“Nana of the Pack,” Dec. 8, 2015

I call them the Boys. Technically, they’re not boys. But there’s nothing technical about losing your heart.

Oliver and Archie are my daughter’s dogs. She’s had them since they were pups. In dog years, they’re old, or as I say if asked my age: Old enough.

They are highly excitable, fiercely protective and entirely devoted to my daughter, her husband and their 4-year-old, Henry. But their personalities couldn’t be more different.

Archie is a Yorkshire terrier. Barely a foot tall, he’s like a canine Superman, able to leap tall buildings at a single sniff. And he’s crazy about me.¬†Actually, Archie is crazy about everybody. He’d gladly lick the whiskers off a cat burglar.

Oliver is a dachshund, a silky, sleek hotdog on four short legs. Unlike Archie, Oliver reserves his affections for his human family, also known as the Pack. I am not an official member of the Pack, but Oliver has adopted me, it seems, possibly due to my frequent visits and a slight resemblance (some say) to my daughter, whom he adores.

At best, he merely tolerates me. I don’t mind. He also merely tolerates Archie, and it never dampens Arch’s spirits. I’m not sure anything could.

Recently, while my daughter and her family spent a week in Hawaii, I took care of the Boys.

My husband and I drove from our home in Las Vegas, to their home in Monterey, Calif. We stayed nearby at my sister-in-law’s place. Twice a day, morning and evening, I’d go over to feed the Boys and let them out in the backyard to sniff at gopher holes, bark at passing cars and do other things that dogs do so well.

All was fine at first. I’d show up. They’d be glad to see me. We’d go out back to play. I’d fill their bowls with food and water and give Ollie his pills for bronchitis. Then they’d curl up in their bed and I’d leave with a promise to come back soon.

Gradually, I noticed a change. Especially in Oliver. He seemed depressed, didn’t want to get out of his bed or go outside. Even Archie seemed a little down.

To lure them out, I stood at the door and shook a bag of doggie treats my daughter had warned me to offer sparingly.

It worked. After we came back inside, I pulled a shirt of my daughter’s from the hamper, plus a pajama top of Henry’s, and tucked them around the Boys in their bed.

I wish you could’ve seen how happy it made them. Who knew dirty laundry could smell so good?

By the end of the week, we’d gone through three bags of doggie treats. I was staying longer, playing fetch (I threw and fetched, they just watched) or scratching Oliver’s belly while Archie licked my neck.

Sometimes my husband came with me. We’d watch a Warriors’ game on TV while the Boys slept in our laps. I realized we weren’t just taking care of them. They were taking care of us, too.

That’s the gift of animals. You give them food and water. And in return, they give you love. It’s a pretty good deal.

I wasn’t present for the Pack’s big reunion. The flight from Hawaii arrived late, so I didn’t see them until the next day.

Henry told me stories about Hawaii while Archie chewed my hair. Oliver lay at my feet, begging with his eyes.

I knew what he wanted.

When my daughter left the room, I put a finger to my lips to say “shh!” to Henry. Then I slipped doggie treats to both the Boys.

Henry laughed. So did the Boys. You can do worse than make a boy and his dogs laugh.

When I left, the Boys were sleeping. Henry and his mama stood at the door waving.

“Nana!” Henry called. “Good job taking care of our sweeties!”

“Thanks!” I said, beaming.

Four-year-olds and their dogs know how to light you up. The Pack takes care of its own.


  1. Mary Armitage says

    Encouraged to learn you are working on making your wonderful columns available again. Will re read past columns until you are back!

  2. So sweet , your story cheered me up too !! Thanks

  3. Marion Ingber says


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