“DOG: A kind of additional or subsidiary Diety designed to catch the overflow or surplus of the world’s worship.” Ambrose Bierce

My husband’s mother cancelled Christmas one year after her dog Mopsy died. She didn’t get another dog for over twenty years. When my husband’s favorite Golden Retriever died I said I thought it was a little disrespectful for him to want a quick replacement, but I immediately jumped in to seek out another. We picked up a new puppy a week after burying Elizabeth.

When my best friend Rosie died suddenly last summer, I vowed never to get another Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – then I started looking. Over the years the breed has become a status symbol. The interview process can be ridiculously grueling. I tried to explain to my husband why the breeders had to be so — particular.

“Golden breeders aren’t such snobs,” he would often say, and it’s true.

And then I discovered a new breed, one I had never heard of, one that intrigued me, one with a LONG life expectancy. Losing two dogs in less than a year had been tough on us. I wanted to avoid the pain if we could.

I deleted all of the Cavalier Instagrams I followed. I couldn’t handle seeing so much cuteness knowing I would never have another Rosie. I started following Tibetan Spaniel Instas instead. My husband was still bent on getting me a Cavalier puppy.

“It’s your signature breed,” he said. “I don’t care if they cost $6000 and still have heart murmurs that slowly kill them.”

“No. I want a Tibbie,” I said, not sure at first if I meant it, but then I did.

My husband stayed up nights scouring the breeder map and was willing to drive all the way to the Mississippi if need be (we had only driven a few hours to get the Golden puppy, but there’s no stopping him once on a mission). The phone rang one day (it was one of the top breeders of Tibbies!). “Oh, so you have no litters planned? But you have a retired show dog who sticks his tongue out too much? I’ll ask her, but she wants a puppy. Yes, send us a picture.” My husband turned to me. “You’re already settling on the breed and now it’s a two-year old dog …”

The email came through and I gasped — I actually really gasped. I was instantly in love with ZACK. Even the name spoke of greatness somehow. And he is pretty terrific. Before him we had only female dogs and they always fought. He walked in the door, glanced around, claimed the best couch and put all the other dogs in their place. Nala, the big white non-farm dog always seemed jittery in her alpha dog position. Now she can finally relax.

All dogs need to ask if they can join Zack’s humans on the couch and the bed. Actually the bed is off limits to the big girls now. He gathers all of the toys and doles them out as he sees fit and lounges at my side when I write. Sometimes you have to try new things or new breeds.

My husband has more than returned the favor. I still miss Rosie and Elizabeth, but there’s always more room for love.

“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.”

― Dean Koontz, False Memory

Dean Koontz