For most of my adult life, I was a cat person. I had one cat from shortly after I moved to Cincinnati until about six months before I met Nita. There were other cats in that time. A black cat, several foisted on my ex and me by a roommate who forgot whose apartment she lived in. But it was a Russian blue, Toonces, who was my little buddy for about 17 years, a good run for a cat.

Most of my life, however, I had dogs. When I married Nita, I not only gained a stepson, I gained a stepdog. While I still miss Toonces (I feel tears whenever I think about the day he had to be put down.), I found when I remarried that I really missed dogs. There is nothing like the unconditional love a dog can give you. They can be needy, and walking them can be a bit messy, but dogs are incredibly loyal. In fact, except for a seventeen-year break, I’ve had a dog since birth. Who were they?

Duchess – This black shepherd lived with me and my parents at their first home in rural Chatham. She was this big, sweet black dog who went to live with my grandparents when mom and dad opted for a more suburban lifestyle. We spent every Sunday with my dad’s parents when they still lived near Cleveland. Part of those visits was always hanging out with Duchess, who reminds me an awful lot of my current dog.

Hercules – I have fading memories of this rambunctious beagle. Mind you, I have some sharp memories going back before I was five. I called him Herky. My mom gave him to a hunter, however, when Herc got excited and wrapped his chain around my neck (which I don’t remember.) I missed that dog.

Rags – We didn’t have this shaggy mutt for very long. He was white with a bit of sheep dog in him, and I think he was the dog we had when Ziggins was born. Rags, however, liked to fight other dogs and once picked a fight with the neighbor’s docile beagle mix. (That’s like picking a fight with Mr. Rogers.) Dad gave him to my uncle, who in turn gave him to his kids. So now my cousins think of Rags more as their dog.

Noodles – My parents picked up a Samoyed mix pup for the cousin of one of my classmates. We had her the longest of any dog my family ever had. We raised her almost from birth, and I actually potty trained her. My parents went to get Noodles fixed, only she got pregnant with her first litter before it could happen. So they waited six months, during which… Well… She had three litters of pups before my parents could get her fixed. She was a wonderful dog, however, an outdoor dog. Every winter, we would stuff her doghouse with straw almost to the point where she couldn’t get inside. She was comfortable in all but the coldest weather. When she died, we didn’t wait long to get…

Spanky – I’m pretty sure this pup we got a few months after Noodles died was part Australian shepherd. She also had a love of mud, which drove my mother crazy. And it wouldn’t be our house if mom and dad didn’t miss getting a female pup fixed before she had that first litter. In getting rid of the pups, we met a woman who insisted we give her Spanky and all the pups. My mom refused. The next morning, they were all gone except for…

Seamus – Spanky’s pup and one Ziggins took a shine to.  Seamus got his name from the Pink Floyd song. I would blast Pink Floyd whenever possible, and every time Meddle played, Seamus would come running, probably to the sound of the titular dog barking in the background. Soon, if we sang the song, he would come running. The night Spanky and her pups were kidnapped, Ziggins had taken Seamus to bed with him. So Seamus became our dog. Seamus was not the brightest dog I’ve ever owned. For a time in the late 1980’s, we lived out in Amish country, and Seamus had a habit of chasing Amish buggies. The horses had a habit of leaving horseshoe prints in Seamus’s ass. Seamus had the additional habit of nursing his wounds for a week before going right back out and chasing the horses again.

Gurl – For seventeen years, I didn’t have a dog. Then I married Nita. Now I have Gurl. She was four years old when Nita and I married. When we were dating, I’d left my cell phone at her place after staying over. I got sick at work and had to leave. We worried how Gurl, a very territorial dog, would react to me barging in unescorted. Gurl didn’t do boyfriends well. However, once I had my phone, Gurl looked all depressed that I was leaving. I called Nita when I got home and said, “Honey, I have to marry you. The dog will be depressed if we don’t.”

Of all the dogs I’ve had, Gurl is the most loyal. She’s extremely well-behaved, though definitely a watchdog. Step into our yard, and she’ll go berzerk, but out on a walk, she is (usually) friendly and ignores other dogs. One memorable exception happened when Nita took her out for a walk and happened upon a deer. Gurl wanted to fight it.

As I’ve said, I’ve had my share of cats. However, I’ve always felt more love and loyalty from dogs. They can be needy sometimes, but there’s nothing like a dog, especially a female dog, who will look after you when you’re ill or sad and is always happy to see you when you walk in the door at the end of the day.