selfish or selfless love

Mr. Bikini

I felt like the father in a TV series who keeps waiting to bond with his newborn. By the end of the episode or act break, there’s a crisis, he’s forced to swoop in, and inevitably they bond. Sure I bonded with our beagle Mr. Bikini; it’s hard not to love a dog, any dog. I mean, they’re just love on legs, with tongues, and eye boogers. There wasn’t anything not to like. You know where this is going. Now I’m the guy with commitment issues who chooses not to settle down, nitpicks, finds something wrong with every girl, until he finds one who meets all his criteria, nothing’s wrong with her. She’s, in a word, vanilla. In another word, milquetoast. Mr. Bikini is that girl, only he’s a neutered male dog.

Kini could open the door using the doorknob, let himself out. He’d sop up the sun, chase and subsequently kill baby rabbits, had the run of over two acres, to come and go as he pleased. And then we decided to move to Florida, to live in a country club home with a pool in place of a yard. No grass, we were situated on a golf course, and the only outside time he’d get would be limited to walks with me, the woman who avoids the sun. He’d need to be restricted to a leash, put on a schedule, get wedged into a smaller life without the thrill of the hunt.

The truth is, had he been the love of my life, I would’ve been selfish and tortured him a little, tried to change him, turn him into a house cat, the way I had with the Lineman. But with Linus, my Toy Fox Terrier, who’d seen me through marriage, divorce, dating, marriage, miscarriage, New York, Texas, and pregnancy, he never knew differently. My self-exercising Labrinus was raised in Manhattan, all muscle and springs, with a mama who’d leave for work and drop him off at Camp Canine, a basement, and when I’d scoop him up after work, I’d watch through the glass, and he’d be sitting on a bench, quivering, my anxious dog with ‘rhea who could do without the existence of all other canines (I published an essay about this, and it exists in an anthology).

Before we left for Florida, we of course had to be sure Kini was in good hands. Phil knew a family with young kids who had a beagle, and the family wanted a second beagle. The beagles played all day—again, free to come and go as they pleased, running on acres of land—with the mom taking them to the groomer every two weeks. He was spoiled and happy; we made sure of it before we left. I never once felt sad or missed him. I still don’t.

Let’s face it, Mr. Bikini was Phil’s dog. I felt like too much of a traitor to the love of my life, Linus, to love another dog. Maybe. When I had to give Linus up to Lea—Linus is a biter, and we couldn’t risk having him mixed in with the kids—I was heartbroken. Maybe I couldn’t allow myself to let love in when it came to Kini, but in truth, I think I just prefer small neurotic dogs with big personalities. I know I’ll one day get another dog. He will be small, likely another terrier, a dog who’ll make indoors on pads and outdoors. Lea sends me photos of Linus DAILY. Monthly, I get videos of him humping something.

When I can’t sleep, when I’m in a stressful situation, being coaxed to think of a serene setting, I think of two things: snorkeling through a school of fish, holding Lucas’s hand, and I think of Linus, curled into a pink and white bean in the nook of my leg, his body softly rising and falling as he sleeps. I love him as much as I love my children I think. There’s no way to really measure love or loss or the profound effect of the souls that connect with us, but his is a lasting love that I keep with me. He’s old now, and soon he will die. Lea won’t be able to function. She’ll need a new paranoid anxious dog to love. Just as I will one day, just not yet.

As for our children, no tears were ever shed, they always knew Kini as a runner and roamer, and once they visited our home in Florida, they said, “Kini wouldn’t be fond of this place.” As it would turn out, neither would mama. After a year, we moved from Florida to New York, where we are all now very happy, loving the seasons, the snow, the people, and every bit of everything. Though Abigail does beg for a dog, a small one she can dress in doll clothes. We’re not going there. We’re visiting Austin this month and staying to celebrate the New Year, with no plans to visit Mr. Bikini. He’s the love of someone else’s life now.



  1. I’m glad you made sure he found a good home, but I hope you won’t commit to another dog until you are ready to make that a lifetime commitment.

      1. I think “hope so too” isn’t good enough, Stephanie. I’m sorry but it’s not.

        I volunteer for a city-run animal shelter and the cases that break my heart the most are when an allegedly beloved pet (think = owned for 10 years + by the same family) is dropped off for whatever reason: moving and can’t find a place that takes animals, don’t have the time, new baby, etc. You should see how hard it is on those pets to go from a home with familiar faces to a tiny little cage surrounded by strange animals, waiting for a new family to come along and get them. The confusion, the loneliness, it’s real for pets just as much as it is for people. Yes, extenuating circumstances exist and sometimes there really is no other choice, but most of the time there is…humans just don’t want to sacrifice their lives for the furry one they pledged to take care of.

