OPINION COLUMNS

Heart open to puppy love

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, February 20, 2016
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I’ve written a sad dog column before, so it’s only fitting I offset it with a happy one.

The newest member of the Burden family is Baby. The name is misleading because Baby is a 140-pound Rottweiler.

I’ll admit, we didn’t really hit it off at first. I loved my old dog, Max, more than I love most humans. He was my buddy for 13 years, and you don’t simply replace that kind of bond.

My parents brought Baby home for my brother, and I was content to let her be my brother’s dog. She showed no interest in me.

For a few months, we barely interacted. I didn’t dislike her – she was sweet and endearingly clumsy when excited – but I also didn’t feel any particular attachment to her. I would pet Baby when she walked by; she would sniff my hands in return. We had an indifferent relationship.

She just wasn’t my dog.

One day, we were home alone, just the two of us. I wanted to go out for a walk, but I knew I couldn’t leave Baby alone in the house (she’d taken to eating everything in sight when she felt neglected). I didn’t really feel like dragging her around on a leash, so I just let her out in the yard, figuring she’d take off in the opposite direction, as usual.

But she followed me. I started off down the road, and Baby ran out in front of me. She stopped every 10 feet or so to look back, to make sure I was still following. I was perplexed by her sudden interest in me, but it was kind of cute.

I soon discovered that Baby loves nothing more than going places. Any place except the vet, really. So she’d tag along on my walks, trotting in front of me, scoping out the terrain. Occasionally she would run back to my side, head-butting me like she was saying, “Come on, let’s go.”

Eventually she started seeking me out at the house, too. She would jump on me in greeting when I got home from work, and come lay her head on my lap while I sat on the couch. It was like taking her out had endeared me to her.

I was standing in the kitchen one afternoon, watching her get particularly excited for no reason other than she was happy to see me. She ran around the kitchen and living room, sliding into the wall at one point. As I laughed, it occurred to me for the first time that I actually love this dog.

Baby isn’t Max, and that’s OK. No dog will ever replace him for me. But I like to think there’s always room in our hearts to grow for the people (and animals) we care about; that they’re ever expanding and ever changing.

And my heart now has a spot in it for a huge, over-excitable Rottweiler named Baby.

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter.

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