As the light wanes, I plod back to the house after the evening chores. I watch Jake trotting ahead of me, his fluffy ‘pants’ swaying with each stride, his tail bobbing over his back like a plume. It has been a rough few weeks at work, the office politics reaching a fevered pitch – yet I find myself smiling reflexively. I begin to think of a saying I’ve heard, in various forms, since I first had Brita – you always end up with the dog you need.
As the stress and drama at work have built over the past year, now reaching a crescendo, there has been one constant that has helped me stay grounded – it is the happy pointed face that greets me each morning when I wake, and each evening when I walk through the door. In every way, Jake is the perfect dog for me in this moment. As I think about his two predecessors, both very different from Jake, I could be convinced that perhaps there is an element of fate in ending up with the ‘right’ dog at the right time.
Brita, the soulmate. At the time that I got Brita, I had just lost two puppies – one to a congenital defect that caught up with him in adolescence, and one to the Parvo virus. I’d never had dogs before, and it had taken a long time to convince me that I would enjoy sharing my home and life with a dog. With the first two ending tragically, and within days of each other, I was not prepared to attach to a dog – but my mother’s dog needed a companion.
Brita’s personality was a perfect match for mine – the dog version of an introvert. She loved learning, so I immersed myself in learning about dog training. She loved going new places, so she became a constant companion. She became the storied ‘one-person dog’ of my childhood books and movies. At the time I had Brita, few experts would acknowledge that dogs felt emotions (especially love) and the understanding of their intelligence was still limited. Brita showed me how smart a dog can be, and what love from a dog felt like. There could not have been a better dog to convince me of just how amazing life with a dog could be. Although her death left a hole in my heart that took many years to fill, it is down to Brita that I have still have dogs in my life.
Macie, the laidback. When Brita was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and given only a few months to live, I knew that I would not want another dog after she passed. Yet, my mother’s little Kelly would need a companion. So, I set out to find a young dog before Brita’s illness had progressed too far. The result was Macie, a very laid back Brittany. Macie was, in many ways, the exact opposite of Brita. Macie was never much interested in learning – she is solidly obedient, but really didn’t care much for the training process. Macie is definitely not “my” dog – she is everyone’s friend. I feel affectionate toward Macie, but cannot honestly say that I’ve ever “loved” her. (Don’t feel bad for her – she is a very happy dog.) Still, looking back, she has probably been just the right dog over these years. We had a challenging rescue dog that Macie calmly tolerated, even through unprovoked attacks. We have been trying to refocus on the horses, leaving little time for dog-specific activities. But Macie is happy just to hang out and get treats – none of the guilt I felt with Brita when I didn’t have time for tricks and training. Macie has been the perfect trouble-free dog most families wish for, at a time when I needed less complication. A good run out back, then she’s happy to snooze in her favorite chair.
Jake, the eternally joyful. As Macie aged, we decided to get my mother’s dog Kenzie a younger playmate. Enter Jake, the most joyful being I have known, outside of baby goats (nothing expresses joy like a baby goat!). There could not be a more perfect dog for this moment in my life! He is arguably the easiest puppy we have raised – a welcome thing while my work demands increased. He likes to stick close. He loves to learn, but is equally happy just to play – giving me options for the sometimes scarce time I have during the week. He loves to cuddle (neither Brita nor Macie ever did), which can make the stress of the day instantly melt away. But more than anything, Jake never fails to make me laugh! His joy is just that infectious! Whether I’m watching him bound through the tall grasses out back; or I’m interrupted by a ball rolling down my laptop keyboard, while Jake looks on expectantly; or I look down to see him on his back, paws in the air, giving me that ‘come play’ look – life with Jake is never short of opportunities to laugh that take me immediately away from stress or worry.
Perhaps there is something to fate providing the right dog at the right time. Or perhaps it is simply a form of gratitude that some of us end up feeling that way, by focusing on what the dog contributed to our lives, rather than any of the challenges inevitable in any relationship. Or maybe some of us are just gifted with crystal balls. Whether luck, fate, or my own brilliant dog selecting skills (cue chuckles), I am grateful to have had the ‘right’ dogs for the specific times in my life. And, as I face the rest of the week in a now fraught workplace, I have never been more grateful to have a furry bundle of joy to come home to!