My Dog and I’s Love-Hate, But Mostly Love, Relationship

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Ally Stapleton, Editor in Chief

When I brought home our family’s first-ever dog with my sister and my dad in fourth grade, I had idyllic images of the life that Murphy and I would lead together. I envisioned him sprinting after a bright green tennis ball as it left my hand, scampering to retrieve it and galloping back to drop it at my feet in eager anticipation of another throw. I pictured him dog-paddling in Lake Michigan, frolicking (despite his scrawny stature) in the waves with my sisters and me. I anticipated long, lazy evenings spent snuggling together on the cozy, floral-upholstered couch in the living room. I could almost see him gnawing on a squeaky-toy, pausing to look up at me in a canine gaze of unbridled affection and love.

These dreams, much like the floral fabric on that couch, were torn to shreds on Murphy’s first evening as the sixth member of our family.

The destruction of my Lassie-like fantasy commenced during dinner that night, when Murphy began gnawing with energetic enthusiasm not on any of the toys we had bought him, but on our ankles. That first dinner was filled with yelps of pain and abrupt scooching back of chairs as Murphy made his rounds around the table, taste-testing each person’s feet.

I’d like to say that Murphy outgrew the aloof, unaffectionate personality that we discovered in him those first few weeks and turned into a picture-perfect Man’s Best Friend. If I did, I’d be lying. Murphy is, to put it simply, a weird dog. He doesn’t really like us all that much (with the exception of my mom, whom he follows around the house faithfully, displaying his devotion with dedicated and unrelenting barking). He frequently runs away when I attempt to pet him, will occasionally sink his teeth into your hand if you try to pick him up, and chases any and all moving objects as if his survival depends on it. He hates water, never picked up on fetch, and still ignores most of his chew toys (unless they have food inside). Murphy is no Lassie or Winn Dixie or Toto. But for some reason, I still love him.

My family’s love for Murphy is the ultimate picture of stubborn affection. Most days, he only gives us real reasons to be fond of him after 8 p.m., once he’s settled down for the night and will submit to being touched by people other than my mom. For some reason though, we’ve kept him around for the past eight years and I don’t think a single one of us regrets it (thankfully). Some things in life are like that. Things like our favorite sports teams, our go-to outfits, the trash we keep around and call “souvenirs,” things like birthday parties and family reunions and old photo albums: we don’t really have a concrete reason to like any of these things, but for some inexplicable reason, we do. We love them unapologetically, and we keep them in our lives because, for some strange reason, they make us happier. And that stubborn, illogical affection always seems to be worth it.

The analogy isn’t perfect: I suppose Murphy does give us a few reasons to like him. He’s always loved going for walks, he scares most of the squirrels out of our backyard, and (when he’s not biting you) he’s undeniably adorable. Murphy is one of those irreplaceable parts of life which don’t exactly make sense but doesn’t really have to. In all their weirdness, these things make us smile. And that is reason enough to keep them around.