For the Love of Dogs

By Laura Lucy Day

This Valentine’s Day while everyone is gushing over chocolates and roses, I will be cuddled up with the newest love of my life. Now don’t go getting excited and tattling on me to my husband. He already knows and is equally smitten with the same girl. Her name is Pippa and she is a lemon hound/pit bull puppy we rescued back in September.

I love this girl so much, but it took me a long time to prepare my heart for another dog. You see, I have always been a dog girl and grew up in a dog family. My first dog, Rascal, was adopted from some kids in my parents’ neighborhood. My parents were praying for human children and struggled for a few years, but Rascal filled the gap beautifully until my brother was born and then me. Rascal wasn’t the family dog. He was my big brother. 

After Rascal, we adopted Prissy. Now Prissy was not as easy to love. She was like an ornery old lady even when she was young. As a Corgi mix, she felt it was her duty to herd everyone every single time they tried to walk anywhere. Carrying a big pile of laundry or getting a hot pan out of the oven? Prissy was right there to bump your leg and tell you exactly where she thought you ought to go. I think she held on her last couple of years just because she thought we’d be lost without her. She didn’t always make it easy on us in her 15 years, but Prissy was family and we loved her.

Then came the love my life. I was fresh out of college and working my first real job. I wandered into a pet store one day to look at puppies because puppies are cute and make me happy. I would never dream of buying a “manufactured” dog from a pet store but just wanted to look. That’s when I spotted her – a sweet little eight-pound fluff ball with a pink and brown speckled belly. The salesperson asked if I wanted to hold her. Uh, yeah! I walked all around the store with that sweetheart and instantly fell in love. I went back to the clerk and asked how much. She told me someone had been too lazy to drive to the pound and had just dropped the puppy there. They couldn’t sell her, but I could take her for free. I still faced one more hurdle. I was struggling to pay bills, and my apartment was directly across from the management office. There was no hiding a new puppy and getting out of the pet deposit. I went out to the car and pored over my checkbook before figuring out that I could take the puppy and just barely squeak by that month. It was the best decision I ever made.

Piper was the product of forbidden love - the love child of a farmer's prize hunting beagle and the neighbor's rogue escapee pit bull. She turned many heads, and I often had to answer the question, "What kind of dog IS that?!" Piper didn't know if she should howl like a beagle or bark like a pit bull, so she kind of did both, but not often. She wasn't the fastest or smartest dog, but she was sweet and cuddly and soulful. She lived with me for more than 14 years in six homes and snuggled with me through many tears and celebrated many triumphs with me. 

When I met my husband Patrick, Piper loved him instantly. She even tolerated the crazy cat he brought into the relationship. The cat was less tolerant of Piper…and me. He terrorized both of us incessantly. After five years together, he was finally starting to calm down and realize that having a mom is a good thing. And then he ran away on my birthday. Hence, me=dog person for life.

Piper’s health declined in her last couple of years, which coincided with the birth of my daughter, Vivi. She was too old to play by the time Vivi came along, but she accepted her and let her pet her and feed her and point at her. That's as much as you can ask from someone who was an only child for 13 years. My heart was completely broken when I said goodbye to her. I think I still hold the record at the vet’s office for crying the loudest and the longest. I knew I wanted another dog someday, one for Vivi to grow up with, but it hurt so much to let Piper go that I knew it would be a while.

More than three years after Piper passed, I started following several rescue organizations on Facebook. I would oooh and aaah over all the cute faces, but I just couldn’t make a move. And then came Pippa. Sunshine State Animal Rescue posted pictures of a tiny little puppy that was struggling to stay alive. She had Parvo and was vomiting worms. The vet guessed she had less than 12 hours to live when her former owner brought her in. They planned to euthanize her, but the rescue stepped in when the woman dropping her off said she could not afford the $15 to have it done. Thank God they did!

In her first month as part of our family, Pippa put on 12 pounds, more than doubling in size. She is now a happy, healthy, rapidly growing puppy.  She escorts her five-year-old big sister to the bus stop every morning and crawls in bed with the whole family each night for story time. She gets to play with her cousin, a 100-pound service dog named Otto who very sweetly tolerates her puppy-ness. She mostly looks like a pit bull but gets her coloring from the lemon hound side. People even comment that she and my strawberry blonde daughter “look related” because of their hair color. She just fits.

As happy as I am to have Pippa and as much as she loves her sister, this dog is 100% a daddy’s girl. It makes me happy to see Patrick so happy with Pippa. He still talks about his beloved Sandy, a dog his family had for only one month when he was a boy before his mom’s allergies forced her out. Bless his heart. He loved Piper, but Pippa is like his own child.

Pippa has brought us all so much joy. Sure, there have been a few puddles, missing toys and stolen socks, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything. So, this Valentine’s Day, Pippa the rescue puppy who is so loving her nose looks like a heart, will be our sweetheart. If you are feeling lonely, go get yourself a rescue dog. No man will ever listen to you more intently, judge you less or snuggle with you more than a dog. Happy Valentine’s Day!