-old Boston Terrier, to our family this past weekend. Her name is Luna, and she’s tiny and cute and all of the things you’d expect from a sweet little puppy. She gets along with our nine-year-old Boston, Pearl, who has only had to put her in her place a few times since she arrived. I think it’s clear who’s boss in that hierarchy of two.
I’ve always had dogs in my life except for two brief stints – when I was in college and when I lived in China. They’re as much a part of my life as any human relationship. From Sam, who occupies the furthest reaches of my memories from my childhood, to Pearl and Luna today, I could chronicle my life based on the dog or dogs I had at the time. Growing up, my dogs were mostly mutts my Dad acquired from a guy with whom he worked. They were outside dogs, all of them, and they came and went with the perils of being outdoor dogs living along a rural, two-lane road. If the speeding cars didn’t get them, something else did, but I never lost my love for dogs in spite of the heart-wrenching losses.
My kids have only ever known Pearl as their dog because she’s been with our family for seven years, and they were young when we she arrived. Since our dogs are indoor dogs, they are less prone to the inexplicable disappearances or tragic endings that often beset my dogs when I was a kid. Pearl has taught my kids kindness and responsibility, something that I also learned from my dogs as a child. Most importantly, she’s given them a sense of joy that only dogs can deliver. When they had a rough day, Pearl was there to lick them and snuggle with them and make it all better. When they needed someone to talk to or to dress up for an impromptu tea party, Pearl was there. It’s hard not to smile when you look into that face with the big ears and bulging eyes atop the short nose and drooping jowls. Her solemn and serious look belies an innate sweetness that defines her.
She has grown with our family, and as the years have slipped by, she has been aging gracefully. Despite being in her tenth year, she still gets excited when we go on a car ride. The gray on her muzzle and the occasional missed jump are the only indications of the passing of time. She’s gone from being the patient puppy (yes, there is such a thing and Pearl exudes it) to the grand dame of our family, a dog so spoiled and well-loved that her life has to be the envy of dogs everywhere.
It is in those few moments that I recognize her age that I lament the fact that dogs don’t live longer. Even removed from the dangers of living outdoors, dogs have such limited time. While it could be a tragedy, it’s also a gift. Making the most of that limited time is the essence of any life, dogs or otherwise, and we’ll certainly make the most of it. Luna, the fifth member of our family, reminds us of Pearl’s younger years, and she promises to bring many more happy moments to our family. We’ll enjoy every moment.