Tuesday Topics 17 - Dog of a Lifetime

I took this photo of Cabana in the gardens at the San Rafael campus when I picked her up this morning. It was so good to see her!

Today's Tuesday Topic is a subject that I keep skirting and coming back to, both in my blog and in my own mind. I might be beating it to death, but the sociology major in me can't seem to let it go without further exploration (although this is the ONLY thing I'm doing with my sociology degree).

Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, says, "You don't always get the dog you want, but you DO always get the dog you NEED." I've been thinking about that statement this past week, while my family has been away and Cabana has been at the GDB kennels.

In looking back over my alone week, if my blog is any indication (and it definitely is), I can see what a whack-job I am! I'm SO overly task-oriented and industrious. I like to feel that I accomplished a lot in a day. If I don't get much done, then I tend to feel a bit frustrated and stunted.

Sure, it's good to be ambitious and active, but there needs to be a balance. And that's where Cabana comes in. Like Cesar Millan said, I DID get the dog I need because I need Cabana to slow me down, to make me go for long hikes in pretty places, to stop working and play a game of tug-of-war, to sit outside in my nicely drip-irrigated garden. She forces me to be a better, more balanced person.

So this made me wonder if that's what makes a dog become a "lifetime dog". That extra special bond that I've heard other puppy raisers and dog owners talk about, when your dog brings out the best in you. Is that the ineffable quality that makes the canine/human relationship even stronger? If not, then what is it that makes you feel more strongly about one dog than another?

I don't know if Cabana is my "lifetime dog", since I haven't had other dogs to compare her to (and also since she doesn't really even belong to us). But I do so appreciate the fact that Guide Dogs for the Blind takes special care in trying to match the right person with the right dog--so that hopefully, Cabana will not just be a guide dog but will become someone's "lifetime dog."

Anna and Avani  – (June 23, 2009 at 1:29 PM)  

To me - now that I am on puppy #5, I've realized what it takes to have a dog of your lifetime. I personally think it is the dog that you don't even realize is a dog! The dog that just sits faithfully by your side and is happy to do what YOU like to do - just how some people rather sleep all day and how some are very active - whatever dog is happy to be doing what you like to be doing in other words! My first puppy was easy going and sweet, and although she obeyed me and we had a working relationship she just didn't seem to totally connect with me - didn't really match my personality! My last puppy however was amazing in my eyes! She was always happy to go and do something when I went somewhere, but was content to sleep if there was nothing for her to do. She was hardly noticeable at the times when that was necessary and she would be highly affectionate if she knew that's just what I needed. Her personality fit perfectly with mine - it's truly what they say - opposites attract!

Hobbes Dogs  – (June 23, 2009 at 2:22 PM)  

I'm not sure if I'd ever heard it before now, but I really like that Cesar Millan quote, and definitely agree with it.

If I thought about it, I could probably tell you why each and every one of my puppies was the perfect one for me at that period of my life, but to keep this only somewhat long, I'll just go with the highlights ...

My first dog guide puppy was, to put it nicely, a problem dog. He ended up being disqualified from the program for some pretty severe issues at only about six months old. Definitely not what I had been imagining for all those years I dreamed about raising a puppy ... but it certainly has made every puppy since seem very easy in comparison.

Next Baloo came into our lives. Baloo has his own issues (check out the frequent "What Baloo Ate Today" updates on my blog), but he was so completely opposite from my first puppy, and my family fell head over heels in love with him. I 100% believe that had we not had as sweet a dog as Baloo for our second pup, my parents would never have allowed me to keep on fostering, and I would be in a very different place than I am today. Baloo also turned out to be the dog my family needed for a second time ... he was disqualified for a bad elbow just weeks after my grandfather died. He came home to join our family permanently, and for all the trouble he still causes, I don't think we would have it any other way.

Finally, my fourth foster puppy was the pup that was with me at the time I moved away from home and started university. He was perfect for me at the time - very outgoing (helped me make new friends), and was happy to come home and curl up on his bed while I slogged through homework. I don't think he was at all the type of dog I would like for a forever dog, but at that time, I couldn't have asked for a more suitable pup.

As for "lifetime dogs," I would have to say that my girl Dallas definitely is just that for me. I won't go into the whole story, but I raised her as a pup (and knew that we had a special connection even then), she went to live with another family for a few years, and then I was offered her back - probably at the point in my life when a needed a dog of my own more than ever. It's amazing how those things work out. Dallas and I are very similar in some ways, and very different in others. Sometimes she drives me crazy, but I couldn't imagine life without her now. I really can't say exactly what it is that makes her so special ... but maybe that's part of the magic.

