Arthur and I got married in February, 1974, settled on our first house in September, and a week later brought home our first dog, Della Street, named after the secretary of the famous fictional lawyer, Perry Mason. Della was a pure-bred beagle puppy who chewed the leg off of our brand-new sofa less than a week after we got it. She liked to sit on my lap when we watched television in the evening, and she was the only one of our dogs who would sleep beside me under the covers when we went to bed. Della wasn't much for toys, but she loved to tear open her Christmas presents and do battle with the wrapping paper. Although I have several special memories of Della's antics, by far my favorite is the time we found her standing on the dining room table eating the left-over Easter ham when we came back from seeing our guests off. Della was with us for twelve years and taught me not to get too attached to brand-new sofas or left-overs.
We were heartbroken when Della passed away and coming home to an empty house after work was too much for me to bear, so on a Saturday morning, three weeks later, I dragged Arthur off to a pet store in a mall and we came home with Dr. Watson, the cutest little ball of fur you'd ever see. Watson was high-strung from the beginning and had a mind of his own. His favorite thing was sitting at the top of the stairs so he could oversee his kingdom. Like a lot of pet-store dogs, Watson developed serious health issues and was only with us for five years, but we'll never forget his big personality and the sight of him scrambling down the stairs to greet us whenever we came home from an outing.
Two weeks after Watson passed away, we went to the Humane Society and picked up Phoebe Tyler, named for a character on a popular soap-opera at that time, All My Children. Phoebe was a Springer Spaniel who must have escaped from a loving home because she was well-groomed when she was found wandering the streets of a nearby town. Phoebe was the most energetic of all of our dogs. When we brought her home for the first time and unleashed her, she tore through every room in the house like a banshee and then jumped up on the sofa, turned around three times and plopped. Phoebe loved laying on the furniture, especially on Arthur's chair, and during the day, when we were at work, she sat at the window in the dining room to watch for us to come home. Phoebe passed away at age 12, less than 24-hours after my mother died. Eerie, huh?
Acquiring Sophie Tucker was the oddest thing. For some reason I can't explain, I got it into my head one day that Phoebe needed a sister and I began lobbying Arthur for another dog. Arthur resisted my pleas for weeks and then one day, after we had finished shopping at Walmart, I mentioned that the Humane Society was less than 5 minutes away and we should go take a look and, to my utter surprise, Arthur turned right instead of left and off we went to the Humane Society. I guess he just got tired of being nagged to death.
Sophie must have been abandoned on the streets, and God only knows how long she lived there before she was rescued. We were told she had been hit by a car, and she had several ugly scars on her back to prove it. From the moment she was rescued, Sophie sat in the corner in the back of her cage with her face to the wall, and she stayed like that for the month she'd been at the Humane Society. We were told that the first time she ventured from that corner was when we walked through the door. That was all I needed to hear. I was convinced that Fate had intended for us to adopt Sophie, but Arthur wasn't sold on the idea of getting a second dog, so we went home without her.
But I couldn't get Sophie's poor, sad face out of my mind, and my heart was breaking just thinking about her sitting all alone in the corner of her cage. As luck would have it, Arthur was working on our taxes the following day and I made a deal with him. If we qualified for a tax return -- which we hadn't in years, we would go get Sophie, and if we didn't, I wouldn't bring her up again. We did get a tax return that year -- $26.79, a pittance, but it was enough for me to convince Arthur that it was a sign from God that Sophie was supposed to be with us, and persuade him to race out to the Humane Society to get Sophie just minutes before it closed.
Sophie was an old soul, quiet and wise, and low-maintenance. When we bought our new home, we chose a one-story house so Sophie didn't have to contend with stairs, and she loved that, and the plush carpeting that was laid throughout. Sophie lived the longest of any of our dogs -- 15 years, and I think we took her death the hardest. It was the only time I ever saw Arthur cry.
We got Samuel Norman Seaborn, named for the idealistic aide on West Wing, less than a week after Sophie died. He had been rescued from a high-kill facility in West Virginia just days before he was scheduled to be euthanized. Sam was sequestered in a glass cage at the shelter where we got him because he didn't get along with other dogs, and he still doesn't. Sam looked so sad and forlorn all alone in that cage, but as soon as the attendant brought him into the storeroom where Arthur and I waited to meet him, Sam ran straight to Arthur, knocked him down and started licking his face. It was love at first kiss and the next thing I know, we had a new pup. Sam had trust issues which took a full year to overcome, but he is the most affectionate of all of our dogs, and by far, the most needy. Sam hates rain, but loves to burrow in snow piles and nests of leaves, and he adores our 97-year old neighbor, his Aunt Mary, who feeds him popcorn when we visit twice a week.
Arthur and I weren't blessed with children, but we had a large family nevertheless -- three girls and two boys, all of whom enriched our lives. And because of them we were able to weather the bad times in our nearly-forty-five years of marriage because we could never agree on who would get custody of the dog if we divorced.