Today is my dog Pip’s seventh birthday. I spent my entire childhood wanting a dog, but it was impractical because we lived in an apartment, and also my dad absolutely under no circumstances wanted a dog. I wheedled and begged and cried for years and received fish and hamsters as consolation prizes. However, finally, when I was 14, we got a dog. He was non-shedding and hypoallergenic and bought entirely against the will of my father, who had recently fallen ill with brain cancer. Over the years, my dad grew to love the dog — and from the very beginning Pip knew that my dad needed quiet support. Most of the time when we were at home, Pip would be lying next to my dad in his reading chair, just providing companionship. Pip listened to my dad’s (rarely-uttered) commands immediately (whereas he ignored everyone else’s and still does). We knew that Pip had truly worked his magic when my mom called my dad one evening to make sure he was okay while she was on a trip, and he explained that the dog was in the bed with him. (This was a no-furniture-ever dog.) My mom became distraught and said, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I can call the neighbors to come get him off,” to which my dad replied, “No no, it’s fine! I invited him here. He’s my pal.”
When we got him I was just starting high school with a cancer-stricken father, and I was pretty miserable. A variety of other things happened during high school and I ended up in a ton of therapy. But honestly, I think one of the most important things that kept me going and let me get where I am today was the support of a dog who greeted me at home, urged me to go on long walks, spent time with me outside, and slept in my bed with me every night.
Just recently I found out from my mom the reason that my dad finally allowed her to buy the dog and keep him. When they argued, she told him that I needed this dog — she pointed out that my dad was sick and my brother was going to college and I was clearly struggling. I needed something to nurture and love, and something to love me back. And that’s why my dad said yes.
Thank you Daddy. And thank you Pip for walking beside me everywhere. You may be disobedient and frequently cranky but you are the best dog in the world, and I think you just may have saved my life.