        I suppose I’m more militant about pet ownership than most, but I always think you should treat a pet like you’d treat a child, not just give them away when it’s no longer convenient. I’m glad you were able to rehome your pets to more appropriate locations, but for the love of god, pets are not experiments. If you are 0/2 I would implore that you not try again unless you can say with 100% assurance that this is it until their last breath. They’re not toys, they are living beings who deserve dedicated owners.

        1. I get what you’re saying; I really, REALLY do. And I can’t stand it myself when childless couples give up their beloved pets (or ignore them) when they have child(ren). I even admit to being a little bit confused and so saddened when Stephanie let Lea adopt Linus. BUT! This post (and some others) from Stephanie on this subject leads me to believe she’s not “one of those people.” I can’t speak for the Mr. Bikini situation, or honestly for any of her situations, but I *KNOW* she loves Linus so so much. I don’t see him as the same as what you’re saying. I don’t think she’s an irresponsible pet owner, and I think she’s doing the very best she can with her children and the pets she’s had. The pets have been very responsibly dealt with, IMO. Any future ones, I feel, would be handled the same way. As far as I can tell, she and her family aren’t acquiring these pets from breeders and then getting rid of them on a lark. Just my opinion. Have you been reading Stephanie for a while? Seriously asking, because anyone who has been HAS to know her deep-down character, and no one with a secure self esteem could honestly say that she’s got bad intentions in this regard (or any other, but again, that’s my opinion).

          1. @RzDrms: I’m not sure what me having “secure self-esteem” has to do with anything, honestly. And this post is not about me, so I don’t think there’s a necessity to defend myself, which I won’t do. But yeah, I’ve been reading Stephanie for at least five years, which is decent, right?

            I agree that the way she’s handled rehoming the dogs has been good, but the point is that you shouldn’t continue acquiring pets if you can’t make a life commitment to them. It’s not fair to the animals who love you like a parent and who don’t understand why they have to go to a new family, even if that family is exemplary. As I said, I’m pretty militant in my view on this precisely because I see this kind of repeat behavior among people who maybe don’t realize how big of a commitment a dog really is, and it breaks my heart. You don’t have to own a dog, no one does, no one is twisting your arm to do that, so if you can’t give it a forever home you should probably consider something else.

            1. I absolutely agree. Stephanie, this is unacceptable in someone of your heart and intelligence. I call BS on every reason or excuse you cited. You made a commitment to this pure-bred dog because you wanted the complete picture-perfect home. Now you’ve moved and this particular piece of furniture doesn’t go with your new house so just donate it! Please never again adopt! Never take an innocent, trusting being and throw him away — even to a better home.

        2. AGREE 100%. I could NEVER give up one of my dogs, NEVER, not for ANYthing.

          A forever home or nothing.

  2. Thank you for answering my question. I though ‘kini was a beautiful dog! I’m glad he got the space he loved and a good place to be settled.

  3. THANK YOU for neither abandoning him on some back road (loathesomely common here in NC once hunting season ends — I could tell you which road to drive at what time of year for your choice of purebred beagle that didn’t hunt well enough to earn his winter) or burdening the already overpopulated shelters with him. Due diligence – I’ll give you that.

    That said, I echo Lindsey. Wait until it’s right for everyone in your family. It can’t just be “Phil’s” or “Abby’s”. It has to be right for everyone and forever.

  4. I don’t understand why people have to be so critical. You did what was right for him and for your family. It sounds like he is much happier where he is. You gave him to a loving family. You didn’t leave him on the street or drop him off at a shelter. How would it have been better for him if you moved him to a place where he would have been much less free and happy than he is now? It sounds to me like this was in his best interest. I don’t see the need for all the admonishments and criticism.

  5. Goodness! That’s not the tragic story I was expecting. I’m glad to hear he’s just hanging out with a new family.

    My beloved yellow lab/greyhound who went from San Antonio to Dallas, to Los Angeles, to Fort Worth, to New York back to San Antonio died at the age of 12 when my first born was 6 months old.

    My heart was hurting and I begged for another dog. I found a standard size schnauzer/poodle rescued from a kill shelter and my husband drove hundreds of miles to pick her up. I tried but I could never love her the way I loved my old dog. My heart was then so full with my child.

    5 months later I was unexpectedly pregnant with our second child and by the time that baby was 15 months old I couldn’t stand the new dog anymore. It was all too much chaos and I didn’t want three kids. She had the demands of another child and I found myself putting her outside more and more.

