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Our pet can be like another child

By Debbie Leffler • Jun 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM

I am not a dog person. I know a lot of you have dogs and love them dearly. My younger son’s girlfriend stops to pet and hug every dog she lays eyes on.

When I was growing up in New Jersey, we had cats. I love cats.

It’s not that I never had a dog. I did. Or, rather, we did. When I met my husband, he (and the law school students he shared a house with) had a large German shepherd which they got from the pound. His name was Hegel, after the German philosopher. Hegel was supposed to keep them safe in their house, which was in a somewhat dangerous part of Cleveland on the east side, not far from the Case Western campus.

When the students graduated and the house was no longer needed, a home for Hegel was found on a farm, but the farmer returned Hegel because he was chasing horses. So Hegel was taken in by my husband (and thus by me).

Hegel was OK. He was very protective of me and was very intelligent for a dog and maybe even compared to some people. He was part of our family.

When we had our first baby, we still had Hegel. Our parents were concerned about how Hegel would get along with the new baby, but he did just fine  — other than urinating on the baby’s diaper pail, just to show it was basically his territory and not hers.

But Hegel aged. We never knew how old he was, since he came as an adult dog from the pound. Hegel became ill and unable to move much due to hip dysplasia, a genetic defect common in German shepherds. This was very sad because a dog’s life isn’t much when he can’t move. After a trip to East Harbor State Park where Hegel couldn’t even defend himself against other dogs that came up to him (in his younger days a few barks and moves and they would have retreated in terror), we knew it was time to end Hegel’s misery. Our kind veterinarian in Norwalk agreed, and that was the end of Hegel, and we never had a dog again. Or a four-legged pet, for that matter.

I know some of you will feel that my children suffered by being pet-deprived. And maybe they did. But my husband is allergic to cats, so cats were out.

My kids weren’t completely deprived. We had a fish named “Swimmy” which became part of a prize-winning middle school science fair project before his demise. And we took the kindergarten hermit crab home and cared for him one summer and even filmed him crawling across our kitchen floor. For a while we had a few pet crickets that ate rice krispies and serenaded us in the house. So yes, my children did have pets.

But here I get back to my original point: I am not a dog person. And so, even though I used to find it slightly amusing when our Hegel would bark at passersby (“He would never hurt you,” I would assure them as he growled good-naturedly), I do not find it amusing when dogs that are not my dog bark at me.

I can anticipate where the dogs live on my usual walk. Sometimes I even think to myself that they are barking happily — after all, who knows what a dog is thinking? Maybe they are greeting me, but I don’t think so.

Would I ever get another dog? I know this column makes it sound like I would not, but who knows? Dogs are loyal. They love their families. They are good company. And, now that our children have left the house, sometimes it’s just way too quiet.

Debbie Leffler is a free-lance wrier who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at rleffler@neo.rr.com.

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