© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2002
When I hear the words come out, I hardly recognize myself. "Miles jumped up on the couch by himself." "We put Miles on the scale yesterday -- 13 pounds!"
Miles. Our four-month-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi. The newfound center of our lives.
Ever since I lost Ginger, a loyal, overweight Collie/Shepherd mix, to the grill of a speeding Toyota, there have been no dogs in my life. I was 12; my parents would never adopt another. The loss was too painful, they said. They'd grown too attached.
After that, and an episode where I secretly adopted a kitten and kept him hidden in my bedroom closet on a diet of bologna and cheese, they permitted me to feed the stray cats around our house. We even took one in permanently. Since then, I've been a devoted cat person. My husband, Brent, and I have two -- Thelonious, a sleek, loving Siamese, and Pooka, a fiercely independent and slightly eccentric mutt.
My cats are my kids; I adore them. I talk to them as if they understand me (and are interested). But, I must admit, they're not very good company. They sleep from the afternoon well into the night, while Brent is at work. I may as well be home alone.
We'd never seriously considered adding a dog to the mix. The cats wouldn't appreciate it, first of all. Besides, dogs are too clumsy, too slobbery, too needy and too noisy. We already do a lot of groaning about the barking dogs in our neighborhood, which usually start at 8 a.m. and stop sometime around midnight.
But when our friends brought home a Maltese/Shi Tzu mix -- Winston -- who wriggled his way into our hearts and turned us green with envy, the consideration began. The hole left by Hank, our sweet yellow tabby who died last year -- would be filled by a dog. Two months and lots of research later, we adopted Miles.
He listens when I talk to him (and, perhaps a bit too often, talks back). He comes when I call him (though I should say here that Thelonious does this also). When I come home from work, he's ecstatic to see me and covers my face with soft doggie kisses. The joy he has brought to our lives is immeasurable.
I've met almost everyone on my block since Miles and I started roaming the sidewalks; he has quite a fan club. We've even arranged play-dates -- mostly with Winston -- to socialize him. Watching them chase each other about fills us with laughter and pride.
There are minor frustrations, yes -- he's still a puppy. Every night around 11, he goes on a tear through the house that usually culminates in vicious tugging at my pant legs or ceaseless barking. His "walks" are a series of stops and starts, with Miles sniffing at everything that moves or doesn't move along the way. And he eats everything, from stray bits of rice on the kitchen floor to electrical cords and clothes (we've thrown away one lamp, two slippers and several pairs of underpants). But it's worth it, and he gets better every day.
The cats still get top billing. They get fed first. They still sleep with us (the dog is relegated to his own bed on the floor), and they deserve it. They let Miles chase them through the house and spare him their claws (which, despite endless trimming and scolding, have been fashioned into razor-sharp points on the surface of our couch); they're impeccably patient.
They say pets enrich our lives; I can hardly imagine a life without them. When I look across our living room and see Pooka and Thelonious asleep on the couch and Miles quietly gnawing away at his bone, I think I've found heaven in my own home.
One day, of course, Miles too will pass away. And whether it's next week or 15 years from now, I know I will be inconsolable. But denying ourselves the love of this dog -- and him the love we have to give -- somehow seems worse.
Oh, my. I'm turning into a dog person.
-- Samantha Puckett is the editorial assistant in the Times editorial department.