Rosie and Camellia have been so important in my life, but they aren’t the only dogs to touch my heart.  Long before I got my very own dog, my extended family introduced me to what it was like to love animals.

Muffin, Bandit, Sinja, Roxanne and Gilbert.  Call them my cousins, or, well, my cousins’ pets, both past and present.

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When I was a kid, Muffin, Bandit and Sinja were the reasons I wanted a dog of my very own.  I bugged my parents endlessly, and whenever I got to visit any of those pups, all I could dream of was a dog of my very own.

Finally, when we moved out of our apartment and into my family home, I was able to be a pet owner myself.  But that doesn’t change how much I love the pets that have been and are a part of my extended family.

Let’s start with Muffin.  That sweet, kind-hearted black and brown pup was my first experience with a dog.  If I reach into the deepest depths of my memory bank, she’s probably in some of my earliest memories, including Thanksgivings, Christmases and Easters.

My Aunt Pat and Uncle Denny’s dog, I can’t recall much about Muffy because I was so little and she was an older girl, but I remember being happy to see her when I went to visit their home.  She had a lot of love to give and she’ll forever be in my heart because of that.  My Dad, aunt, uncle and cousins, Tammy and Denny Michael, still talk about her with fondness to this day.  You can tell she is truly missed and still very much loved.

I was also very young when my mother’s cousins had Sinja.  I loved that little gray pug with the smushed in face!  Too cute.

Sinja (Photo Credit): Heather Lang)

Sinja (Photo Credit: Heather Lang)

My cousin Matt has always loved pugs, and Sinja is the first one I remember him having.  The times I got to see them also meant quality time with my Grandpap, Grandma and great Grandma.  They were always a soft touch around family dogs, and taught me the importance of kindness to animals.

Photos of that little pug and me as a little girl still bring a smile to my face.  I miss her funny snorty breathing, but the memories I have of playing with her and my grandparents, I’ll keep with me forever.

Finally, Bandit.

What can I say about this wonderfully loyal and caring animal that would do her justice?  She may have looked intimidating as some sort of Shepard mix, but Bandit was the most loving, gentle dog I think I’ve ever met.

My cousin Tammy’s dog, I’d spend hours on the floor or couch at family gatherings and summer picnics when I was a child just petting her.  Bandit was content and relaxed.

Now, I was young, but I always got the feeling I was more than safe with her.  Like she’d chase away all the monsters.  Brave, loyal, patient and strong, Bandit holds a very special place in my heart.  I just wish I’d have had more time with her.

And lastly, we’ve arrived at my other two furry cousins.  Sweet and loving Roxanne and goofy screwball Gilbert.  These two belong to my cousins, Tammy, and her younger brother, Denny Michael.

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If you’re wondering, Roxanne came after Bandit.  I didn’t think any dog could live up to Bandit, but Roxy is equally as special.  Almost an extension in Golden Retriever form.

Just as I loved sitting and petting Bandit all day, I love to do the same with Roxy.  In fact, I loved her so much when Tammy and her family first got Roxy that I decided a Golden Retriever would be perfect for me, too.  Thus, I adopted Camellia about a year later.

Roxanne (Photo Courtesy: Family Photo)

Roxanne (Photo Courtesy: Family Photo)

No, Roxy and Camellia are not related by blood.  And Roxy is blond while Camellia is tan.  But they’re still cousins, and they both make family gatherings interesting.  There’s a lot of cute begging under the table for a scrap of holiday dinner!

But really, it wasn’t until my cousin Denny Michael adopted Gilbert the black Lab that family gatherings got really exciting.  I swear, those two were made for one another!

Wild and boisterous, and that’s probably putting it mildly, they’re two peas in a pod.  Gilbert is a one-man wrecking crew, you better hold onto your drink otherwise it’ll end up on the floor and none of his Christmas presents ever get home because he chews them up and pulls out all the stuffing in a matter of minutes.

Gilbert (Photo Courtesy: Family Photo)

Gilbert (Photo Courtesy: Family Photo)

I’m sure he’d eat all the Thanksgiving stuffing in a matter of seconds, too, if my Aunt Pat would put the pot down on the floor!

But how can you not love this rowdy boy?  I’m certainly glad he came into our lives even though he’s a lot different from the calm, quiet, gentle dogs that I’m used to.

I happy that they’ve all been in my life.  Just like Rosie and Camellia – Muffy, Sinja, Bandit, Roxy and Gilbert have changed me for the better and life would have been very different without them.

Thank you for all the special memories I have.  I’ll hold on to them forever.  And thank you for teaching me how special the love of an animal can be.  It’s one of the most important gifts I’ll ever receive.


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