Our Other Children


I don’t write about or photograph him often, but we have another child…our poor red-headed stepchild, Pip:

Pip is, by our best guess, a whippet mix.  He was rescued from the streets of Puerto Rico and packed with hundreds of other dogs into a massive adoption event held by the Connecticut SPCA.  How we came to own Pip is a story that begins with our dog Puck:

I adopted Puck from the animal shelter in our college town when Chris and I were juniors.  He was just 8 weeks old and the cutest little ball of German Shepard fluff.  Against my parents’ warnings that a dog was too much for a college kid to handle, I brought Puck home one day after a regular volunteer shift at the shelter, and he became my baby.  I was looking for something to nurture and a puppy was exactly what I needed.  In the beginning, he slept nights curled against me in bed; he went everywhere from parties to occasional classes with me; I bought him presents and generally just loved on him.  I worked really hard to train Puck and he earned his AKC Canine Good Citizen certification as soon as he was old enough to take the test.

One of my housemates at the time had two dogs, so Puck was used to being around other dogs.  When I moved in with Chris the following year, we thought Puck was lonely, so we adopted him a brother, Pogo, a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Pit Bull mix.It did not take long for me to fall madly in love with Pogo.  As much as I loved Puck, he had some little quirks; Pogo was exactly what I thought a dog should be.  I’ll admit, I was the bad dog-mama who picked favorites.

Puck and Pogo got along initially, but after a few months, they started having really serious fights — as in fights that cost hundreds of dollars in vet bills.  Pogo usually started it, but then Puck would lay down the law and Pogo would need stitches after stitches after stitches.  At the time, I was running adoption events for a north Texas shelter and I was dead set on the belief that a dog is for life; you don’t get rid of them for anything.  So, for a year, we did “crate & rotate,” which meant we had two dogs who were never, ever together.  They were okay with a baby gate between them and they were fine together outside, but inside was a no-go.

In that time, Pogo earned his AKC CGC certification too, and I had him temperament tested.  I started training him for Delta therapy dog certification.  It was annoying to not have the dogs together inside, but manageable.  Then we moved to New York.  The change was too much for them to handle, and all of a sudden they couldn’t be together in the yard anymore and were now fighting over the baby gate.  Faced with the choice of making one dog live almost always in a crate, we realized that it might be better to rehome one of them.  It was an incredibly hard decision, but given the reality of their personalities and abilities to adjust, that meant Pogo had to go.  Luckily, my dad was looking for a dog for my younger brother, so Pogo moved to Iowa.  I cried.  More than once.

It was for the best.  Life moved on and everyone was happier, and (surprise, surprise) Puck was a little less neurotic.  And he was still, of course, my first baby.  When I got pregnant, I couldn’t imagine loving anything any more than I loved my dog-babies.

Then, when I was four months pregnant, the unthinkable happened.  Puck was hit by a truck outside of our house.  After an agonizing night trying to treat his numerous wounds and a brutal discussion with our vet about his prognosis, we made the terrible decision to put Puck to sleep.  It was heart-wrenching, and let me tell you, pregnancy hormones did not help.

All of a sudden, we went from a two dog family to a no dog family.  Initially, I thought that I wouldn’t want to “replace” Puck, but after only two weeks without a dog (during which I was a giant mess of tears and hormones), we decided we were a dog family and that we should have a dog.  Both Chris and I had grown up with dogs.  With Chris working nights, I spent a lot of time home alone and a dog helped to fill the emptiness.

Since we knew there was no way we would be able to manage a new dog and baby at one time, we decided to get one right away.  I want to have time to do some training before Nora arrived.  After two weeks of looking and a lot of rejections for not having a fence or for being pregnant, we went to the SPCA event and fibbed about both.  And we brought home Pip.  (I know, we’re terrible.)He has turned out to be a great little family dog and Nora loves him to pieces.  In fact, tonight, for the first time, completely unprompted, she said, “I love you, Pip” to him.  It was really sweet.

It’s interesting, though, this dog,this adoption, and my relationship with him is completely different from our other two.  I finally understand why we never let parents with young children adopt dogs from our shelter…but that is another long post.  Come back tomorrow to read about our experience with the dog after the baby.

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3 responses

  1. Lovelorn Poets Avatar
    Lovelorn Poets

    I never knew you volunteered at a shelter. Would love to do that some day (although I’d probably end up with a house full of cats :-). Great photo of Pip and Nora – so cute,

    1. Yeah. I had a really good friend who got me into it. She grew up in Alaska training and racing sled dogs. She eventually worked at ARF House (the link above) and she and I would take the dogs to PetSmart and Pet Co stores around Sherman and Dallas for adoption events. I also helped with walking dogs and adoption events a little bit with the city shelter, and for a while fostered a litter of puppies too young to be at the shelter. It was really fun.

  2. Amber, I just loooove your blog! My two girls are now 15 and 19, but I relive their childhood and all the fun activities, our park visits, and walks with the jogging stroller I did with them by reading what you do with your little girl! You are such a good mother and very enterprising! Good luck with your many work interests and living in beautiful Nantucket. I wish I could eat at your husband’s restaurant, however I live in MD on the Chesapeake Bay! Try not to be so hard on yourself with the report card, however I understand why you have it. We all want to do better. You are doing great. I look forward to reading your future blogs.

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