Archive for Monday, April 18, 2011


River City Jules: Family wins war on dog

April 18, 2011


Growing up, I always wanted a dog. But my (very wise) mother insisted there was a city ordinance prohibiting pet ownership for families of six. Instead of training a dog, my sister and I grew up teaching our twin brothers how to sit, stay and roll over. Eventually they got pretty good at it.

As I became an adult, a wife and then a mother with people to raise and carpets to clean, my desire for a dog waned to nearly nothing. Owning a dog ranked somewhere on my to-do list between learning how to change my own oil and amputation.

My husband, however, never quite shook that yearning for a dog. After many years of being shot down by his wife, he made one last plea.

I had given him the book “Chasing Daylight” by Eugene O’Kelly. Gene, the late CEO of KPMG, wrote this book in the last 100 days of his life, from the time he was diagnosed with terminal cancer until he died. Gene illustrates beautifully the importance of spending each day on earth living out your dreams.

After reading the book, my husband came to me with tears in his eyes. Moved by the message, he was clearly ready to divulge his heart’s greatest wish. Knowing he had always hoped to explore the Great Barrier Reef or bike in France, I started mentally packing my bags for the trip of a lifetime. He was ready to start in on his bucket list, and I couldn’t wait to see where we would go.

“After reading this book,” he began, “it hit me that the one thing I really want to experience before I die… ” I braced myself. Cruising the Mediterranean? Buying a beach house? “… is having a dog.”

I did not remember the part about “go buy a dog” in that book. What about the Oscars? Touring with Madonna as a back-up dancer? Volunteering in an African village with Oprah and Gayle?

Clearly our bucket lists were very different.

But as the kids circled around me begging, it slowly sank in that I was severely outnumbered.

As luck would have it, our kids’ school had an auction two weeks later, and a breeder had donated a Labradoodle to the cause. We walked into that auction a family of humans, and — after downing a few chocolate martinis that suddenly made this the cutest canine I had ever seen, similar to the beer goggles from days gone by — we walked out of that auction a family of six humans plus one dog.

My husband’s dream had become my reality.

This past weekend we celebrated the fourth anniversary of that fateful night I drank enough to buy a puppy. And for the next 8-10 years (but who’s counting?), if any child or husband of mine questions whether or not I love them, I need only to point to the dog begging for someone to take him outside and play fetch for proof that indeed, I do.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


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