I’ve never not wanted a dog
One of my favourite stories from my childhood is the several years-long journey of convincing my mom to get us a dog.
You see I never really had a chance when it came to dogs, because from a really young age I was surrounded by the bestest and cutest examples. My first love was a black lab I met at the home where I went to daycare. He tolerated all our annoying kid antics with patience and humour, so I quickly learned that dogs were warm, licky, teddy bears that love you back. To seal the deal, one winter when I was visiting my grandmother we went together to pick up her new husky puppy, all full of blue-eyed, pointy-eared, fluffy adorableness. I remember riding home in the backseat with him stumbling around, still trying to figure out exactly how to coordinate all four paws. Even in the dead of winter (which in northern Finland really is nearly deadly) I would go out in my puffy snow-suit and run around with him. I would keep faking him out with sudden turns, which he loved and always led into a frenzy of excited barking. Even when he got really old he still wanted to play.
Needless to say, by the time I was five I was begging to have my own dog. My mom wasn’t really prepared for having a dog but also tired of listening to me whine on and on, so smart lady that she is, told me that we could get a dog when I was 10 years old. She believed, not so smartly, that by then I would have long forgotten the dog and moved onto other obsessions that would be far less work for her. Oh boy, did I show her.
I spent the next five years obsessing over dogs. I spent my allowance on dog magazines. I clipped the cutest pictures to stick to my walls. I read all about the different breeds and which ones I might want. I even picked the dog food* we should feed our future dog. I think a couple of years into this my mom knew she had no choice: she would have to get me a dog.
When I was just about 10, she gave me a book about spaniels from which to choose a breed. I’m not entirely sure why spaniels exactly, except we had to get a small dog and spaniels do mostly fit that description so there you go. I studied that little orange paperback religiously. I remember I really wanted a breed that liked to swim so I made sure to look for this. I finally chose a breed that is relatively common in Finland but rare to see in North America, the Tibetan spaniel.
We picked him up just before my birthday and I named him Tiko. Although he was slightly moody, missing an eye due to an unfortunate accident when young, and never swam unless his life depended on it,** we loved him dearly until he died at the age of 12. In his too-short life, the little guy moved across continents, was my best friend in a new country when I had no others, and loved me just as much when I was off busy with new ones. He saw me off to elementary school, high school, and university. Along the way he conquered many a kissa (means cat in Finnish and is what we called his toys cause we’re evil like that), climbed an awful lot of mountains all over BC, ate one papier-mache bird beak from a due-tomorrow art project, and was always there to play or lick up my tears as needed (there was a copious amount following the beak-chewing incident). Dogs really are fantastic. I’m glad that, unlike with most things, I took a really short time to figure that one out.
*My predictably lame choice was Pedigree, which our dog never actually ate. Luckily I am no longer quite as enraptured by bright, pretty ads. Well, you know, except for things that I really, truly need.
**I went back to read that spaniel book a few years later and with my sharpened reading skills, I realized I had been tricked by a double negative and a poorly placed picture of a dog swimming. Turns out Tibetan spaniels are among the only spaniels that don’t like to swim. How exactly I got A’s in school is not clear. Furthermore, I’ve since learned that apparently Tibetan spaniels are not actually spaniels at all, but since the breed was in the spaniel book I think this part can be overlooked.