Ally and Eola  – (June 23, 2009 at 4:17 PM)  

Anna put it nicely! I speak often of Eclipse being "my baby" and you'll hear him refered to as my "heart dog" (although at this point I think Teddy still holds that title!) Like Anna said, Eclipse fit me perfectly, content to chill out all day if I was having a bad day and just lay by my side or go go go on my good days. I also tend to like the "goofy" dogs, and Eclipse certainly fits that description! He looks somewhat clown-like with his white face, small wide placed eyes and goofy ears. He was very intune to me, knowing what I needed and if he could be a total doofus on a certain day or should chill.

That being said, his sister isn't quite as versatile as him was with me. She's much higher energy, likes to investigate things (while Eclipse did/does too he knew when he should and shouldn't) and bring me things and has a hard time "chilling" when I need her to. She's a very quick learner (shown by how quickly she learned to tug off socks in one day /grin/) and we have a solid bond but we haven't connected like Eclipse and I did... Nothing against Eola at all, I guess she's just not exactly what I need right now, but I'm certainly what she needs! Great topic!

Addie, Ggoody, and Llarson  – (June 23, 2009 at 4:24 PM)  

For me, raising my first dog Ggoody was a bit of a struggle at first in the bonding department. I knew she wasn't mine and I was raising her for a purpose so I had the hope (as sad and heartbreaking as it can be) that she would make the explosive detection dog team and leave me to protect our country. My "lifetime" dog however is Bailey, a cattle dog/border collie mix we rescued from a shelter at 12 weeks of age. She has since passed, but she is my "lifetime" dog because we grew up together. I was in 4th grade when we got her so I helped train her, walked, groomed, and fed her. She was there as I transitioned from elementary school to middle school and the same to high school. I think eventually you realize which dog is your "lifetime" dog when every memory of a dog you have, that "lifetime" dog is the one that pops to mind.

Coreena and Eva  – (June 23, 2009 at 6:02 PM)  

I think a lot of it is the dog being intune with you. I have two pet dogs now and I can say that neither is my "lifetime" dog. I love Eva and Rizzo, but they aren't "that" dog for me. My second puppy I raised, Loden, was my "heart" dog. He and I just clicked and I think that his health issues caused us to bond more, as well as the fact that he was at our wedding! However, Eva is the perfect dog for me right now, she let me know that I didn't cause my dogs to get sick and that I did nothing wrong. She also is showing me that no matter if a dog is sick or not, they still have an incredible amount of love and joy to share! She's showed me why I raise even more and that's special!

Becky  – (June 23, 2009 at 6:14 PM)  

Well, I'm a psychology/counseling major so yes thinking on your same wave length. I agree and as I blogged about a while ago - Pantera my first guide was just what I needed at that time in my life ... Cricket is just what I need at this time in my life. Incredible concept but so true and love what I have learned from them each day. Cricket, like Cabana, helps me smell the flowers and enjoy.

Dan  – (June 23, 2009 at 7:13 PM)  

I have loved and been loved by all the dog's in my life, that goes back a long way. When I lost my wife of 50 years in '02 our two Yorkies, Jack and Wee Willie were my life support. Losing Jack in '03 left just Wee and me. We became as one, knew each other like a book I am holding Wee W in my picture, it was his last week, 8/08, Lymphoma took him at 13 years and 3 months. How I miss him.

Lisa and Ellie  – (June 23, 2009 at 7:47 PM)  

WOW - not sure if I've met that lifetime dog. I thought Runza was till I met Ellie. Now Ellie seems to fill that hole. But, of course, she could just be the dog I need at the time. I know Runza was the dog I needed at that time. Maybe someday you'll find your lifetime dog. I certainly hope I do.

OSU 98  – (June 23, 2009 at 7:53 PM)  

Its a tough question. No worries, you are no less of a whack job than the rest of us.

I truly believe God gave me Chelsie because he knew I needed her - thus validating Cesar's comment about getting the dog you need. I got her 2 weeks before my grandmother passed away 7 years ago. Her passing was sudden and unexpected, and was equivalent to the loss of a parent, as she had lived with us since I was four. This event marked the beginning of the unraveling of the relationship with the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. Chelsie has been there for me unconditionally - through moving, relationships and my layoff. She has been one of a few things I can always count on. I had no idea of the impact she would have on my life when I brought home that little black 15 lb squirming furball.

I don't know about a "lifetime" dog, but I know she is very special and I love coming home to her every day. She reminds me of how important the simple pleasures in life are, and that you should never be too busy for a scratch of the ears and belly.

BTW - Cabana looks very grown up in the picture!!!

Emily, Burgess, and Tahoe  – (June 23, 2009 at 9:49 PM)  

I haven't participated in a few weeks and thought I'd jump back in--and I chose a hard week to do that ;)

I'm on pups 3 and 4 now, and I can't say I've had 'the one'. I've had very different relationships with all of them, due to their different personalities, but I haven't had one stick out more then the others.

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