An open letter to Ginger, Rosie, Clyde, and Nitro (or, My Lifelong Love of Dogs)

Awesome Guest Post from Katie Knapp Schubert!  Thank you Katie!!

“My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog thinks I already am.” -author unknown

I’m happy to be a part of the Blogathon 2011, not just because it helps dogs, but because I’m a lifelong dog owner/dog parent myself.  Those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook (@katieontheradio or Katie Knapp Schubert, BTW) know that I frequently post about my two furry four-legged kids, Clyde and Nitro.  I love them to death.  More on them later.  But first, the story of two other dogs, two who have since crossed to the other side–and who I still love and miss dearly.

When I was six years old, my parents adopted a cocker spaniel/spitz mix puppy.  She was beautiful, with golden fur, and we named her Ginger.  Our ginger-ale-colored dog became a white furball during the winter, and shed that coat in warmer weather for her beautiful golden fur.  Ginger lived outside:  my Dad built her a dog house and put it under the cherry tree in our back yard.

Ginger lived to the ripe old age of 12:  from first grade until I graduated from high school, she was there.  Then she wasn’t.  I was devastated when she passed away.  Every morning I would look out my bedroom window and see Ginger, walking around or laying outside her house, waiting for someone to come outside.  It took some getting used to, as I prepared for college, to look out that bedroom window and see the dog house under the cherry tree…but no Ginger.  Ginger is buried next to that tree, and my Dad planted a beautiful flowering tree on the site.

Fast forward a couple of years.  I met my husband in a Political Science class at our alma mater, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.  The first time I went to visit him at his place, I was met by a very excited, and very protective, boxer/pit bull mix named Rosie.  Rosie was his girl.  She slept in the bed with him, went on car rides with him…and my arrival was met initially with hostility.  My husband told me at one point that if I didn’t like dogs “it may have been a deal-breaker.”  Fortunately, Rosie warmed to me, and became my girl too.  She was a beautiful boxer mix, tan in color, big eyes, built like a tank.  She went on car rides with us, settled in to new homes with us, and loved to go for walks.

When we moved to west-central Illinois in 2006, we were a family of three:  my husband, Rosie the dog, and me.  Now, I believe things happen for a reason, whether good or bad.  One Friday morning, about 7am, there was a dog outside our apartment standing by the street sign, barking like crazy.  Enough already!  I’m trying to sleep!  My husband goes outside to see what’s going on, and comes in carrying a small, barky rat terrier mix.  Pointy brown ears.  All white with two brown patches.  He was adorable.  He was also housebroken, neutered, and without a collar or tags.

For five days, we searched for his owner.  Eventually, we took him to the Humane Society, where they had no record of him among their lost dogs.  We had two options: put him up for adoption, or take him home.  That underweight, collarless, abandoned dog is our Clyde.  Rosie took to Clyde almost immediately, and we grew to a family of four.  My husband named Clyde, because he said Clyde “looked like an old man’s dog.”  It’s become a very fitting name for him.

Rosie, Clyde, my husband, and I packed up and moved to Omaha in October 2007.  Longest car ride ever.  They adjusted well to their new surroundings in Nebraska.  But then we noticed changes in Rosie.  Her back legs were swollen.  She couldn’t get around very well.  We took her to the vet, and she was diagnosed with cancer. I t was advanced and she wouldn’t live much longer.  She died about two weeks after that vet appointment, in November 2008.  We were shocked and devastated.  Other than the swelling she was eating normally, playing normally, showing no other signs of being sick.  She was nine years old.  How could this happen?  Clyde was lost without his best friend Rosie, and so were we.

Two months later, we came across an ad for a dog for adoption in Bellevue, where we live.  Labrador Retriever puppy, neutered and has had all his shots, the ad said.  Must be adopted this week.  So we contacted the family and set up an appointment.  They sent us a picture of him, and said they really wanted him to go to a good home.  We arrived at their house a few nights later and immediately fell in love.  Here was the six-month-old puppy, named Nitro, playing with a sock, happy smile on his face.  He was the puppy of a military family.  The Airman was deployed, and they were the parents of two very small children.  They loved him like crazy, but couldn’t take care of him anymore.  We took Nitro home that night.  After a little circling the wagons and settling which dog was boss (Clyde won that battle), Clyde and Nitro became like brothers.  We were a two-dog household again.

I love Clyde and Nitro as though they’re my children.  When I come home from work, they’re waiting for me at the top of the stairs.  They sleep on the bed.  They follow us around the house.  They wake us up in the morning and sleep in with us on weekends.  They travel with us and love to take walks.  I can’t imagine my life without them.  Sometimes, the only thing that comforts me is Clyde and Nitro climbing up on the bed, lying down next to me, and wanting to be pet.

As I look back, there are things I wish were different. I wish Ginger would have been a house dog.  I wish I would have spent more time playing with Rosie.  I wish I wouldn’t get so angry and frustrated when Clyde is barking for no apparent reason.  I wish I would pull myself away from the computer more to play fetch with Nitro.  But I’m so thankful I had Ginger and Rosie in my life.  I know they’re in heaven.  And I hope I still have a lot of play time, and snuggle time, and TV-watching time, with Clyde and Nitro.  There are few things better than having a dog.

To donate to Nebraska Humane Society, go here:

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