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Pet Stories: In Your Own Words

Terriers Change Lives

By: Nancy Horn

Listen to your terrier!

When I was seven years old my parents let me choose my first dog. I chose a dark brindle Cairn terrier puppy and named her Terry like Shirley’s dog. She was whatever she needed to be for everyone in our family. She guarded my mother while she gardened like a Scottish sentry in the highlands. She padded slowly by my father around the neighborhood so that he could grimace at each poorly mowed lawn. She rode everywhere with me in the basket on my bicycle and slept in my bed every night under the covers with her head on the pillow. If anyone tried to enter my room, Terry planted herself at the foot of my bed and growled like a great bear. She was my best friend in the world and, looking back, I think she was the thread that held our family together. Terry died when I was 13.

I went on to college, graduate school and a career. My parents got two more Cairn Terriers, Sarah and Sandy, that had long happy lives with them after they retired. I chose to have cats since their needs were more easily met and science does not keep nine to five hours. My two wonderful girls, Fable and Chukchi, that I adopted in graduate school were with me for twenty years and died in 1994. I thought at that time that I might be able to arrange my schedule to have a dog in my life once more. I wanted to find a female Cairn puppy. Instead, I ended up with two boys.

That could be the end of the story. I could tell you about Schmooze dog chewing a hole through the kitchen wall. I could tell you about Bounder’s health problems but, like Shirley’s experience with her Terry, the real story is how my life changed when these two pals came home with me. The real story is that everything else became unimportant. Sure, I went to work and I tried to do a good job. I tried to maintain my intensity but I saw the world with an enhanced clarity. More and more, on my long daily walks with the boys, I realized that I knew what was important when I was a child with my Terry many years ago. I rediscovered my love of natural history. Every walk and hike was more important than anything I was doing as a biochemist. I was truly happy for the first time since my childhood when Terry and I would hunt for snakes and tadpoles. My life was changed. I had come full circle.

I quit my job and left behind Southern California, the land of stock options and traffic gridlock, for the mountains of East Tennessee. We have less money but we have more joy. Everyone needs to listen to their terrier even if that terrier exists only in your heart.

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Schmooze & Bounder

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