Dogs as family

I have always enjoyed sharing life with a dog. Having that other being in the house when I am alone, sharing a walk on a sunny day, petting my golden retriever who would sit with me as long as I gave him attention- forgoing food, sleep and play just to be with me. Ahh, dogs:)

But do not call me mom. I am not the mom, the dog is not ever, no matter how cute, my baby. Just a thing that I have about this. Blame my own mother- she never wanted to be a dog’s mom either.


Rooni came into my life in February, 2004, in the middle of a snowstorm. She is a Westie, her proper name is Lady McInnes, but she will always be my little macaroon. She is gentle, loving, smart, demanding, stubborn…spoiled. Small enough to share the bed, to pick up when she gets too stubborn, and take just about anywhere. I love it when I pick her up and her front paws wrap around my wrist and hold on tight. We’ve been holding on tight to each other for the past 15 years.

When I got my first sailboat, she was my first, first mate. She would sit at the bow of the boat – our live figurehead- as we moved across the harbor and down the river to the lake. But once we entered open water, she took her place back in the cockpit.

She has always been satisfied, just as long as she was with us. Floating on a raft, riding along in the car, amusing a grand child- she is just a good old dog!

Adding to the family

So, I’ve got this idea to do some therapy dog work as part of my next chapter in life. And after some research, I’ve found a type of dog who might be a good family member as well as a partner in this effort- an Australian Labradoodle.

A litter of puppies has just been born on April 28th, and offers a possibility for us to add to our happy group. Mike worries for Rooni, does not want her left behind in all of the activity, and I try to honor all of the needs of our current family unit while remaining intrigued with this new adventure.


And then there were two dogs in our household! One of the black puppies in the picture above is a female pup who eventually wended her way into our hearts and became our newest family member.

On June 22nd, 2019 we picked her up and brought her home from her first home in St. Clair. She handled the drive just fine, sleeping in my lap for most of the 3 hours. Highlights from our first 36 hours include:

  • Waking us up the first night every 2.5 hours for bathroom breaks…but the next night sleeping all night until 6:30a. Ahhhh!
  • Learning to retrieve a small tennis ball.

It has always been my wish to have a dog that would retrieve and Bella is a natural.

We are having the usual issues with two dogs in a household. Mooching on each others food is a big one. Interesting that the other dog’s food is always way more tasty! Bella would like so much for Rooni to be a youngster and bounce around with her, but our old girl leads a very simple life now, so we try to distract Bella when she is most active.

Bella at 9 weeks, July, 2019

One of the girls

The grand girls had fun welcoming Bella to the group. We were worried that Lyddie, who had been afraid of Rooni in past visits, would be bothered by Bella’s need to bounce and bite, but she seemed to understand puppyhood and even Rooni was no longer an issue. Amelia handled walking responsibilities with her own growing maturity- understanding puppy goofiness, but making sure that Bella stayed safe.

Ahhh Puppies

Bella at 20 weeks. September, 2019

No picture quite does her justice. She is alternately sweet, a little smarty, and an annoying pest. She is in motion or draped over our feet. She is the star of her puppy class or a wild eyed monster. But she is our monster and if we can just remember that she is a puppy and needs time to learn the world, we will all be more than fine!

Lessons from puppies that remind me of lessons from childrearing: Puppies start this world without knowledge, manners, expectations. They need to be taught how to behave and handle what comes to them. Diverting attention to another task or activity works. Yelling doesn’t. Most of the time, they want to meet our expectations, they just need to have some practice. One can never underestimate the power and benefit of outdoor physical activity. Praise (and treats) work.

At 20 weeks, Bella is house trained, crate trained, retrieves balls, sits, lies down and stays (sometimes) on command. She comes when she is called (usually with enthusiasm) and walks next to me (almost always). She is driven to please when I have a treat in my hand. I just worry that she will be too chubby if I push that too far!

Two Dogs are Better than One?

From day one, Rooni was never sure about the new kid in the house. Complete opposites in almost every way, made more pronounced by the Rooni’s advanced age. Where Rooni delicately balances to keep all four feet underneath her, Bella bounces through life. Bella is content in her crate each night, and Rooni is only content on the bed between us. Bella has not met a toy she doesn’t like or a ball that she will not chase. Rooni used to chase squirrels, now would rather sleep all day. Bella will not ever understand why she is not as charming to Rooni as she is to everyone else she meets.

We love them both for their beautiful selves- but buddies they will never be.

And then there was one….

On April 21st, we said goodbye to our sweet Rooni. She was a great companion for over 16 years- she never met a human that she didn’t like, she always stood up to any dog (or cat), and she always chased squirrels.

Just a week later, Bella had her first birthday.

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