It's rather fitting that it's National Dog Week. Seven years ago this very week, I went with my friend Amy to an animal shelter in Boca Raton, Florida, to help her return the traps she'd borrowed to catch feral cats, get them spayed or neutered, and release them; while I was there, I couldn't resist the "dog room," which is where I met this guy:
Even though I hadn't planned on adopting another dog — I already had my beloved Max, who passed away almost exactly a year ago at the age of 15 and a half — I just couldn't resist that face, that softer-than-cashmere fur, and that people-loving demeanor. I had turned 30 a few months earlier and was feeling especially grown-up (i.e., capable of taking care of two dogs), so I put in an application. A few days later, Rufus came to live with Max and me.
Today, Rufus and I live in Brooklyn with my boyfriend — they are madly in platonic human-dog love — but he's the first dog that was ever 100 percent mine. He wasn't my family's dog or a dog I adopted with a former significant other (like Max). And I think that makes him particularly special to me. We're truly each other's.
That's not to say the other dogs in my life have not been special to me. I adore practically every dog I meet, so I can barely put into words what the dogs I've lived with have meant to me.
Latke, a fluffy white-and-black mutt, came into my life when we were both puppies. My parents gave her a huge fenced-in area in our backyard, where she hung out all day as long as the weather was reasonable; they wanted to keep her separate from our cat, Knish, but she also really loved running around out there and napping in her doghouse. At night, we'd lay out a fleecy blanket for her in the laundry room and set up a little gate in the doorway so she could see into the living room without harassing Knish. But as you can see in the right-hand photo above, I'd often get on the floor in the laundry room with her so she wouldn't feel lonely.
Right after my 12th birthday, Latke and Knish were put to sleep on the same day (both had painful health problems), shortly after my father was hospitalized for a heart attack. You know, fun sixth-grade stuff. It would be a couple of years before we got our next dog, Monte, from a local labrador retriever breeder.
Monte was so smart and gentle — except for the time his little puppy teeth slashed my dad's finger open, but that was an accident — and without a cat in the house, my parents decided to let him be an "indoor dog." But a year after we got him, when we moved down to South Florida and into a house with an in-ground pool, we found out he considered himself a water dog.
The only problem: Anytime someone went totally under the water, Monte thought they were drowning, and he'd jump in to try to rescue them. He loved the pool so much that we'd sometimes let him swim even if we weren't — we'd just play lifeguard (and ball-thrower).
Monte died of cancer at just 9 years old, and it's still a bittersweet memory for me that he held on until I came home to visit. He wagged his tail vigorously when he saw me, even though his body had otherwise given up on exerting any energy. It's a moment I'll never forget.
In 2002, my then-fiancé and I adopted then-2-year-old mystery mutt Max from the Humane Society; although it was a tough decision when we got divorced, I ended up keeping Max, who saw me through the most difficult parts of my adulthood thus far, not to mention lived with me in five different homes in two different states.
Letting him go last year was both a difficult and easy choice; I loved him so much, but that's why I couldn't let his suffering get worse. I can't remember the last time I cried so uninhibitedly as when we took him to the vet that day.
Today, Rufus is my best dude. He caused me a ton of grief in our first year together — eating family photos, running into traffic, trying to remove shirts that I put on Max (which was probably for the best) — but he has become one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me. He still has the cute face, the soft fur (even more of it now), and the people-loving demeanor, but now, seven years later, we also have a bond that I think is stronger than any previous one I've had with all of my wonderful dogs.
Oh, and shout-out to my parents' German shepherd, Sasha, because she, too, is one of the best dogs ever.
Here's what my fellow XO editors had to say about the dogs they've loved.
"I had a dog when I was a kid that got hit by a car, and since then, I felt like I did not have a special affinity for dogs until I had Charlotte, and she is a huge dog lover, so she convinced me to get our first dog, Balloon, from a shelter when she was 7. We had volunteered there for a while beforehand as part of this kids' program, and I thought that we would get away with not ever actually leaving with our own dog. But we did.
"The day that I brought him home, I was way more nervous about taking care of him than the day I brought Charlotte home from the hospital. And then I learned about the amazingness of dogs. Cut to a couple of years later, when we were in a pet store and I saw Lemon in a crate just looking at me like he needed me so badly to take care of him, and the guy in the pet store assuaged my guilt about getting this dog not from a shelter by telling me that I was rescuing this dog, as well.
