A Dog Named Katie

By Julie Sando

Mom always named our pets people names. I hated that. We hat a cat named Snoopy once. But that was it. All the other animals had to suffer. A cat named Ethel was first. I guess that was okay because mom named it after her mom. And you don't name a family pet after someone you don't like right?

Then came our dog Patrick. He was with us for such a long time. Then about six years ago mom got Katie. I remember when she was trying to decide what to name her. Though I was grown and with a family of my own I truly felt I had to steer my mom away from another people named animal. Why not something like Itchy or Sunny or Boston or something creative? But not Katie.

Well, shortly after this point in time mom moved back down to Southern California with Katie in tow. For six years actually I think it is closer to 7, Katie has led a sedate life sharing a home in Laguna Hills Retirement Community with Mom, Grandma and grandma's little miniature poodle Alfie. Now Alfie is cool. He looks more like a tiny, tiny black sheep than a dog and he is a real instigator of both fun and trouble. I guess he is kind of like me. Except don't tell me I look like a sheep.

As the story goes Mom becomes very ill and no longer can live with grandma. We her kids need to find her a new home where she can get the kind of help she needs. That means no dog's. No Katie. Katie was all mom had each day. Her own little baby. A fuzzy female Shizu (I am sure I am spelling it wrong and if I spelled it like I think it sounds it would come out more like a bad word). Though I love mom, I do not, did not, would not take the dog. In fact we have had such a bad time with dogs (we used to do cats just fine until our son was found to be highly allergic to them. Now we just have a long beloved outside cat named Buzzy - notice it is not a people name?) Anyway my husband and I had a rule about the next person to bring a dog home unannounced. Shoot on site. Not the dog but the person who brought the dog home, meaning Steve or I. This was a hard and fast rule. Okay so we wouldn't really shoot the person but we wanted to emphasize how strongly we were not going to do this again.

As I write this today there sitting on the floor across the room is a pile of fur. Yes, fir. Not a stuffed animal, not a cat, not a rabbit but A DOG and not just any dog but a dog named KATIE. Seems the people who were going to take her had a change of heart. So poor Katie has been shipped on an airplane to an unfamiliar place and given two homes in about two weeks. I get a call last Thursday begging me to take Katie. Or she would be shipped to a pound. Eeeek. I can't do that. But I don't want a dog.

My brother already has two dogs. He is gone all day at work. So because this isn't just any dog but my mom's dog I feel compelled out of some sense of family obligation to take Katie in. She is beautiful, doesn't error on the carpet, is a lazy lying around dog who loves to be loved. She only has one bad habit. She barks when someone knocks on the door. That's it. And usually it is when I am least expecting it and whatever is in my hand seems to shoot straight out as soon as the shriek fills the room.

At first I thought about changing her name. Maybe calling her "T." Short for Katie. I thought it would be okay. But then I figured it wasn't her fault she had a people name and I probably shouldn't make life any more traumatic. She is a good dog I must confess. How did I get into this mess? Why does having this dog bother me so much? She is great. Then why?

Because, she reminds me of something very unhappy for me. She reminds me of my mom. She reminds me each time I look at her whose she is. Who raised and loved her. Who petted her and took her everywhere. I begin to realize that this dog, this fuzzy little cute thing had more of a relationship with my mom than I did. In seven years she beat my 37. She was close to my mom. They shared a closeness I never had and will never have. She also reminds me that mom is no longer able to take care of herself.

That Katie is here because mom can no longer take care of her. And mom is no longer able to take care of me. She cannot go places with me. She can't offer me advice when I need someone to talk to. She cannot teach me how to sew. She can't baby-sit her grandkids or come to their Birthdays or things at school. She cannot be the parent. She is becoming the child. And if I didn't realize already that I am grown up, I feel it profoundly now. I also feel the little girl in me calling out once more for my mom. Only, she isn't there. I didn't get mom. I got her dog.

Maybe instead of being a sad reminder to me this dog will be a good one. Maybe in time she will remind me that like mom she is innocent of what has happened to her. That she didn't ask for this lot in life. Mom did not ask for Huntington's Disease and neither did Katie ask to be moved. She loved my mom. Maybe this is a way I can honor my mother. By taking care of what is precious to her. You see my siblings can't do it. They are at risk and the pain of what this dog represents is too much to look at. That's how it is sometimes isn't it? We want to push aside what is uncomfortable and causes pain. We don't think about the person we ignore or push aside because all we can think about is our own pain.

Maybe this is my duty since I tested negative and do not have this disease. Maybe I owe this to her. I would like to think that just maybe I am mature enough to do this not because of some sort of obligation but merely because I love my mom and want to give to her in ways that will mean something. She doesn't seem to want or need my gifts of "things" but she would love it that I have her dog.

Maybe Katie is already teaching me how to really give and love. How to accept just as I desire acceptance. Maybe the one who got the best of my mom was her dog. But instead of running away maybe I can face this and thank God that I even have a chance to find a way to be close to her (my mom) in a way that speaks her language. Because in the end that is all that matters. It isn't loving like we want to be loved, but loving in the way that speaks love to the other person while still respecting our own boundaries.

You never know what life will bring. Sometimes it's a dog, even one with a people name.

This story was converted to HTML by Renette Davis with permission from the author, Julie Sando. Send comments to Renette by clicking here or Julie at: UpWithHd@aol.com

Created: Sept. 14, 1999
Last updated: Nov. 30, 2010