It’s a dog’s life


A lot of boomers are dog owners. In fact, because of our numbers, we are likely the largest generation of dog owners, ever. Often, many of us end up with more dogs than sense. At least, that's my story.

My wife and I have owned a dog almost all of our married life, which now numbers 39 years. We purchased our first dog just after we were married. Of course we couldn't have a dog where we lived, so we had to keep it at the kennel. It was an Alaskan malamute. He happened to be just about as smart as his owners.

We bought our first home in 1973 and purchased our second dog, Demetrius. I thought that was a good name for our first child, should it be a boy. My wife thought it was a good dog’s name. Demetrius was a great dog. He was an excellent retriever. I entered him in a puppy field trial when he was eight months old. The judge told me the dog performed really well, but he was less impressed with the handler, who of course happened to be me.

In 1975, my wife and I, along with our new daughter and two dogs, moved to Wisconsin. Nokoma, the malamute, ran away shortly after our arrival. That left us with Demetrius, who we had until we moved in 1979. He was a good protector, letting us know when someone was coming down the lane. We were scheduled to give him to a neighbor, but he also ran away from home. I think he knew something was up.

We moved to Galesburg in November, 1979. We were dog-less, but not for long. We bought an American water spaniel in 1981. We named him Gabriel. Gabriel was a little hyper. He wouldn't stay in the back yard, even though it was fenced. After retrieving him from the dog pound on several occasions, we had to give him to a farmer. We briefly owed a yellow lab after Gabriel, but that also did not work out. He also went to that same farmer. It seems all dogs that do not take to city life end up on farms. Unfortunately, sometimes they're dumped on their front door. Some people are just not suitable for dog ownership. We were beginning to think we might fit in that category.

In 1990, that all changed. We bought Zeke, a yellow lab. He was bred to be a show dog. He was huge. His head looked as big as a bear’s. He forgot he was a retriever. He hated the water. But he was a good dog. He was easy going, gentle, and a bit slow, due to his size. In 1995, we thought Zeke needed some company. He seemed bored and developed a lick cellulitis. So we bought Sadie, a black lab. She was a little temperamental, preferring to be an only dog, but she settled in and made a good second dog. It was Zeke and Sadie until our son, who was living in southern Illinois, had to give up his dog due to moving, and we inherited Sebastian, part chow and part yellow lab, or golden retriever. That was 1998. We were now a three dog family. All large ones. It was a bit much, but boomers are prone to excesses, and we were no exception.

Zeke had to be put down in 2000, due to hip problems. I was in the hospital at the time, and took it pretty hard. He was our first dog that I really took to, probably because of our similarities: he liked to lay around and do nothing. Anyway, we were now a two dog family, but not for long.

In 2002, our daughter had to give up her dog due to a move. And guess who got it? Zoey, part chocolate lab, part unknown, fit in okay. One of the problems with three big dogs is you do a lot of poop scooping. One of my fantasies was to turn all that crap into gold, in alchemist fashion, but I was never successful, although I did upset the trash men on numerous occasions.

Our daughter took Zoey back in 2004, and Sadie had to be put down in 2007, due to failing health. Anyway, that left us a one dog family. Sebastian was probably the best dog we ever had. He was gentle, personable, always smiling, a good swimmer and retriever, and an all round great companion. He was smart, good looking, and he knew it. He was with us from 1998 until June 30, 2009, when he was killed on Seminary Street by a driver who didn't even have the common courtesy to stop. For granted, he shouldn't have been in the street. He never left the back yard, even when the gate was left open. At least not until that day. Maybe he saw a rabbit, or squirrel, or another dog. Whatever, something made him run out. We didn't miss him until someone came to the front door and said a yellow dog had been hit by a car. Sure enough, it was Sebastian. The animal control officer, who was very good and very nice, offered to take him to the vet. His back was broken. My wife and I were devastated. He had to be put down. I had never felt so much pain over a dog. But this dog was the king of dogs. He could have run for mayor and won. Even people who dislike dogs liked Sebastian. He was that kind of dog. We said our goodbyes and I wished him a good journey. I'm not overly sure about heaven for humans, much less for dogs. But if it is so, he'll be there waiting. I can only hope I make it.

We are now in our second day of being a no dog household, for the first time since 1979. I sure miss that dog, but we are going to remain dog-less, at least for the foreseeable future. As a young boomer, I would have laughed at anyone carrying on about the loss of a pet. But now, at age 61, I've learned a new lesson: A friend doesn't have to be human.