For decades of my life, I was not interested in having pets. Painful childhood memories of loss when my favorite kittens died closed my heart to four-footed friends for years. Part of it was practical too. I lived in places where I couldn’t have pets. I didn’t have time. It was easier, cheaper, and cleaner to not have one. I honestly didn’t spend much time pondering it. I didn’t think I was missing anything.
When I met Darcy and we got married, he was on the same page regarding pets, but a little more open to the idea of getting one than I was. He had pleasant memories of their cockapoo Jingles growing up. But in the spring of 2008, my hard line against pets softened and cracked. Our son Sam, six years old at the time, showed some real interest in the dogs we encountered at a couple of social outings. Darcy brought up the idea of getting our own dog.
It was around this same time that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I told Darcy I didn’t think it was a good time to bring a new pet into the mix. We didn’t know yet what awaited me in terms of treatment and surgeries. Darcy wisely pointed out that it would be good to have a distraction from all things cancer. It would be good for Sam too. Those were some convincing arguments. I just wasn’t planning on falling in love.
Darcy did the research and Sam picked the name. (He wanted either JD for John Deere tractors or Oliver for Oliver tractors. He picked Oliver.) We decided on a cockapoo because they don’t shed and it was the same breed Darcy’s family had. We purchased Oliver as a puppy from a breeder in a neighboring state and he arrived in our lives on July 3, 2008, at 8 weeks old. (Coincidentally, he shares a birthday with my stepson Arthur—May 7.)
He was adorable then, and he still is now.
I had been the skeptic but ended up falling pretty hard pretty fast. Oliver made his way into my heart. I would like to think he and I have something special, because we grew up together—Oliver and my post-cancer self.
While we trained Oliver, I recovered from my first two surgeries. By the time I was undergoing chemotherapy, we were all used to each other and our new routines surrounding feeding Oliver, taking Oliver out to do his business, playing with Oliver, laughing at Oliver. He has graduated from sleeping in the kennel at night to sleeping wherever he feels like it. At first restricted from our furniture, he now prefers the recliner in the picture above as well as a couple other spots around the house.
During chemo, some days I didn’t feel very energetic, but Oliver and I would still walk for a few blocks and feel good about the fresh air and the steps. Oliver was indeed a good distraction and brought some sense of joy and normalcy to days that felt anything but joyful or normal. Good call Darcy!
After my mastectomies, there were a few weeks when I couldn’t walk Oliver, but now we start most days together, just the two of us, early in the mornings. We hang out in the quiet, and then we go for our morning walks. We go running together sometimes, just for a mile or two. If Darcy and I are both running, Oliver likes to run between us.
He has a chew toy we call his “teddy bear.” When he starts to shred it, we replace it. When we say “go get your teddy bear” he tears around the house looking for it and always come back with it, wanting to play of course. He also tears around the house in his wet glory after Darcy gives him a bath.
Two of my favorite things about Oliver are the way he stretches after he’s been snoozing. He just naturally does it. And the way he is ALWAYS happy to see us. There’s plenty we two-legged animals can learn from our four-legged friends. Thanks for bringing so much to our family Oliver. We love you!