I gave the kids away. The dogs were allergic. I have had children and dogs, and I am here to tell you, dogs are more dependable. You know what to expect with a dog. That is not the case with a child. I recently had to say goodbye to a four-legged family member. It is always hard because it means a chapter has closed. In fact, the chapters of our lives become marked by the names of our dogs and cats. There are chapters in my life titled Sheppie, Big John, Little John; the list goes on and on. These chapters of life have their beginning, middle and ending, each so unique, written with love and laughter. Let me share a few excerpts from my favorite chapters.

From the chapter of my life titled, Brown Dog: For a while, we had a lake dog. He was of unknown lineage, but could tell time. He would meet us every weekend at the cabin just like clockwork. We called him Brown Dog because his fur was black. We’d yell “Brown Dog,” and people would look at us and then to the dog trying to figure it all out. He ate with us, played with us, and protected us. The only bad thing about Brown Dog was his habit of getting in the trash. We figured you take the good with the bad.

We attended a little country church about a mile or so away from the cabin. This particular Sunday we arrived, and there sat Brown Dog in front of the church. It was hot, so all of the church doors and windows were wide open. Brown Dog greeted us and walked in and jumped up in the pew next to my mother. A couple of hymns were sung, but there was dissension among the faithful, whispers about the disgrace of a dog in church. It was at this time that the minister stepped in front of the podium. “I can tell that a lot of you don’t approve of a dog in church.” He shook his head,” You shouldn’t feel that way, because you don’t know what the dog will get out of the service.” As the bell rang announcing church was over, everyone came up to pet the newest member of the congregation. The next Sunday there were three dogs in church. I am also pleased to report that after his introduction to religion, Brown Dog never got in the trash again.

From the chapter of my life titled: Little John: Little John was a Cocker Spaniel. He was extremely smart and loving. He loved to rough house. He would jump on the bed, dive under the covers, and the fun would begin. John went with us everywhere and so when it was time for a little vacation with my parents, he was my dad’s navigator. We stopped one night in Indiana. With room keys in hand, Dad and John hurried to investigate the hotel room, leaving us to bring in the luggage. Loaded down, we could see John and my Dad as they moved down the hall looking for room 710. Finding it, Dad inserted the key and opened the door. John shot in. Dad motioned for us to hurry up. At that moment, yells and screams erupted from room 710. “My lord, it’s a dog!” “He’s got my panties!” Dad rushed in to find a happy honeymooning couple trying to make sense of the black dog that was also now under their covers. John was up to his old tricks barking, licking and jumping around. We arrived on the scene dragging the luggage. Now our entire family was in their room yelling, “John! Come here!” It didn’t help that the grooms’ name was John as we found out later. We introduced ourselves to the newlyweds as they lay in bed, covers pulled up to their chins. Frantically the desk clerk arrived in the room apologizing for the mistake. He asked everyone to be the hotel’s guests at a 7 p.m. dinner later that night. We picked up our luggage and said goodbye to the couple in bed. Awkward! When we arrived for dinner that night, we were seated next to the newlyweds. More Awkward!

From the chapter of my life titled, Fat Boy: Fat Boy was a noble black lab. He watched after my boys, guarding them, with unwavering eyes. An incredible judge of character, he once bit a prominent lawyer. One day I picked the boys up from school and returned home. Immediately upon opening the door, we knew that something was wrong. Dining room chairs were overturned, and a lamp was on the floor. Wide-eyed the boys both exclaimed, “Robbers!” That’s when we heard a bump and crash from the next room. I have to admit that my heart was beating a bit faster. Grabbing an umbrella from the entryway as a weapon, the boys behind me, we edged our way into the living room. It was a mess, and there, in the middle of the chaos, was the noble Fat Boy. A cereal box was stuck on his head. He would go in one direction until he crashed into something, then would change directions and crash into something else. He was like one of those windup toys. I removed the box from his head. Sheepishly he retreated to under the dining room table. Fat Boy’s nobility was no match for Captain Crunch.

Chapter after chapter, our lives are enriched by those with four paws. I have three chapters currently being written, titled: Kitty Kitty Meow Meow, Bella and Muggsy. There will be more chapters in the future, but having just closed a chapter titled Sweet Nellie, I had to take a moment to reflect. Our pets not only give us love, but they are markers and signposts in our lives, reminding us just how sweet and fun life can be.

On my walk, this morning a small dog followed me. He appeared homeless. I gave him a dog treat that I had squirreled in my pocket. We seemed to hit it off. One chapter ends, and maybe a new one begins. Oh, I didn’t really get rid of the kids. I just keep them in their kennels.

STEVE SCEARCY, a Missouri Southern State University graduate and former area resident, is a humor columnist.