Missing the Dogs

By Shirley Zindler, April 2015, Updated July 2016

I was on vacation in a tropical paradise with the love of my life. One whole week with perfect weather and no responsibilities, no work stresses and no heavy uniform. I lay on shore with the sun on my skin, my toes in the sand and wearing nothing but a floral sundress. My darling husband sat beside me and our hands were intertwined. The whales were playing off shore and turtles and tropical fish were visible from my chair. The balmy breeze tickled my skin and the palm trees and blue green waters were picture perfect.

I was having the time of my life. Still there was a longing, unfulfilled, that rears its head frequently during the week. There aren’t many dogs where we are, nestled among our fellow vacationers. Mostly retirees with their chest high Bermuda shorts and some families with kids out for spring break. Hardly a dog to be seen. When I see a dog trotting along with a local, I stare shamelessly, eagerly, like a kid in a candy store.  

Babies and dogs bring up similar feelings in me, powerful maternal things, a longing to touch, embrace and connect on a deeper level. I try to hold back, feeling ridiculous at the desire to fawn over every dog I see. I’m an animal control officer for heaven’s sake. I work with dogs all day, every day. I have four dogs of my own and always have foster dogs or puppies at home. You would think I would get over it, or at least be able to get through a week’s vacation without feeling the need to throw myself at every dog I see. I mostly hold back, both out of respect for the dog’s space and for the owners.

Thankfully my dog withdrawal is somewhat eased by an adorable brown poodle cheerfully greeting shoppers in an outdoor market. I restrain myself but he sees me watching him and prances over and lets my husband and I adore him close up, tousling his curly coat and laughing as he licks our hands.

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The next day I see a big hunky pit bull lounging in the shade near the beach with his person. I catch his eye and he bounces over, muscles rippling and a huge doggy grin on his face. Some dogs don’t like close contact but this big marshmallow of a boy burrows his big head into me, snuggling and wiggling as close as he can. He’s one of those mushy dogs who can’t get enough human attention and I can’t get enough of dogs so we have a happy little love fest for a few moments. Finally he tears himself away and back to his owner leaving me with my dog fix temporarily satisfied.  

I think I must have been born with the desire to connect with dogs. I’ve always been drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Some people develop it later in life and are equally smitten but either way, I can’t imagine life without dogs. They are just such an incredible gift.

When were you hit with the doggy bug? Has it always been there or was there a turning point that made you a dog lover?

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Shirley Zindler is an animal control officer in Northern California, and has personally fostered and rehomed more than 300 dogs. She has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Zindler just wrote a book The Secret Lives of Dog Catchers, about her experiences and contributes to Bark’s blog on a regular basis.