Once a dog family, always a dog family. While I was growing up in Fairview Park, we always had dogs. I remember playing with our beagle mix, Bonnie, when I was really small, maybe about 5 years old. I remember hugging her and I vaguely recall cuddling on the couch with her. It was traumatic when she died when I was probably 10 years old. The next dog was Mysti (named by me after the book “The Feminine Mystique”). Lord, I was a dorky preteen.

Mysti still ruled the roost when I went away to Ohio State and even when I moved to California directly after graduation. She was 15 when she died. Some 2,000 miles away, I wept. While my parents never got another pet, they didn’t really need to. All six of their children at some point got dogs and cats. We once had four dogs and three cats in our direct family.

My husband and I got our first dog together less than a week after we got engaged, I guess sealing the lifelong commitment to each other. He, too, grew up with dogs, although the names he chose (Spunky, in particular) were inferior to Mysti. We named our dog Maggie for Magnolia Blossom. Yes, we lived in the south. In Savannah, Georgia, to be precise. When Maggie passed away after 13 years, we brought Dugan and Guinness into our lives. They both lived to be in their early to mid-teens before passing away from old age. We didn’t even last a week without a dog before welcoming Riley into our midst. The toy fox terrier/Chihuahua mix technically belongs to our daughter, who found her, paid for her and brought her to our house. And then left for college.

The long doggy tale leads me to the recent addition to our family. Throughout our lives, we’d always bought puppies from pet stores. My siblings had long ago chosen the rescue route. Over New Year’s week, I joined their ranks. I fell in love with a 3-year-old, 6-pound toy fox terrier who had spent her entire life as a breeding dog. We thought about adopting her for two days, brought Riley to meet her and thought some more. I don’t know why we pretended. I was smitten on sight. The little one had never lived indoors. Never got named. And apparently never got loved and spoiled. She had big blackish-brownish eyes, tan tear-drop shaped eyebrows, and her ribs and spine clearly outlined through her skin. Did she eat enough? Was she deprived? Depressed? I didn’t know.

All that is in the past.

Penny is her name. Being spoiled is her game. Pretty Penny, Penny Pocket, Lucky Penny, Penny Peanut. After just a few weeks of having her in our house, we can’t imagine our life without her adorable little presence. I hurt every time I see her cringe when a person walks by. She flattens to the ground if you lean over to pick her up. She huddles in fear when she sees a leash. But never a nip, growl or bite. We pick her up and give her hugs and she relaxes.

I hope one day the cringe disappears. I hope someday her little tail is upright and wagging 100% of the time, instead of about 10%.

Nationwide, according to the ASPCA, about 6.5 million companion animals each year enter animal shelters — and approximately 1.5 million are euthanized. The reasons vary, but to me the bottom line is always human ignorance. Even worse, dogs such as Penny are bred for profit and kept in cruel conditions just to keep the puppy industry in business. 

We’ve saved one little creature. If we won the lottery, we would save even more.

We love our Penny the Peanut. And we are glad she found her way home.

Contact this reporter at editor@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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