Cathy Hamilton: A new home companion

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I didn't want to get another dog. In fact, I was adamant about it.

After grieving for weeks about our beloved Spike's death three years ago, I made the unequivocal announcement:

"That's it. No more dogs for this family. Dogs are nothing but heartbreak and heaps of trouble. They soil your rugs and nip at your guests. They shed all over, bark for no reason in the middle of the night, scaring you to death, and track mud on your clean kitchen floor.

"I've reached the point in life when I want us to be free, spontaneous and unhampered by responsibility. I want to be able to pop off to Europe or Hawaii or - more realistically - Des Moines at a moment's notice without worrying about who's going to take care of the darn dog.

"Besides," I said, "that whole 'man's best friend' thing is such a crock. Would my best friend chew a hole in my brand new Frye boots like that no-good mutt Amos did in 1978?

"Would my BFF ever dream of emptying his bladder on the living room rug minutes before a hundred guests arrived for our holiday open house party, like Spike did in 2003?

"No best friend of mine would try shenanigans like that, I guarantee you!"

My rant had a firm foundation in fact.

We've had a checkered history with the canine set. I blame it on my side of the family tree.

When I was little, we had an English setter named Candy that my dad kept in a kennel in the country and used primarily for quail hunting. Candy rarely came to visit us in the suburbs, which probably made sense to Dad at the time. There were lots of little kids at home, and Candy was more bird-trained than people-trained like, say, Lassie, my personal dream dog.

But it felt odd when other families in the neighborhood kept their pets in their houses full-time, and we saw Candy only on specified weekends.

Our next dog was a baby beagle I desperately wanted to name Becky. After intense lobbying and under-the-kitchen-table bribery, I was outvoted, 4-1, by my family, who dubbed the dog Lulu. It was a devastating defeat I refused to take lying down, so I called the confused little thing "Becky" in private. In the end, Lulu couldn't stop nipping at our heels, so we gave her to our neighbors across the street.

After failing to integrate a small dog into a growing family, the next logical move was to procure one of the largest breeds in existence. We named our old English sheepdog puppy Guinevere and watched her grow before our eyes. Within weeks she was enormous and routinely knocking my poor baby sister flat every time she barreled around a corner.

Guinevere eventually was sold to a woman with a wig and a bad check who turned out to be a key operative in a well-known but elusive international dognapping ring. Subpoenas and court appearances ensued, and my parents unwittingly became star witnesses for the feds.

Stung by that experience, we waited a few years until bringing Sam the peekapoo into our family. Sam was an adorable fluffball who was loved by all - that is, until my mother ran over him in the driveway with her station wagon.

I wept for hours at the news. It took months before my mother could back out of the driveway without having a flashback.

Is it any wonder I had no desire to get another dog? There's obviously something amiss in my DNA.

I didn't mention any of this to the Humane Society, of course. Besides, Lucy - the cocker spaniel pup we welcomed into our home on Friday - technically belongs to my daughter. By agreement, she's the one who will be caring for and training the dog.

Let's just hope her dog-raising genes come from her father's side of the family.

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