A Heart as Big as the Ocean
Birthdays are in the air in our house at the moment. Our daughter turns four in a couple of weeks and talks of little else but parties, friends, balloons and presents. It so happens that our canine family member, Duke, also has his birthday in March and while he will be turning six in human years it is also very nearly five years since we first laid eyes upon him.
Our son had repeatedly begged us for a dog back when we were living in New York. We relocated to Los Angeles in the spring of 2013 and were unexpectedly forced by circumstance to move again, down the road to Orange County only a couple of months later. I unilaterally promised that he could have a dog in a rash attempt to compensate for the further upheaval which we were subjecting our eight year old to. The promise was made and the seeds were planted.
Several months later we were settling into Huntington Beach which would be home for the next few years. Out and about one Saturday afternoon, our son insisted that we stop for refreshments. Strolling in the mall we saw an American Pitbull Rescue event and amidst all the dogs who were milling around there sat one calm and collected brown and white character. We all swear that we saw him first; whatever the truth of the matter we instantly bonded with him and filled out adoption papers that evening.
Looking back it’s hard to remember our lives before his arrival. My husband, son and I had been a tight knit unit of three for a long time and we were gloriously unprepared for how big Duke’s presence would be, in every way. Memories of those early days make me smile now; the feeling of being an imposter as I walked him around our neighborhood, the shredded bedding- endless amounts, the mangled shoes and the late evening energy surge where he would tear around the house in a puppyish frenzy. And always, as now, the limitless cuddles, smiles and love.
In a wonderful twist of fate we found out that we were expecting our second child less than a month after Duke became part of our family. Neither of my pregnancies were easy and the sickness I suffered with the second was worse than the first. Duke was my companion throughout every long day and my protector whenever we walked. He seemed to have a sixth sense about my condition; they say that dogs can sense pregnancy. Our daughter’s arrival initially brought some upheaval and we needed the help of a trainer to ensure that we all understood how to behave to ensure that pack order was maintained in our household!
Duke has watched over our daughter as she has grown from baby to toddler and now to a little girl approaching school age. The bond that he shares with her and with our teenage son is unbreakable; a powerful example of exactly why these creatures were once regarded as the all American family dog. He is loyal to a fault, protective and always ready to play whatever game my daughter devises. While he loves the outdoors and his exercise, whether running in the waves along the beach or simply sniffing the news around the neighborhood, he is happiest when all the family are together at home and he gets to cuddle with whomsoever he chooses. He has snuggled his way into all of our hearts and our family simply would not be the same without him.