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Your First Dog

This month’s guest column is by Sue Johnson, Birchrun. Though her thoughts apply to all dog lovers, her piece reminds me of all the times people tell me that their first dog was an English Setter, and that it was the best dog they ever had.

Later this week, the last puppy in my litter is set to join his new family, which includes a five-year old girl. I got my first dog when I was five years old. He was always there…and then many years later while at college, I got the call that he was gone. There is something about your first dog; no matter how much time passes, the memories of that first dog are as if they happened yesterday.

So I wonder about this growing boy. Will he adore his new little girl? Will he push her down in the snow? Will he be excited when the school bus stops in the afternoon and she runs in the house? Will she find one of his baby teeth on the floor and take it to school for show and tell? Will he share her snacks? Will she paint his toenails? Will he eat all the cookies at her tea parties? Will she cry when he has to get a shot? Will she tell him about her first crush? Will he take up too much of the bed?

Will she look with incomprehension at her friends that back up from a large dog? Will she make sure he has a present under the tree Christmas morning? Will she make him a card on his birthday? Will he pull her down the sidewalk on roller skates? Will he eat the bug that scares her in her room? Will he have his own sleeping bag for her birthday party sleep-overs? Will he steal her first bra off the floor and parade it through the house for all to see?

Will he watch her first attempts at putting on makeup? Will she put makeup on him? Will he get to take a ride in her first car? Will he sigh wistfully on her bed while she gets ready for the prom? Will he get to be in the prom pictures?

When she gets ready for college, will she avoid looking at his eyes, feeling just a little guilty about leaving him? Will she carefully pack a lock of his hair and her favorite puppy picture? Will she make sure her mom knows that he needs a piece of cheese before bedtime? Or that he likes to sleep with his head on the pillow? When she calls home, will she ask about him first? And who will make that call to her in the end?

This little boy has a very important job ahead of him making all these memories for a little girl who, right now, is just excited about getting a puppy. Little does she know that many, many years later she will be able to call up every detail about him, millions of moments as if they happened just yesterday and still be able to feel him in her fingertips. She’ll remember the joy at seeing him the first time and the pain of the last. There is something completely unforgettable about your first dog.

Thanks, Sue.