Have You and Your Dog Switched Roles Over the Years?

X-mas 2007 where we ever that young? (Photo by Doris Newell)

Riggins, my 11-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer mix, and I have always been close. Our relationship, and the roles we play, though, have changed over the years.

I’ve been partners with my baby boy since he came to live with me at 3 months old. That’s an 11-year love-filled relationship. It’s certainly the longest, as an adult, I’ve ever lived with another breathing being.

#Truth (Photo by Wendy Newell)
#Truth. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

For the first year of his life, we lived on the third story of an apartment building in busy Hollywood, Calif. I quickly took on the role of Riggins’ “mom.” Such a little puddle of cuddly puppy, he was hard to resist. It was my job to keep him safe. This was a stressful time.

For example, due to his wiggly nature and fat neck, it became “law” that Riggins had to wear his harness whenever he went outside of the apartment. Of course, my boyfriend at the time refused to follow these and other rules, which had me peeking out the window of our bedroom in the middle of the night when “Dad” took Riggins out for a potty break. I was ready to fly down three flights of stairs and across Sunset Boulevard in my undies and T-shirt if my baby got out of his collar and made a run for it. Of course, I hid my crazy, as any normal person does in a relationship with a significant other, and asked sleepily, “How did it go?” when dog and man crawled back into bed with me. As if I didn’t know!

Riggins as a little puddle! (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins as a little puddle in 2005! (Photo by Wendy Newell)

When Riggins and I moved out on our own, he was getting older and I was getting more secure in his training and personality. Our roles shifted, and he became as much of a protector to me as I was to him. Riggins was a great guard dog, using his big deep voice to let the neighborhood know they needed his permission to get close.

During the next four years of his life, Riggins and I became more independent. We had to. I had to go out and earn the bacon during the day, which meant he had to entertain himself at home. Like most families, we spent evenings and weekends together. Every day when I got home from work, we would go on a 3-mile run, that is until that became too much for Riggins and it transitioned into a walk. Saturday mornings we hit the local off-leash hiking trail. On weekdays, from 7:30 a.m. to 6ish p.m., we were each on our own.

X-mas 2007 where we ever that young? (Photo by Doris Newell)
X-mas 2007 — were we ever that young? (Photo by Doris Newell)
Riggins was forced to be the company mascot in 2007. (Photo by Dick Newell)
Riggins was forced to be the company mascot in 2008. (Photo by Dick Newell)

I was hesitant at first to let Riggins stay in the backyard while I was away from the house. The first time I gave it a try, I went out for a run. At one point, I heard sirens and picked up speed to get home as fast as my little legs could carry me. I had visions of the house burning down and no one helping my sweet boy. Of course, that wasn’t the case. Riggins was fine and eventually he spent most of his time, while I was away, hanging out in HIS backyard.

At his age 6, I changed jobs and began working from home. The first year I traveled up to 50 percent of the time. When I was home, I was a mess: stressed and depressed. That is when Riggins went from being my baby boy to being a best friend too. I suppose that happens with human babies, not that I have a human baby, but I assume. Riggins would have been the equivalent of 40 to 45 in human years at that point in his life, depending on which dog age chart you consult.

Thanksgiving 2010 (Photo by Christy Newell)
Thanksgiving 2010. (Photo by Christy Newell)

Riggins would stay next to me while we were home together. Cuddling up next to me in bed or lying near my feet in my home office. I came to rely on his love and support to get me through to the next day.

These last four-ish years, I’ve worked at home exclusively. For good, or bad, Riggins and I have become somewhat co-dependent. He is my grumpy old man, and I’m guessing he sees me as his silly stubborn mom. We spend so much time together that he is unsettled if I’m not close to him, and I have to say the feeling is mutual. He is my companion and business partner, helping me with the pups we watch as dog sitters and giving me a reason to take a time-out from working at the computer to go for a walk.

Riggins helping with the dog sitting business. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins helping with the dog sitting business in 2014. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

He’s my co-worker, and I happily explain to him what a pain someone has been on the phone, after I hang up, or I gossip to him about a work email. Some may think that is a little weird, but I disagree. Office gossip never gets me in trouble since Riggins is so loyal. He isn’t one to stab me in the back to move up the corporate ladder. He’s content being my sidekick!

The Grumpy Old Man and Silly Mom in 2016. (Photo by Doris Newell)
The Grumpy Old Man and Silly Stubborn Mom in 2016. (Photo by Doris Newell)

The evolution of our relationship from protector to protected to bestie has been a wonderful adventure. Although no matter what, Riggins will always be my baby boy!

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