Counting a Marriage in Dog Years:

How Our Pets Save Us From Ourselves

7 min readSep 30, 2020


During the long and twisty road of my 27-year marriage, I’ve told many stories. Most are partial truths.

On social media, I’ve posted happy vacation moments, loving tributes and family portraits over the years. In person, I’ve had “can you believe it” drinks with friends, “this isn’t working” therapy sessions, and many “mommy/daddy need a minutes” that we hid from our kids. Smashed together, they still don’t tell the full story. For that, you’d have to know what our dogs saw.

If our marriage could be counted in dog years — I’ve had different relationships with the same person.

Each dog — from Zulu who was our newlywed dog, to Elvis who was the puppy of our lives, and now Maggie who is aging with us — joined a different family.

I’d had a childhood filled with pets — gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, cats (Mr. Puffy and Mocha) and a Rhodesian ridgeback. My new husband never had pets. He didn’t ooh and aah over friend’s animals and rarely stopped people on the street to pet their dog. He didn’t want one. But, we’d just moved into our first home and were preparing for parenthood. Having a dog was part of my family plan. Since studies have shown that dogs improve relationships, I thought it was a good one.

Jonathan indifferently watched me scouring the internet, reviewing different types of dogs and visiting pet stores for advice. A few friends had wonderful Labradors so that became my focus. We selected him from a large litter of pedigreed puppies. Zulu, named after a Mardi Gras parade, came to live with us in February; our first baby was born in December.

Like our young marriage, this floppy-legged puppy was young, excitable and had lots of energy for everything. He also needed help with honing his relationship skills and frequently ran into trouble. Also like our marriage.

We spent those first pregnancy months pretend parenting with our new dog. We’d talk about his milestones, laugh over his antics and smother him with love. We also talked a lot about poop. All good practice for having babies. I watched my husband take pride in the responsibilities of pet ownership. It…




Former movie popcorn server, singing telegram, celebrity publicist, marketing maven and event producer. Finally adding writer.