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SANDY BANKS / Life As We Live It

A Furry New Love Has Entered Her Family's Life

April 24, 1998|SANDY BANKS

There's a new sound around my house these days . . . the pitter-patter of tiny feet. Four tiny feet. Paws, to be precise.

They belong to the new man in our family--a 4-pound, 3-month-old bundle of black and white fluff we've taken to calling Puff.

We brought him home last month, after weeks spent searching for just the right puppy to help patch the hole in our hearts left when our beloved dog, Cookie, died earlier this year.

It wasn't just that I missed Cookie or the kids missed her . . . although we did.

We were able to find ways to cope, by posting her picture on the refrigerator door and telling funny stories about her goofy antics. By remembering her in our prayers each night and trying to imagine her life in pet heaven. By sometimes just giving in to tears, as we lay in bed missing the feel of her sprawled across our legs.

But what was hardest was watching our other dog, Domino, mourn the loss of his best friend.

For a while he seemed intent on taking Cookie's place, as if he thought we would miss her less if he did the things she used to do.

So he moved from his place at the foot of the beds to Cookie's spot, alongside my daughters as they slept. In the mornings, as I brushed the girls' hair, he'd sit still and quiet next to them--no mean feat for a hyperactive Dalmatian--just as Cookie had.

It was as if he was trying to help us manage our grief. And it became clear that he was feeling his own.

For years, they'd had their own routine. While we readied for school and work, Cookie and Domino would chase each other through the house, dashing madly up and down the halls, barking and rolling around on the floor in play so wild my girls screamed with delight, and I sometimes had to intervene.

Afterward, the two dogs would collapse together on the couch, and there they'd still be--nose to nose--when we returned home at the end of the day.


I knew Domino needed another companion, and my kids wanted another dog. But I wasn't sure I could love another dog so soon. The burden to "be" Cookie, I thought, would be too great for her replacement to carry.

So, at first, I compromised. We agreed to provide a temporary home for a needy dog.

We'd been a foster family before, through a local pet rescue group. In fact, there were few times in this last year that our family was without an "extra" dog.

There was Lady, a gorgeous, life-of-the-party young shepherd mix, who'd been found wandering alone in a Burbank park. And Davy, who'd spent his puppyhood shuttling from kennel to kennel, after being tossed, with his littermates, from a moving pickup. And the three little puppies, whose mother had been turned in to a shelter while pregnant because her owner didn't want to deal with their birth.

All our foster pets went off to permanent homes, thanks to the work of Animal Rescue Volunteers, one of dozens of rescue groups who help find homes for homeless pets.

Some groups are called by shelter employees to save animals they think might make good pets. Others canvass the shelters, looking for animals not likely to make it out on their own.

Many groups have kennels, but some rely on volunteers--like us--to house the animals and tote them around to adoption fairs.

Thousands of pets find homes this way. But that's only a drop in a bucket overflowing with unwanted dogs and cats. More than 50,000 are killed each year in Los Angeles alone. That's two-thirds of all the dogs and cats who pass through the city's animal shelters.

It has been hard sometimes to let go of a foster dog we've grown to love. But it's been a great way to teach valuable lessons to my kids: How you don't, in life, always see the fruit of your labors or get to enjoy the payoff from the hard work you put in. How dogs, like people, have different personalities--some more lovable than others. And how--no matter--they all do need love.

And for children like mine--who've had to say goodbye abruptly to pets and people they loved--these planned goodbyes may be good for the soul.


This time around, our foster dog was Bella, a sweet, sad-faced pooch, who'd been so abused in a previous home that she wet the floor out of fear whenever anyone said her name. We'd hoped she'd be a playmate for Domino, but she was too scared and shy to even leave my side.

So when she found a home, we set out to get Domino a puppy of his own--something energetic, rambunctious and full of trouble, just like Cookie had been when we first brought her home to him.

We didn't know exactly what we wanted--though we agreed it should be something small and male, as different from Cookie as could be. And I promised the girls that when we found the right dog, we would just know.

After disappointments and dashed hopes, our search led us to a woman who lived nearby, who had two puppies of mixed small-breed parentage who needed homes.

I fell head over heels for the smaller of the two, a little, white cotton ball with a sprinkling of gorgeous black marks. But while I was trying to get him to play--to stop sniffing the grass and pay attention to the woman who would take him home--his shaggy, goofy-looking brother fell in love with me.

He sidled over, nosed my hand, lay down beside me and looked up at me with black eyes so full of love I couldn't look away. And Puff Puppy had found a home.

* Sandy Banks' column is published Mondays and Fridays. Her e-mail address is

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