THIS IS US

How I Became a Dog Person

I didn’t want to get the dog, but my daughter insisted, and she was the one who was dying

Jacqueline Dooley
Published in
8 min readFeb 3, 2023

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Roo, age 4 months — photo by Ana Dooley

Back in 2016, getting a dog seemed impossible. We already had so much on our plate and adding one more thing — a wild card, an element of chaos, another responsibility — was not remotely appealing to me at the time.

But my daughter insisted, and she was the one who was dying.

I made the decision to get her the dog when we still had a small measure of hope about her survival. We knew her prognosis was bad, but we were still in fight mode.

In November of 2015, my daughter’s cancer had reached some sort of internal tipping point. Maybe it was because her oncologist stopped one of her medications or maybe the tumors in her lungs, abdomen, and pelvis had multiplied to such an extent that they’d gained the mettle to organize an internal coup.

Whatever the reason, that November there was an explosion of new growth in her abdomen. The next month, a week before Christmas, she endured eight hours of surgery to remove them. By January of 2016, she was preparing for three weeks of radiation, scheduled to commence in February.

That’s when we started the quest for the dog. My husband was not on board, but somehow the three of us — me and the girls — convinced him.

With absolutely no experience in dog ownership (we’d owned cats for years), we set out on a quest to find the dog. I’d been following a senior dog account on Instagram for about a year.

The account showed old dogs getting adopted — being loaded into cars with expressions of wide-eyed gratitude, their muzzles gray, tongues lolling as they rested weary heads on open windows. They were treated like royalty, showered with comfort after long lives of hardship, loved to the fullest for the remaining time they had left.

I wanted to adopt a dog like this, but my daughter, who had always loved tiny things, wanted a very small dog — a Chihuahua or a teacup Pomeranian or a little Yorkshire terrier. Oh, and, she also wanted a puppy. I learned very quickly that these kinds of dogs are in high demand, nearly impossible to adopt and prohibitively expensive…

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Jacqueline Dooley
Human Parts

Essayist, content writer, bereaved parent. Bylines: Human Parts, GEN, Marker, OneZero, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Pulse, HuffPost, Longreads, Modern Loss