Readers’ Rite: Pets
Growing up, my family had a big black lab named Knight. We adopted him from the ASPCA when I was about seven, after years of me begging my parents for a dog, any dog. Of course, the dog we found ourselves loving was a “red star” — “unsuitable for homes with young children” — dog when we were, in fact, a home with young children. Despite this fact, the ASPCA let us take Knight home with severe warnings, and after several home check ups (over the course of which they realized they must have mixed up this dog’s red star label with another, sincerely dangerous dog) he was ours forever.
Knight was everything a first pet should be: loyal, trustworthy, adorable and lazy. He was a great dog, and I loved him so much that I feared my chances of loving another dog ever again were spoiled. How could any other dog ever compete with Knight’s obedience and quiet demeanor? They way he sat for treats and never pulled on the leash? Sure, he was a bit of a runaway at times, but he was the perfect dog for the most part.
When we inevitably had to put Knight down, I was understandably devastated; I think the loss of my dog rocked my highschool psyche more throughly than that of my grandfather. I had routine dreams of being reunited with him, from which I awoke to find tears dampening my cheeks and pillowcases.
Finally, during the pandemic when I had nearly lost my mind with boredom and grief, I put my name on a waiting list for a Doodle breeder online, and, two months later, a fateful email slid into my inbox. On April 14, 2020, a puppy — then named Apache, but whom I hastily deemed Harrison — had been born amongst a litter of chocolate labradoodle siblings in central New York. The picture attached to that original email shows a little white on his chest, and I remember being so excited about that.
When I picked up my new dog, I knew immediately our love would be something new and different from that I held for Knight. Harrison’s eyes looked right into my soul the moment we met, and they continue to look at me with the same unending and unconditional love that all dogs bless their owners with. This new little fluffy pup was so pure, full of joy and rambunctious energy that Knight never had. Harrison is mischievous while remaining wholly devoted to me, which will keep me devoted to him for as long as we share this life. Knight was my first love, but Harrison is my soulmate.
I’m not sure if my adoration for Harrison surpasses that for Knight, but it is undeniably more consuming and intimate — perhaps the result of him being mine and mine only (as opposed to sharing the responsibility amongst family members), or perhaps the result of me being in my early twenties with no other real obligations or commitments aside from my dog at this time (thereby allowing me to pamper him like my out-of-state grandparents did for me). Regardless, my fears of being spoiled by my first doggy love were completely unfounded, and there is no doubt in my mind that I will continue to fall deeply in love with new dogs for the rest of my life.
My family wasn’t one for pets. My parents never wanted a dog and they didn’t like cats. When I asked for a pet on my seventh birthday, my mom relented and gave me two goldfish. I named them Shadow (who had a black streak) and Shelly. I was the most excited I’ve ever been.
A few days later, Shadow died. Rest in Peace. We went to PetSmart and got another fish. It was swimming super fast around the bag they put it in (as would any animal who was being man-handled— but that’s besides the point), so I named it Rocket. Soon after, Rocket died. I tried one more time, getting a goldfish named Lucky. Spoiler alert: Luckey was not so lucky. That left just Shelly.
We decided to just stick with one fish, and boy, was it the best idea we’ve ever had. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Shelly lived until I was 16 years old— almost ten years. She went through so many holidays with us, her tank being decorated for special occasions. My friends who came over through the years loved her. She saw me off every year on my first day of school, and saw me move up from elementary school to middle school to high school.
We’d occasionally buy her new toys and decorations for her tank, but she mostly just loved interacting with us! It would seem like she could see us, and got excited when we came over.
Towards the end of her life it was harder for her to swim. At that point, she would sit at the top of the tank and simply float— she always looked so peaceful.
I think about Shelly from time to time, and miss my childhood pet. We buried her in my backyard, so I guess she’s always with us in a way. And the fact that she lived for almost ten years has to be some sort of miracle. She was the strongest fish I’ve ever known.
My freshman year, after my roommate moved out, I knew I needed a little bit of life back in my room. So, I decided to go and get myself a fish. For some reason, I was extremely drawn to the adorably tiny feeder fish that – you guessed it – are meant to feed bigger fish. The PetSmart employee warned that they most likely wouldn’t last in a dorm room. Something in my heart told me that this overzealous employee was not to be trusted and that I, Ava Green, could be the one to defy the fate that this woman decided for these feeder fish. My fish and I had a lovely few days together. His name was Gil, an undeniably handsome little fellow. I knew he and I were just biding time until dorm life became too much for him. I woke up two days into his adoption to see him belly-up in his little bowl. I miss Gil, but he was just doomed.
This is not about my dog, but my roommate’s dog Bruiser. There’s no sad or emotional story about him, just that everytime an ambulance goes by the dorms, he likes to howl along to the siren. Sometimes his voice is raspy and he sounds like he’s just smoked three packs of cigarettes.
I love animals, and they tend to love me, but being severely allergic to them has not allowed for the best experiences. My significant other grew up on a property with a lot of land, so his family had over thirty cats at one point. After moving to a different state, they still have at least a dozen living both inside and outside. I wish I could play with them, but unfortunately Christmas of 2021 sealed the deal of that being impossible. Thanksgiving had been okay, with all the cats being outside or in the basement and the place being thoroughly cleaned. The same precautions were taken in December, but for some reason my allergies couldn’t take it. I ended up in the emergency room on Christmas Day fighting consciousness and then being subjected to a second reaction from the steroid they gave me to help. I don’t love pets any less than this, and I wish every time I see one of my family’s cats or dogs that I could give them all the love I have in my heart. If I did this though, my lungs would give out and I’d be spending even more time in the E.R. then I already do– after all allergic reactions have accounted for at least seven of the visits in the past two years. I’m a nightmare to my parent’s health insurance.