Jim Witt

Only dog owners understand how a canine can actually become part of your family

Yesterday was a significant anniversary for my wife and me. If you’re not a dog owner, you probably wouldn’t understand.

Thirteen years ago, on Nov. 26, 2000, our Brittany spaniel — cleverly named “Brittany’’ — passed away at age 14. I had never owned a dog before, and haven’t since, but I understand now why people say your dog really becomes a member of your family.

Brittany was “our little girl,’’ especially since Nancy and I have been married 30 years and never had any children.

Like a lot of things that happen in my life, I had no knowledge that I wanted a dog until my wife told me we would be getting one. We had just moved to Texas in 1986 — a return for me because I was born in Fort Worth, but a totally new experience for Nancy, who had lived in Miami, Fla., her whole life.

She didn’t have any friends or family around for the first time and thought maybe a dog would be fun, although growing up she was scared of them.

So we set out to get one. Didn’t have a breed in mind, but one day we were shopping at Six Flags Mall and walked by Dr. X, a pet store. We decided to go in, and Brittany was one of the dogs in the window.

They put her in a room for us to visit. She was all blue eyes and paws too big for her body and liver-colored freckles. She scrambled around excitedly on the floor, and I told my wife that if she liked the breed we really shouldn’t buy it from a pet store in the mall because those animals came from “puppy mills’’ and that we would be better off going to a reputable breeder.

Reluctantly, Nancy walked away and we visited a Brittany spaniel breeder the next week. But on the way home she said, “I want the hound dog that was in the window,’’ and of course you know what happened next.

Within a week, Brittany dug out of our yard twice and was missing for hours, and then she suffered a broken leg when we left her in the garage during bad weather one day and a clay pot fell on her.

Then she got heartworms. Then she needed a root canal because we put her in a cage so she wouldn’t be so active while undergoing treatment for the heartworms and she tried to chew through the metal bars.

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Once Nancy’s sister sent Brittany a box of dog biscuits as a Christmas present and we put the wrapped package under the tree. We returned later that night to find paper strewn everywhere and we thought “Oh no, she’s ripped all the presents apart.’’

But she had only opened her gift!

And she knew when we were ordering pizza. I could make 10 phone calls to work and Brittany wouldn’t get excited. But somehow she knew when I called in a pizza order.

As soon as I hung up she would race to the front door and wait for the delivery to show up. She politely waited behind me while I paid for the order and sat by patiently without begging while we ate the pizza.

But she also knew we would sometimes throw the rest of the pizza away and forget to put the trash can in the garage, and while we were asleep she would make her move. The next morning, when we found trash all over the floor and an empty pizza box, she feigned ignorance about what happened. Although she followed Nancy everywhere, the morning after pizza she never followed momma into the kitchen.

I could fill up the rest of this page with Brittany stories. Maybe I should write a book, like Marley and Me. But if you’re a dog owner, you already know a million of your own.

We still talk about her almost every day. I doubt I’ll be remembered half as well!

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