By Jennifer Muryn, Associate Dean, School of Business.
Several years ago my (now ex) husband, Steve, and I had talked about getting a dog. We were childless professionals who had moved to the suburbs and became first time homeowners. I felt that we were between plant and pet in the evolution of plant-pet-child (the logical progression of family/personal responsibility). We took many years to master the plant stage and really felt ready for the pet stage. I didn’t grow up with a dog, my dad actually got one just before I moved out. Steve had more experience in his childhood with many good, family memories. So, we considered how we’d move forward in this progression of the family life we were building together.
We read, researched and were drawn to so many different breeds. At one point I was fascinated with pugs. He has asthma and I had vision problems (since corrected by surgery). We thought that having a dog with a microcosm of our own health issues was too close to home.
We alphabetically reviewed all breeds described by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and talked constantly about dogs with whoever would listen or have information to share. After eight months we decided to not get a dog. We were right where we started but by now were practically experts on dog breeds, their potential health issues, common behaviors, needs, size…. everything.
At that time Steve and I, childless, had lots of time to attend events, parties, etc. (Parents: remember those days?!?) We attended a community/family event that was being held to raise money for his cousin’s treatment; Paul was 25-years old and diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. As part of the fund-raising, there was a silent auction – and someone in the community arranged to have five puppies available for adoption. Steve’s extended family was there and we had what felt like the largest family gathering ever – several hundred people had attended to raise money for Paul. (He endured treatment and brain cancer for two years and passed away at 27 years old; two years and a few months after being married on the Winter Solstice.)
Through the course of an evening of playing with kids, holding puppies and enjoying food and drinks Steve brought up the now-long closed conversation about getting a dog. I knew that we weren’t going to get a dog but it was fun to hold and play with a litter of 8-week old puppies. These were beautiful dogs, almost entirely black (they looked like black labs). Every time I went into the “puppy area” there was one dog who sought me out. In fact, looking back there was only one puppy of the litter that I held and played with. I visited this puppy area with and without my nieces throughout the night, stopping up at the bar to replenish my Guinness. I recall the seeming interest the one puppy had with my Guinness and I joked that he had good taste, seeking out me and also my Guinness! I asked what breed the dogs were and was told “German Shepard” to which I had a snarky response of, “Do you even know what a German Shepard looks like? The reply, “Maybe German Shorthaired Pointer?” I concluded they are likely black labs. There was also the “runt” of the litter who was, as you can imagine, super-cute and endearing to many of the kid’s hearts.
At the end of the evening it was time to finalize silent auction bidding. By this time we were ready, after eight months of data collection and multiple puppy-to-puppy visits through the evening, to make a move expanding our family through a canine addition.
Steve is probably the best strategic game-player I’ve ever met. He has the uncanny ability to see many moves ahead, anticipate other’s moves and change (or stay the course) accordingly. So, when he suggested a way to bid and how to bid we followed it. This meant we got the first choice; five bidders for five puppies. Steve wanted me to hold the runt of the litter to see if that was “the one”.
At the moment he placed the runt in my arms three simultaneous events occurred: 1) a young girl had a look of disappointment and exasperation (she wanted the runt!), 2) the runt jumped out of my arms and wanted nothing to do with me, and 3) the puppy who sought out the Guinness and my company through the evening looked betrayed at my holding the runt.
We picked the puppy who sought out my Guinness and my company; the only puppy I had interacted with through the evening. I know he chose me. We named him Duke in honor of one of Steve’s favored dogs growing up, Duchess. Duke became and continues to be my first canine love. He opened up the world of canines and led me to being an avid supporter of humane education and animal welfare.
Duke is turning 8 in May and I love him more than I thought ever possible – he is my first canine love. Oh, and it turns out from a DNA test (saliva sample) that Duke is 50% German Shepard, 25% German Shorthaired Pointer and 25% Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon. Snarkiness in check.