Ladies I Have Loved

I come from a long line of dog lovers.

My grandparents raised Boston terriers and I’ve heard many stories of my dad’s childhood pooch, Dipsy Doodle of Cheyenne … Dippy for short.

I’ve shared my life with dogs beginning with Belle, a German shepherd so protective of my mom that they had to rehome her when I was a toddler. Belle, not my mom.

Then came Misty, a white German shepherd we had to teach to climb stairs by bribing her with pork chops.

Then Ginger, a golden retriever my oldest brother brought home on Christmas Eve because a girl was standing on a street corner in the snow with puppies in a box and Ginger was the only one left. He felt sorry for both of them. Funny thing was, my little sister, maybe 6 at the time, had written to Santa—unbeknownst to all of us—that she wanted a puppy.

When we bought our first house, a woman I worked with was giving away puppies so we chose two rambunctious sisters. That’s how Smokey and Bandit came to join us. Smokey looked like a black lab, Bandit like a blue heeler. They were bookends, exactly alike in many ways, but polar opposites in others. One loved the leash, one didn’t. One barked at noises, one only barked on command. Both dumb enough to corner a skunk one night. Those are the dogs my kids grew up with.

And then came Nala. She was my Navy son’s dog in Guam and he couldn’t keep her when he got sent to Bahrain, so she came to us and enriched our lives more than we could have imagined, even though we knew all those other perfect pups.

Nala has found her way into every animal in my books, whether dogs, cats, or even Fang the goldfish. She was the quirkiest girl on the planet and I’ll be mining her personality for the rest of my writing days!

I used to post conversations with her. “Hey, Nala …” My readers are always asking for more, which breaks my heart and tickles me to death that she had so many fans. A friend of mine once told me, “I know two dogs: Lassie and Nala.”

After my dad died, I was cleaning out his files of speeches and short stories and was shocked and mortified to see one titled “Ladies I Have Loved.” Surprise! It was a speech he gave about his dogs. I guess I come by this honestly.

1 thought on “Ladies I Have Loved”

  1. Loved the dog-by-dog rundown. I can map out my life that way too. Sounds like all of the dogs who have found their way to you are lucky — your loving descriptions of them says it all!

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