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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Off The Dog Wagon

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Last week I talked about how my teenaged daughter thinks she needs a hedgehog despite the fact that we have a perfectly nice dog.  I thought I had better give a little backstory to how we acquired Juneau, our nine-year-old husky.

My love of the breed began when I was in high school, and a neighboring town’s school mascot was the husky.  At a track meet, one of the handsomest boys at that school had an adorable split-eyed pup, and the image of the sled dog as the perfect breed was cemented in my mind as perfection.  Behind the picket fence that surrounded the Queen Anne Victorian in my mind, sat a Siberian husky.

I’ve owned three dogs as an adult, and all three have been huskies. Never mind that I live where sledding is possible for about eight minutes per year, usually in April.  Never mind that the summer temperatures regularly rise above 100 degrees, causing dogs with arctic undercoats to blow them like cattails gone to seed.  Never mind that I live in town, and huskies are notorious escape artists.

After my first dog, Regal, died in an accident while I was on vacation, and my second one, Malachai, died of a terminal illness, I decided that pet ownership and I were not compatible.  I vowed that I would never acquire another dog.

I was on the wagon for six long years.  During that time, I avoided all interaction with dogs and dog owners.  I wasn’t judgmental toward friends who still indulged; I just couldn’t hang around them anymore. I knew that a strict moratorium on contact with animals -- heck, even contact with cat videos on Youtube – would be necessary. During those years, I didn’t even watch Lady and the Tramp.

When my oldest daughter, now 16, was about six, she began to question my past.  Paging through old photo albums, Millie found pictures of Regal and Malachai, and she looked at me with sad, accusing eyes.  It was as if she were seeing her mother as an imperfect human for the first time.  Not only that, but many of her friends owned dogs.  And while it was okay for me, as an adult, to cut out all my associations with dog-owning acquaintances, who was I to choose my six-year-old’s friends?  The old photos, combined with a little backsliding in the zero-tolerance contact policy, were a slippery slope.

I had been secretly perusing the buy-sell-trade pet postings for about two months, when I happened across a litter of newborn husky pups, located in a town about an hour away.  Though I willed my eyes away from the photos, those curly tails seemed to wag just for me.  You know how the Mona Lisa’s eyes seem to be looking right at the viewers, no matter where they stand?  These dang pups’ ice-blue eyes followed me even when I wasn’t at my computer and didn’t have my phone!

I started finding excuses to go to the town in which the pups were located. The first few times were just drive-bys.  I’d pretend to need something in the residential section of the town where the puppies were located, or I’d get lost and end up on the wrong side of the tracks.  In my heart, I knew it was only a matter of time until I cracked.

She was the quietest of the litter, a bit of a loner, the only female left in the bunch.  I told myself that a female dog might be milder, might not take as much training, might not be prone to destructive behavior.  She was small, too -- a bit of a runt.  When I loaded her into the crate I just happened to have brought along that day – can’t remember why that thing was in the car – she just gazed at me patiently. I named her Juneau, spelled like the capitol of Alaska.

I told Joel to close his eyes and hold out his hands.  As much of a sucker as I am for cute puppies, I knew Joel was as bad or worse. Since he depended on me to be the voice of reason in our operation, I figured he’d be mighty shocked when I placed this little fur ball in his arms.  And I was right.  He was smitten right away.  So were the kids, of course.  Clementine wasn’t born then, so she’s never known life without a pet, though she has certainly jumped right on the hedgehog bandwagon as if owning a mere dog is neglect on par with starvation.

Rest assured, as soon as Juneau’s life is lived, I’ll be right back on that wagon again.  Dogs and I just aren’t compatible, and huskies don’t belong on the high plains. But now that she’s here, we might as well enjoy her. 

Host of Little Spouse on the Prairie, a regional comedy feature that airs Sundays at 8:35 a.m. during Weekend Edition.