Monday, December 13, 2010


When I was in college but still living at home*, my mom decided to get a puppy. We already had an aging, quiet family dog, and, quite frankly, I thought she was nuts. At the time I worked in a pet store that sold mostly birds, but my boss had a German Shepherd Dog puppy that ran amuck in the store, biting my ankles and leaving messes for me to clean up. I was not impressed with puppies. Plus, we already had a dog. Why would you ever need more than one dog?
But she brought the pup home anyway, and our lives were changed for the better, even though Brandy turned out to be a challenge. After a year, the whole family happily adopted another dog, this one our first purebred (a Shih Tzu). I took Becca to a few matches and shows, and my fate was sealed. About 18 years later, I’ve owned six dogs, not including that Shih Tzu. Many of those dogs titled in various sports, and I have spent countless hours training and caring for them. I can’t imagine not sharing my life with a dog (or three). I can trace my current career as a freelance writer specializing in dog sports back to this humble beginning.

Of course, owning dogs means losing dogs, since their lives are so much shorter than ours. But one advantage to having multiple dogs is that, sooner or later, you start seeing traits in your new dogs that remind you of past ones.

Sometimes it’s small. For example, my young Papillon can throw himself into a down quickly like my crazy mixed breed, Gabby, used to. He also shares her passion for barking and running to the front door when the doorbell rings on television. 

But sometimes it’s big. Our newly rescued Beagle shares many traits with my dear Vizsla, including his passion for seeking out the source of smells and his belief that he should voice every feeling he’s having (and he has many). Every time Mr. Beagle starts drinking at the water bowl and finishes halfway across the kitchen (leaving puddles along the way), I remember my Vizsla's pendulous lips and many wet kitchen floors in years past. It makes me smile rather than swear.

Our former dogs can never be replaced. Even the ones that made us weary in their last years with senility, bad habits, and medical woes, are remembered fondly. We find ourselves dwelling on their good years and glossing over the bad ones. When we add a new dog we often surprise ourselves by discovering that we can love and cherish him as much as we did our older dogs. Our capacity for love seems to be limitless, as long as we allow it.

So if you are like me and you’re on your second (or third, or sixth) dog, look closely for signs of your previous dogs. I think you’ll find them, and that’ll make you love you current dog even more.

The famous Mr. Beagle, otherwise known as Wrigley (as in Field, not gum).

Spark, the speedy Papillon.

Payton, the wonder Whippet.

These photos were taken by The Girl, who, at four years old, is a better photographer than I am.

*I know it sounds like I was a nerd, but I saved a ton of scholarship money which I later used to buy a house.**


  1. i share your sentiments and love for animals. a very thoughtful post!

  2. Thanks! Glad you liked it. Although if you read my spider entry you might think less of my love for animals. LOL!

  3. I think there might be an article in there -- it is SO true. I knew that Toby changed the course of my life when he was alive, but I had no idea how much, and in how many (often subtle, often funny) ways his presence would remain.

  4. Definitely agree with you, Brenna! Although each of my dogs looks very different from those who have gone before, there are those moments that make you remember a previous dog. I think of the dogs I have lost frequently, and always with love and happy remembrance.

  5. Sally, my Vizsla, Jordan, was definitely a life-changer for me, although he was by far my most annoying dog :) He was my competitive first in most sports, and, since most of my life with him was pre-children, we really bonded. So I like that this Beagle reminds me of the good times with my big red dog.

    And Melanie, thanks for commenting. I'm glad it's not just me that has these experiences!

  6. Brenna,
    Do you have any problems having a papillon and a whippet? We've had paps for years. We've long kind of fancied having a whippet some day, but worried how it would work out with papillons and a cat. Good post, btw.

  7. Except for one dog, whom I adopted because he looked just like my late lamented dog, I had never intended any of my dogs to resemble each other. But sometimes the wrong dog names come out! Maybe it's because Tika and Boost are both driven, happy, blue merle agility dogs (though obviously not the same breed). Or because Tika and Sheba were both gray and white, thick-coated, independent dogs (although obviously not the same breed) who liked to take off down the street if you left the gate open. Yep, I see the resemblances at least subconsciously sometimes.

  8. Hi Teri,

    When we first brought home the Pap, we were cautious around the Whippet. There were a few times when Payton chased Spark around the yard a bit and made me nervous, but I just decided that we weren't going to do that and I interrupted those races. She stopped chasing him after a few days. Other than that, we've had zero problems. My whippet is show-bred and basically lazy with a slight sharp streak. YMMV :)

    Oh, we also had a cat when Payton was younger. There were no problems. The whippet only chases what runs. As long as the cat didn't run, the whippet didn't care at all. And my cat was pretty lazy too.

    Now, my whippet did just recently jump into the rabbit's exercise pen and pull out a bunch of his long hair. She likes to destuff toys so I think the rabbit was a like a giant toy. He turned out OK :)

    An Italian Greyhound would go well with a Papillon and is similar in looks/attitude to a Whippet. Have you considered that?

  9. ELF -- I sometimes call my kids the wrong name and they don't really look alike either. LOL!

  10. Nice blog entry. I am a new TBBR owner of a male beagle, who has been in my life now for almost 24 hours. I also blogged about him, at - he is my first male beagle, but number six in a long line of beagle dogs.

  11. Thank you! I'll check out your blog. This is my first Beagle but I've had several male dogs before. Thanks for reading!

  12. Brenna,
    Don't really care for the IG look, even tho I like Whippets and Greyhounds (it will be hubby's dog, he'd never choose an IG). I think we need another furball sheltie, eventually. On the subject of wrong names, I can't tell you how many times I have called my son by my brother's name. Both were little boys with glasses (even if one is now a wonderful grown up man).

  13. IGs are a lot more frail-looking, that's for sure. How about a Beagle to go along with that Papillon? :)

  14. Love this post! I'm not at all surprised that the doorbell on tv sends Spark running to the door, all atwitter. My cats go nuts when there is bagpipe music on tv, which has been frequent as of late (a CMPD officer died this week and his funeral was televised.)

  15. Thanks, Melissa! Do you think your cats don't like the bagpipe or like it too much?