Today's guest post is by Karen Hartman
How do you choose just one animal as your favorite? Maybe it’s easy for others. But if you asked parents to choose a favorite child, I think many would balk, saying “Oh, we love Johnnie and Susie equally, just in different ways; we could never pick a favorite.” I feel the same way about animals (maybe because they are the closest things to children in my life). So instead, I’ll tell you about the first dog I had as an adult.
My husband, Tim, and I had recently married. He’d just received his military commission and moved to South Carolina, while I stayed in southwest Ohio for a couple of quarters to finish my graduate degree. That’s when Princess came into my life.
She was about a year old when I adopted her – a happy little Sheltie who was eager to please. I was a couple of hours from family and didn’t have many friends in the area. Her companionship was a real blessing – it helped make the final months in Ohio fly by.
Princess and I joined Tim in SC, and she quickly acclimated to the new home and to having a man in the house. She was initially scared of Tim (she was always wary of men, especially tall, dark-haired men), but they soon became friends. Tim would come home from work and play with her, which she loved. She tore around the house, twirling in tight little Sheltie circles and jumping up on him, smiling and panting. This became a nightly ritual; I don’t know who had more fun, Tim or Princess!
She learned many tricks: sit, shake, lie down. Tim was in a basic training unit–working with drill sergeants and new recruits–so he was beyond proud when she learned to low-crawl, scooting along the carpet on her belly, like a soldier out in the field. You can imagine how many treats she earned for that trick.
Princess went everywhere with us – boating with our family, hiking in the caves, even walking along the beach when we were stationed in Hawaii. She was a true “Velcro dog” – always within a foot or two of Tim or me, no matter what we were doing. If I was in the kitchen cooking, she’d be right there, sniffing around, trying to find crumbs I had dropped on the floor. When Tim was working at his desk, she would lie on the carpet right by his feet, just enjoying resting beside him. We used to joke that if she were an Indian, her name would have been “Underfoot” – she was constantly that close!
She was there in the bad times, as well. I can remember her sitting beside me on the couch while I was upset about something that had happened that day. She would look into my eyes and listen to me as I talked; it was like she could understand every word. Tim would often share his frustrations with her, too. She was the best therapist we could ever have.
When we were stationed near Chicago, Princess was diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma. We found a great oncologist who was trying a new chemo protocol. He said it would give her at least another eight months, with good quality of life. We gave it a shot. She ended up living more than four years, albeit at a slower pace, ever playful and happy. They called her a miracle dog. And she was, in more ways than one.
|Princess with "Mom" (Karen)|