The benefits of being “a dog person”

The benefits of being “a dog person”

I have a dog. I didn’t always have a dog. Actually, until I was 10, our family pet was no more than a goldfish. Then my parents allowed me to adopt a kitten. That was it though. They liked to travel and a cat allowed for more flexibility. Plus, a cat didn’t need to be walked at all hours of the day in all kinds of weather.

I considered myself a cat person. I adopted a cat when I finally had my own place that allowed pets. When I got engaged to my husband who had a severe cat allergy, I found a new home for the cat. That never sat quite right with me, because he got to keep his dog (who was his from a previous relationship). I decided I was never going to like that dog!

Since we lived in a building that wouldn’t allow dogs, the dog stayed at my mother-in-law’s and he went there to care for it. I didn’t. When we got our first house five years later, Cody, a Miniature Schnauzer, came to live with us. I was ambivalent. Then that first morning with the dog in the new house, that damn dog was so excited to see me get up! I immediately thought, “okay, dogs are different.”

In the days and weeks and years that followed, this dog tried so hard to make me love him every chance he got. And I started to care for him as much as “his dad” did. I was a dog person! Now more than 20 years and two more dogs later I have Enzo. Enzo is an 8-year-old Australian Shepherd-Poodle mix (Aussie-Poo, Aussie-doodle, or designer mutt depending on who you’re talking to).

I absolutely love this dog! When my life was taking so many difficult turns, he was there. I am never completely alone because I have him. He never quite became a runner like my previous Wheaten Terrier, Malachy, but he is so special in his own way.

Malachy and Me. As we appeared in the May 2006 issue of 201:The Best of BergenPhoto Credit; Ted Axelrod

I have learned that having a dog is really good for people. Dogs force people to move. Walking my dog is a big part of why I’m able to make my step goal on days I don’t run. Have you ever noticed that people shopping at all-night grocery stores are buying pet food? We won’t make the effort for ourselves a lot of the time, but we won’t let our pets go without. That’s why dogs are so good for the elderly and people who live alone.

Most of the people I have met in my building since moving to Chicago are fellow dog owners. Even people in the street walking their dogs are so much friendlier and more approachable. Our dogs give us something in common immediately. With the severe cold snap we had in Chicago a few weeks ago, the only people I saw out in my neighborhood (although for only five minutes at a time) were dog owners!

There are times when having to take a dog out at all hours of the day in all kinds of weather can be a bit of a drag, but that is offset by the unconditional love they give us. He is always – 100% of the time! – absolutely happy to see me! If you live alone – or have teenagers – you need that.

Enzo’s first visit to Lake Michigan. Chicago, Illinois. July 2018.


Make Valentine’s Day about giving

Make Valentine’s Day about giving

My feelings about Valentine’s Day have fluctuated over the years. When I was a kid, it was great! It meant being greeted in the morning with chocolates from my Dad and then receiving little Valentine’s from all my classmates. I went to a small Catholic school and all the kids gave everyone in the class a little card. All was good. No bad feelings created by anyone feeling left-out.

In High School Valentine’s Day became a fundraiser. The student council or some similarly enterprising group sold carnations in a variety of colors to represent the relationship between the sender and recipient: Love, Like, Friendship and the dreaded “Secret Admirer.” I never had a boyfriend in high school. I exchanged flowers with a few close friends and remained grateful for that.

Through college and my single years, whether or not I looked forward to Valentine’s Day was directly linked to whether or not I had a significant other. I don’t recall anything I did all of those years that was particularly special or memorable. By the time I got married, I didn’t really care anymore, except to make it special for our daughter. When making Valentine’s Day about giving rather than receiving, I found special meaning beyond the commercialism created by Hallmark and FTD.

My Daughter’s first Valentine’s Day; wearing a gift from mom and dad, her first piece of jewelry from Tiffany – a necklace she also wore to her prom. River Edge, New Jersey. February 2001.

Any Valentine’s Days that came up short, I realize now are the times I lost sight of that. I had expectations about what I should be receiving, rather than just focusing of what I was giving, and what, beyond tangible gifts, was positive about the relationship. I think part of my issue through the years was the expectation those first Valentine’s Days created. My parents always exchanged lovely, thoughtful cards, flowers, candy and other special trinkets. My Dad set the bar pretty high. Although so did my mom.

I found a nice summary on The History of Valentine’s Day on The conclusion is that 85% of all Valentines are actually sent by women – hopefully women who have no expectation of getting one in return. That tells me that perhaps women, in expecting men to take the lead, may be setting themselves up for disappointment. The strength of any relationship shouldn’t be judged by what you do or don’t do on February 14th. Every day and any day can be Valentine’s Day.

Now, with my truly amazing boyfriend, I seem to do just fine – today and every other day! One of the things I cherish in this later-in-life, second chance at romance, is that I believe we are both very conscious of things that may have been taken for granted in our previous relationships. We are more mindful and present perhaps. Although I think that might just generally come with age, too.

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Finish line at the Surf City Half Marathon. Huntington Beach, California. February 2019.

This year for Valentine’s Day my boyfriend and I will not have 800 miles between us. That alone is a gift I will cherish. I do have a small little trinket as a symbol of my love that I am looking forward to giving him. What are your plans? I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts about Valentine’s Day now?  What differs from when you were a child, teen, and young adult? Are you doing anything special? As an empty-nesting parent, do you feel more connected to your partner on Valentine’s Day than you did when the kids where at home? If you’re single, do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you care? What remains important about this day to you?

Whatever your plans or relationship status, know that you are loved and appreciated. Thanks for reading.

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My Team Gilda Chicago Marathon Page

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