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ValueSpeak: A wolf at the door and in the heart
Ollie and I have a strange and wonderful relationship. I think its strange to have a pet that is definitionally wild. Ollie thinks it would be wonderful to eat me. - photo by Joe Walker
Ollie and I have a strange and wonderful relationship. I think its strange to have a pet that is definitionally wild. Ollie thinks it would be wonderful to eat me.

Strange. And wonderful.

Thats us.

Jon, our youngest child who lives at home while going to college, has wanted a dog ever since he was a toddler. But we have always said no because several members of our family including my wife, Anita, and I are allergic to dogs. At least, we were. But when Jon brought 2-week-old Ollie short for Olivia (dont get me started about that) home for a test visit, neither Anita nor I reacted allergically to the pup. With that excuse out of the way, it was tough to resist those loving, longing eyes.

Jons, not Ollies.

And so we have a dog that is part wolf. Let that roll around in your brain for a second. While Ollie is also part German shepherd and part black Lab, she comes from the same genus that gave us the Big Bad Wolf, a wolf in sheeps clothing, the frightening protagonist in Peter and the Wolf and those nasty wolves who tried to eat Anna, Kristoff and Sven in Frozen.

For some reason, Ollie the part-wolf has decided that she doesnt like me. Shes fun and lively with everyone else. She plays wonderfully well with the grandchildren, she adores Anita and she is absolutely devoted to Jon. But when she sees me, she hunkers down in that wolf stance of hers and growls menacingly and barks angrily. I dont get it. I give her bologna and beef jerky, for Petes sake. But still she growls and barks at me like she somehow knows that right from the beginning I was the one dragging my feet about having her here at our house.

It isnt that I dont like her. Well, OK I guess it kind of is. Dont get me wrong shes a great dog. She is personable and affectionate, and she seems to be pretty smart. But I confess and I know that this is a significant confession in the eyes of many Im not exactly what you would call a pet person.

It hasnt always been that way. We had pets when I was a kid: a parakeet and three dogs. The morning the parakeet died was one of the most traumatic of my young life. As I recall, we had put the bird in her cage outside on the porch for one reason or another, and the next thing we knew there was nothing in the cage but feathers. We suspected the neighbors cats. For years after that, I would tear up whenever a cartoon came on featuring Sylvester the cat and Tweety Bird. As far as I was concerned, I tawt I taw a puddy tat just wasnt funny.

We didnt fare much better with the dogs. The first one had an ugly incident with a lawn mower. The second one ran away after following me to baseball practice. And the third one, well, we dont really know what happened to Toro, the worlds cutest and friendliest Chihuahua. One minute he was outside yapping good naturedly at kids as they walked past our house on their way home from school. And the next minute he was gone.

We suspected dognapping. But we could never prove it.

From that time until now I havent been anxious to have another pet. I dont like the messes they make, biological and otherwise. I dont like being licked and smelled. I dont like being the object of growling and barking. I dont like pet hair and pet odor. And I really, really dont like the possibility of pain when you give your heart to a furry or feathery little friend.

But Im afraid its too late for that now. Ollie has moved in to our house, and whether I like it or not, to my heart. And thats probably just as well. As columnist/curmudgeon Andy Rooney said, The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.

Even, it turns out, if the dog is part wolf.
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