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My View: When family ties have leashes attached

By Linda Jenkin Costanzo

Owning pets has drastically changed from 50 years ago.

It's become parenting. My son, Brian, bought two Dachshund puppies (or wiener dogs) that lived with us for four years. I fell in love with them. His nickname for me was always "Mimi," but he teasingly called me Grandma after he got the dogs.

I flatly refused to be called Grandma, saying no woman in her right mind would proudly pull up pictures on her phone of grandkids with noses longer than their legs. I think his dogs know my name also. When he tells them they're going to Mimi's, they know it.

Brian originally wanted two male puppies but only one was available, so he took a female. I secretly wondered if perhaps there was a bit of favoritism toward The Boy. I made Brian a proposition — if he'd pay for obedience classes for The Boy, I'd pay and take The Girl. He replied, "Nah. I can train him."

I took The Girl to class. She's bright, obedient, sweet and cuddles. The Boy's best attribute is that he's handsome. And he knows it. With his muscular body and gorgeous brown eyes, he can mesmerize any dog lover while stealing a sandwich off their plate.

Linda Jenkin Costanzo

When my son moved to Maryland three years ago, I missed him and the dogs, yet I was content to be with my two cats and Chico, my other son's cockatiel. Chico had begun to imitate the dogs' bark as if someone were at the door. Fortunately it ceased when the dogs left.

In June, Brian mentioned how the dogs hated going outside in the Maryland heat. I gladly offered to take them for five weeks. Who wouldn't take Buffalo over Maryland in August?

We agreed to meet at a rest stop near the Pennsylvania border. What excitement as they barked, tugged at their leash and lunged at me. What joy I felt as I scooped them into my arms.

I watched my son as he loaded my car with all the dogs' belongings for a five-week stay through Labor Day. Each visit brings more items — special canned food to keep them trim, blankets, doughnut beds, softies to sleep on while in their crate, flea and heartworm preventatives, special dental cream and tooth brushes. The Boy now has allergies. He'll need ear medication. I wondered if Brian would miss the dogs or if this was a nice respite for him through August.

I hugged my son, said goodbye and opened my car door. Like kids, both dogs lunged for the front seat. Brian walked around to the back seat on the passenger side of my car, where The Boy's eyes followed him. He cupped his hands around The Boy's face, kissed him, whispered something and turned away.

I created a bucket list for them as I drove back to Buffalo — parks, bike paths, a car show, creeks, maybe a swim, and my girlfriend's wine bar in Williamsville. The patrons cheer and warmly greet the dogs every time we go there. Such a different life from the crowded suburbs and constant traffic in Maryland. The dogs slept during the ride but began to stir within one mile from my home.

We've done everything on the list. My cats count the days until the dogs return to Maryland. My son rises at 4 a.m. and is in bed by 8 p.m. That routine went out the window when the dogs were with me. The first night, I walked them at 11, gave them treats and they slept until 8 a.m. Parenting dogs has changed. But loving them never does. I also slipped them ice cream from McDonald's.

Fortunately they can't talk. What goes on at Mimi's during summer vacation stays at Mimi's.

Linda Jenkin Costanzo of Clarence will miss her visiting dachsund friends.

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