Dogs and Curvy Spines

I’ve been ignoring part of my own subtitle—the stalking strangers’ dogs part.

Rookie Vernick

I do. It’s something I cannot help. When I see a dog—not all dogs, but certain dogs—I need to connect. They are often dogs who share some attributes with my own beloved Rookie, but not always. I have knocked on strangers’ car windows, walked up to people I do not know in parks, sat next to the person with the dog at youth ballgames. There are more than a few previous strangers, now facebook friends, who can attest to the fact that I sent them a message about the gorgeous profile picture of their dog. I have hung out with the dog at parties when I didn’t like the people, and sometimes even when I did.

I heart dogs.

And we’ll be getting a new one at the end of this summer. I think.

Created by TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY DRUMS and IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? illustrator Daniel Jennewein, one of my prized possessions: a painting of the buffalo proudly walking Rookie.

Rookie is ten. We used to walk three to four miles together every day. He can rarely do that now. In the summer, he often can’t even handle half of that. And I’m not inclined to walk alone. Which is the reason I’ll give my husband for why I need a new dog—this model’s getting old; let’s pick up a new one. He will not welcome the disruption that comes with a puppy, but he will understand from a fitness perspective.

illustration wherein Daniel Jennewein officially earns title Best Guy of All Time

There’s a sub-story here too. My daughter has scoliosis. I told myself if she ever needed treatment—i.e., to start wearing a brace—I would get her a puppy. Treatment started in November, when she was eleven. But the timing was off. I traveled a lot this year, and I have to be here for the early months; I’m definitely the family puppy trainer. My second-in-command will be very good too, with thanks to Victoria Stilwell, whose showhas created a brilliant training mind in a young but devoted viewer.

back when they were pups

Here’s the tie-it-together story: When we came home with the brace for the first time, NOT a fun day, Rookie seemed scared of the brace. It broke my heart—it wasn’t bad enough she had to wear the brace? Now her beloved dog was going to be rude about it? I imagined Rookie keeping his distance from her forever because the brace flat out spooked him.

My daughter calmly went to get some treats. She worked him through some commands, and rewarded him with treats that she placed right on the brace (to be clear, reader: the brace was on the ground at this point, not on the human child). She did this a few times and honestly, that was all it took. Rookie was fine with the brace from then on.

Our new puppy, or possibly young dog, will be very, very lucky to meet this young trainer. And when strangers come running after us to ask me about my old dog or my young one, I will be very kind and patient, because I understand.

as captioned by my daughter, precious and kind of disgusting at the same time

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About Audrey Vernick

Audrey Vernick writes books for young readers.
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6 Responses to Dogs and Curvy Spines

  1. I don’t know how much you can prepare to lose an old dog who’s been with you since puppyhood. When ours died two summers ago it was a beautiful, non-intervention death, and I was heartbroken much beyond what I’d expected. Two days later I (and my co-conspirator daughters) brought home a bin of puppies to foster and find good homes for, to the chagrin of my husband. The one we kept isn’t anything like my beloved Willie, William Shakespeare. As with the death of a beloved human, that void never fills in completely.
    I don’t envy you what’s coming. Consider shortening the time between the loss of one and the introduction of the next one. I think it helped me.
    And btw your daughter IS brilliant. I will start watching that show (we’re fans of Cesar Milan, here).

  2. YH says:

    Amazing insight. I am lucky enough to know both Rookie Vernick and his family and may I just say, they are good people. And dog.

  3. Mary Z says:

    Love your Rookie!
    My daughter and I are major dog people (and fans of Victoria). Our first dog was an elderly poodle. When he began to get ill, we adopted a second dog in preparation for our first dog’s passing. Now we have three adopted dogs of various ages and they’re all healthy. So we are covered for many years of love. Here’s pix of our pack: http://www.maryzisk.com/bio.html

  4. I heart this post. Your daughter sounds wonderful. And–of course there’s a middle grade in this. THANK YOU!

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