"And that's how I ended up in a New York City apartment with two dogs running around ruling the place. It's heaven."
"We got my first dog, Matilda, when I was 5 or 6. My mom had gotten attacked by a dog when she was younger, and her fear was starting to rub off on me and my siblings. We would cringe away from dogs when we were out on walks. My mom decided that wasn't OK, and she decided to get a puppy to get her over her fear.
"I think my mom had wanted to rescue a dog, but my dad went all sorts of Consumer Reports–obsessive researching different dog breeds to try and find good match temperament-wise for my mom, two teens, and a 6-year-old. They settled on a Weimaraner; they're supposed to be good family dogs, and I'm sure it helped knowing that they were used to hunt bears.
"Anyways, Matilda probably cost the same as a month in my apartment, but she was honestly such a good friend. My brother and sister went to college, and both my parents worked, so I was a latchkey kid, and having this giant, kinda spooky-looking, but totally lovable dog at home was always so reassuring, and we kind of grew up together.
"I remember my mom calling to tell me she had passed away (she was fine one day, greeting trick-or-treaters on Halloween, and critical the next). It was right before I was supposed to perform in a show my second year of college, and I almost couldn't get myself out of the wings. Aaaaaand now I'm crying at my desk."
"Growing up, I always wanted a dog. Every Christmas, I’d go downstairs and hope and pray that Santa had finally heard my wish and put a cute little puppy or two under the tree. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized why 'Santa' wasn't bringing me that puppy. My dad was afraid of dogs because he had been attacked by a German shepherd as a kid. So when I went to college, a.k.a. freedom, I set my mind on what any sensible broke NYC student would do: I decided I would figure out a way to get a dog the second I moved into my own apartment.
"Max was a pug with a personality, to say the least. Max was a fancy New York City dog from birth, but he eventually ended up living in the suburbs with my parents. How he got there is somewhat of a long and complicated story, but it goes like this:
"We believe that when Max was a puppy, his owner either died suddenly or he went to a family that quickly figured out that they didn’t want to deal with him. Max was just under a year old when he landed in a New York City shelter, and a colleague of mine at the time (I worked at a law firm part-time as a file clerk because I was saving up for a dog and needed drinking money) was a pug lover, and she adopted him at first sight. The only problem was, his new brother and Max did not get along. In fact, they fought quite a lot. His owner knew I was dying to have a dog of my own, and so I agreed to adopt Max shortly after he left the shelter. I then had a realization that I was a JUNIOR IN COLLEGE and could not give the care this dog needed, and so shortly after adopting him and trying to make it work (running home between classes to walk a dog is not as easy as you think), I brought him and his crate home to my parents' house, which would be his home for the next 12 years. A four-bedroom colonial and almost an acre of property to run around on.
"I know how wildly irresponsible my actions were, but the point is, Max ended up in a loving home and had a great life. My dad got over his fear of dogs (apparently he was only afraid of “big” dogs), and I know everyone says this about their pets, but Max had a very distinct personality. He was hot and cold. He would curl up on your lap and cuddle with you and be biting your finger five minutes later. He was a spiteful dog, sometimes pissing on the rug (or worse!) when my family didn’t come home for a full day or went on vacation and left him with my aunt. He would run around in circles, chase flashlights, bark at cars. Max liked to eat…and eat…and eat. My mom used to boil chicken and string beans for him because he was spoiled. He snored, he farted, he got little doggy boners from time to time. So you can see how he always kept things interesting."
"I’ve never had a dog before, but I love other people’s dogs, especially Leica, the French bulldog who lives in my building and likes lying belly-down on cold floors. I don’t remember my parents saying 'no,' but I do remember that they weren't thrilled about the idea of high-maintenance pets in general, so I don’t think I ever asked. (I did have a goldfish named Jaws, though, and he was rad. Quietly rad.) I’ve always dreamed of having a Pomeranian, so if I ever were to love a dog in the future, it would probably be one like this rescue Pom named Max who lives in Nebraska."
Clearly, all XO editors should have a dog named Max at least once in their lives.
By the way, I'm usually super skeptical about National This-Or-That Time Periods (it's apparently also National Indoor Plant Week this week, if that's your preferred kind of pet), but National Dog Week actually dates back to 1928, having been started by World War I vet Captain Will Judy. Thanks, Willy J!
And now, of course, it's your turn to share your favorite memories of your favorite dogs. And pictures, because duh.