“He has to retreat into his fanciful world in order to survive. Otherwise, he leads kind of a dull, miserable life. I don’t envy dogs the lives they have to live.”
Charles M. Schulz on Snoopy in an interview with Gary Groth (The Comics Journal, Dec. 1997, Issue #200)
I don’t know a single dog person who doesn’t anthropormorphize her canine companion, whether because, like Schulz, we discount the rewards of living a non-human life, or because our dogs become our surrogate children – and what parent isn’t guilty of projecting her own hopes and dreams onto her offspring?
So, what if real dogs were like the cartoon Snoopy, longing to go home to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm to be reunited with their siblings? There is plenty of scientific and anecdotal evidence to support the psychic connection human twins develop in utero, so why wouldn’t dogs forge a similar bond with their littermates? I’m pretty sure they do, based on how visibly my five-month-old puppy, Eddie, yearns for his daily visits with his sister, Riley.
A bit of family history: Eddie and Riley were born on April 15 to a cocker spaniel mother (Bonnie) and a poodle father (Freddy) at Richard’s Luxury Kennel, a third-generation family business in Leominster. (Eddie’s predecessor, Teddy, also came from Richard’s, and over the years I’ve met several of their Leominster cockapoo cousins.) We chose Eddie when he was only a week old, a palm-sized beige lump. The whole litter of eight fit comfortably into a small hand-basket, curled around each other as if still in the womb. Breeder-owner Stephen Richard shaved a square on Eddie’s belly, so we could tell him apart from his three identical brothers.
I returned several times to visit Eddie, bringing along my good friend Liz on one of those trips. Liz was smitten with the smallest of Eddie’s four sisters, whom she named Riley. In early June, when our puppies were eight weeks old, Liz and I brought them home together, in separate crates in the back seat of my car. Eddie and Riley both cried the whole way to Cambridge. I now realize they were telling us they didn’t want to be apart, but I just turned up the radio and tried to ignore them.
Eddie and Riley didn’t see much of each other this summer because Liz was away on vacation, but since late August we’ve managed to get them together almost every day. We live close by, equidistant from the park where we meet. Now, every time we set out for a walk, Eddie tugs me toward that park; I avoid taking him there unless Liz and I have set up a play-date; otherwise he’ll just sit down and wait by the fence for Riley, refusing to budge until she appears. It breaks my heart to see him pining for his sister, not understanding that the arbitrary human logistics that keep him and sister apart.
When it’s finally time to meet up, I say, “Let’s go see Riley!” and Eddie breaks into a run, straining against the leash. Their reunions are displays of pure, unbridled joy: they race toward each other across the field, wheeling away and somersaulting at the very last second to avert a head-on collision; they chase each other in circles, a frenzy of puppy energy, nipping at each other’s ears and tails, until, exhausted, they tumble dizzily in a pile of panting blond fur, flopping down face-to-face, as if to exchange secrets, or kisses. When it’s time to head home, in opposite directions, they gaze longingly over their shoulders. Watching Eddie and Riley together has convinced me (and Liz) that canine siblings share a special affinity, maybe even a unique twin language only they can understand.
Poor Snoopy lay atop his doghouse, dreaming of a reunion with his long-lost brother Spike; I’m glad Eddie and Riley will always have each other.