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August 7, 2016

Becoming a Better Fur Mom

My love affair with dogs started at an early age. Growing up, our home had a dog most of the time. The first family dog was an intelligent female German shepherd named Queenie. She gave us eight puppies and trained them to do chores like bringing the day’s newspaper from the gate to the front door.

After Queenie’s death we shifted to small dogs. First, a Toy Terrier named Snoopy. Then on my 11th birthday, my dad surprised me with a pink-nosed poodle that I named Princess. This intensified my love for dogs as I now had my very own dog to care for. She was my best buddy for 13 years. I took her everywhere possible during family road trips and taught her to “play dead”, to dance on her two hind legs and to play hide-and-seek with me.

Princess remained healthy until my senior year in the university. Afterwards, she soon became blind, lost her teeth, and became lethargic and very weak due to old age. And though it hurt, I had to put her to sleep. She could barely stand up at that point so I had to carry her and lay her down on the table while the vet prepared the medicine. Right before she died Princess gathered whatever strength she had left and stood so she could lay her head on my chest one last time before she fell flat on her belly.

People who never had a “fur kid” (a term we use on our dogs at home) would never understand why fur moms like me mourn the death of our beloved dogs. To this day, watching films like “Marley & Me” still makes me cry because the pain of losing a devoted fur kid never goes away.

Several dogs came after but none of them lasted long enough—the Labrador kept jumping in the swimming pool and fishpond, leaving a trail of water on the slippery floor. A Bassett Hound named Bobby chewed on my mom’s Charles Jordan shoe collection, so both were rehomed.

I then moved out to start my own family so there was no room for fur kids. When my older daughter Belle turned 8, my dad gave her Kashmir, a female Shi Tzu. My kids loved her and she would often “rescue” my younger daughter Gabby from being tickled by Belle. Since both of my kids were too young to take care of Kashmir, I ended up being her fur mom.

A few years later, we adopted Sydney who was Kashmir’s younger sister. Sydney had a temper and was an “Alpha dog” for she dominated the regal and timid Kashmir. Sydney was also a cat killer, having killed 3 adult cats who were unlucky to have wandered in our garden.  Because of her temperament, people thought Sydney was a boy. A few years after receiving Sydney, my dad sent us two male puppies that he got as a present. At this point I stood my ground and gave the other puppy to a friend. The puppy we kept was named Lyon, and was our “little terror” for he loved annoying and bullying the two females who were by that time both senior dogs.

Kashmir was already 10 years old and I knew pretty soon she would be leaving us.  I had decided then to take a break from being a fur mom when she died, but I guess the Big Guy up there had other plans for me. Three years ago, about 6 months before Kashmir left us, we welcomed into our home a cute, fluffy, shy, and fearful male chow chow that my kids named “Chowee” (which was short for Chowbacca and a pun on the Star Wars character Chewbacca).

Our lives have changed so much since then. We had to go through training to learn more about this breed and its temperament and how to manage Chowee. This began my journey towards becoming a better fur mom. I’m no dog expert and what I will be sharing in this column is based on what I know about these wonderful beings, my experience with my previous fur kids, and of course, caring for my most challenging fur kid, Chowee.

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