I grew up with pets. We had parakeets or dogs and fish. Our dogs were well loved and lived to be over 20 years old. They were poodles. Now, I know what you think. These were not "yippy", annoying poodles. They were actually pretty cool and didn't shed or have "accidents" in the house. "Doc" did not have pets growing up and therefore we had a hurdle to get over. I happen to believe that pets can teach us a lot. There are all of the traditional reasons of responsibility, caretaking, etc. Most importantly, I think pets teach us about unconditional love.
When "Mini Me" was one, we acquired Patches. Our dear friends had gotten him from a shelter as a pup. They live on a small lot in the Cleveland area and somehow did not realize that a pup with huge paws will become a large dog. Patches was a German Shepherd/Beagle mix. Don't ask, we never figured that one out either! We received him as a gift because we had some acreage and Patches had already eaten through their air conditioner when he was tied up outside their house. He was a great dog!!!!!
He loved to be outside and play with the kids. He actually lived outside in the barn or his doghouse. Even when it got really cold, we could never get him to come in. "Calvin" was a little intimidated by his size and the fact that patches would use him to play fetch. We would be outside playing and Patches would come around the corner of the house and spot "Calvin". At the same time "Calvin" would spot Patches. I immediately hollered "Don't Run!" but "Calvin" would scream at the sight of Patches and take off running. Game on! Patches would go after him and drag him back to me by his pants leg. It was a great game and I all I had to do was wait for "Calvin" to be returned to me! Patches of course, came with us when we moved to our current location. He had settled down quite a bit and still refused to enter the house.
We loved him like any other member of the family. He was the best at chasing rocks. Not that rocks do a lot of running, but "Calvin" had finally gotten smart and stopped running away. You could pick up any rock in the yard and throw it into the woods and Patches would not return until he had found that exact rock. That game ended when his teeth started to wear out. Chasing a ball was not as much fun or challenging for him.
Patches was implicated when "Mommy" broke her arm at age 8, I think. She took a nasty fall and fractured both forearm bones. Her siblings claim that she was trying to ride Patches and he would not have any of it. "Mommy" maintains that she was running and tripped over him. I am sure that the truth is somewhere in the middle, but I am still waiting for it.
We fiercely protected our Patches too. A gentleman came to our house one day, wanting us to purchase aerial photos of our house. I politely declined and as he left he swerved his car into Patches and rolled him. "Mini Me" saw the whole thing. We heard him yelp. At just about that time, "The Ninja" came to visit. I came out of the house (pregnant at the time) and said let's go! Without question she headed down the driveway in hot pursuit of the Black Oldsmobile Bravado that had hit our Patches! (Funny how you remember those details!)
Eventually, Patches and "The Surprise" became best buddies. "The Surprise" would look for him every morning. The day he couldn't find him we knew something was wrong. The rest of the kids found him laying by the creek, too tired to move. We called the Vet and he eased Patches' pain. "Doc", who never had pets, did not want him buried until he could say his goodbye too. We still love you Patches, and talk about you all the time! He was a good dog, and the first in line!
Wife, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Nurse, Grandmother, Friend...that's me in a nutshell!