Never too late to start over

The sunday column

My wife and I have been married for 57 years and have lived with a dog in our home since the first year of our marriage.

We have had five dogs over that time, all springer spaniels, who were both house dogs and excellent bird hunters as well. We spent many hours each year following those dogs through fields and brush hunting ringneck pheasants and grouse. The rest of the year they were like hunting buddies, hanging around the house in the off-season but keeping the yard clear of squirrels and chipmunks and chasing wild ducks out of our fish pond.

When our last springer spaniel, Misty, passed away last July of old age, I naturally assumed she would be our last pet. While we both struggled with the loss, my wife was having a very difficult time. At our advanced age it didn’t seem smart to start over.

She lasted until late fall when she started thinking harder about another dog. She would make casual comments like, “What are you thinking about another dog?” or “Do you think we should get another breed or do you still want to get a springer?” Suddenly my computer was filled with searches of breeders across the Eastern seaboard.

I knew we were in trouble when I walked into the office one day and found what looked like a map with pins, flags and red circles. I had seen this before, and although to the untrained eye it might appear at first glance like a map for bombing runs against enemy forces that you might find in the Situation Room at the White House, I knew it was the first steps in locating a new dog.

Soon, my wife was spending more time on the phone and her map was filled with potential birth dates of puppies as well as the mileage to the various kennels. Every time we purchased a new dog it involved a long trip. I swear, if my wife found a dog locally she would have had it shipped several hundred miles away just so we could “go get it.”

I knew things were getting serious when photos of the parents of potential new puppies were showing up on our computer as well as some previous puppies from the kennel. It was kind of like expecting a baby and finding out it is going to be a girl and immediately interviewing the parents of the boy who might be her prom date in 18 years.

As my wife narrowed down her search, my sole job was to keep the car in running order and filled with gas in the event we had to leave on a moment’s notice. She also had a bag packed with blankets, pillows and treats for the ride home from the kennel. It was like getting ready to take your wife to the hospital when she had her first child, but without the flashing light on top of the car.

Finally, the big day arrived, and our new puppy was born. Now, of course, we had to wait eight weeks before the puppy could be separated from its mother. As each day ticked by, my wife grew more anxious and a stream of photos via email from the kennel allowed her to check the daily progress of our new addition.

When the big day finally arrived for pick up, we headed to an area outside of Shamokin. Shamokin is less than 150 miles away, so it was one of our shorter pick ups, but Shamokin is slightly east of the middle of nowhere. The kennel address did not appear on our GPS, and every time we asked directions, people seemed to point in another direction.

Finally, I found myself in a remote wooded location and at the home of a kennel full of beautiful, well bred and cared for dogs. After writing a check for what was more than I paid for my first car, we were on our way home with Abbey, our latest springer spaniel.

Now the question is, will Abbey outlive us and how will she sign the Social Security checks after we are gone?

John Kasun writes from his home in Duncansville, which is filled with dog beds, dog dishes, dog treats and dog toys of every description, while Abbey prefers playing with an empty toilet paper roll.

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