First we had fish. Then we had hamsters. It began as one hamster. One hamster gave birth to many. And then my brother and I were forced to give them all back to the pet store.

After the hamster debacle we weren’t allowed any more pets. Somehow we managed to acquire a parakeet. It was lonely, so we got another parakeet and they became fast friends. One parakeet was eventually found dead, stuck in an odd position in the food dish. The other parakeet died soon after, presumably due to aching sorrow and loneliness.

Through all of this, I longed for a dog. I wanted a small dog, because small dogs were cute. And I was a small child myself, so I guess I wanted something in proportion to my own size.

There was no way, with my history of animal ownership, my parents were going to let me have a dog.

Preparation was in order, for the day my parents would give in. I prepped myself for becoming a proud, new dog owner by reading about them at the local library. The book section that carried a volume for each dog breed became a routine stop during my library trips. Each book was rich with photos and information on canine temperament and care. I thumbed through many of those dog books, before realizing we were definitely not getting a dog. Eventually I bought a small guide book (with my own allowance) on common dog breeds and read it cover to cover. Identifying dog breeds while I was out and about grew to be a favorite pastime.

illustration of a dog

More than 20 years later, at long last, I have a dog of my own. His name is Bear. Bear is a shelter dog, likely a schnauzer-poodle mix, rescued from the mean streets of Long Beach when he was less than a year old. He’s still got youthful energy at about six years old. I must be doing something right.