    I posted a rehoming ad on craigslist and had to take it down within 30 minutes, so many people wanted her. The family I chose had a 6 year old autistic daughter so our schnoodle went to be trained as an autism therapy dog. Giving the dog away with my 3 year old at my side was one of my worst mothering moments of all time.

    We might never, ever have another dog because I don’t know that I can really love a dog now that I’m a mother. It is tempting; the golden doodle seems to be the official dog of my Denver neighborhood, but I really don’t miss the sound of a dog vomiting up a baby toy in the middle of the night.

  6. I am a vegan, an animal lover, and have rescued stray dogs. I love animals.

    Yet, I would never judge someone who, upon having children, gave a biting dog to a loving family member. Yes: people are lazy, don’t know what pet ownership entails, and give dogs to shelters when it is convenient. This is wrong.

    But to miss shades of grey when looking at people’s life choices is just a form of moral superiority.

    1. I don’t think saying to someone that I hope the next time they purchase or adopt an animal that they keep it for its life. Of course there are always crazy circumstances where someone might need to give an animal away. I can totally understand removing a dog from a household with children that is a biter. Or if you find out your child or someone else in the household has severe allergies, etc.

      But, when you adopt an animal you make a commitment to take care of it – meaning walks, trips to the dog park, food, shelter, vet trips, etc. Pet ownership is a big responsibility and a great way to teach children responsibility as well. I think if you are a person who wants a dog that is okay with going on pee pads inside then maybe you should consider a cat instead. Still get the affection and life lessons of an animal without as much time commitment.

    2. Author

      I think you’ve hit it dead on. Judgment. None of us knows what we’ll do in any situation until we’re in it. We can guess, but we don’t know. And that’s where superiority comes in, believing it’s so easy to see what you’d do in those exact same shoes. All theory.

      If we couldn’t find him the perfect home, we would’ve dragged his Beagle ass with us to Florida, and he likely would’ve been miserable. But I don’t know, because I’m not in his paws. What I do know is that we made the right decision for all of us.

      1. I have to admit my 1st gut response was oh those poor dogs. However I am a resscuer, a forever home, and I know from experience that not all dogs can stay in a particular home safely or happily. Both of my rescue dogs came from families that bought them with the intention of keeping them forever and because of a turn of events in their lives (illness, dog not getting along with a child) they gave them up. Now I have 2 wonderful dogs that were meant to be in MY home. I’m sorry to say, as much as I love my dogs, your children must come first. Then what’s best for the dog must come next. It sounds like you made the right decision for both dogs and everyone is happier.

  7. I adore dogs and both my husband and I had them growing up, so it was assumed that we would get a dog sooner rather then later. After we owned our condo for a few months we started looking around for a dog to adopt. Knowing we wanted children in the (not too distant) future we made a conscious effort to get a dog that is traditionally good with kids. One of my cousins got a wonderful job opportunity and had to relocate his entire family to Sweden. They had an 18 month old boxer that was house trained, knew basic commands, and was already accustomed to small children with great success. Instead of moving the dog to Sweden, we took her and she is wonderful.

    From the perspective of somebody who took in a dog, I can say that there are certainly some circumstances where re-homing a dog is absolutely the best decision for everybody included (even the dog!). Much like Lea, we send them photos and videos of our dog often. While re-homing a dog is never the first option, it isn’t always a terrible option, either.

    I also think the comparison to re-homing a dog and giving away your kids is ludicrous. The differences between dogs and kids are many, and too much to mention here.

  8. So Stephanie was lazy. Nothing new there. The dog didn’t fit easily into her life and she did not ‘love’ it enough. Please – never get another pet, Stephanie.

    1. oh, Anon, you’re back!? long time, no see. thought you’d said good-bye for good. so something DOES keep you coming back for more, doesn’t it….

  9. Please listen to people here, I understand you loved Linus and Mr Bikini but both ended up being rehomed. Please do not get any more dogs. If you want to spend time with dogs please volunteer at a shelter where you can walk and care for them and the staff will most certainly be very grateful for the assistance.

    I think you need to look at the breeds of dog you chose also. I remember reading that you took an online quiz for one of them and while that can be helpful these hunting/sporting breeds are not for you. Beagles have been bred for hundreds of years to hunt and roam. I am not saying fox terriers and beagles aren’t good family dogs because they can be, but they need lots of walking, running, hiking in order to fufill thier energy needs. I have a labrador and a spaniel, same thing they were bred for hundreds of years for retrieving and hunting. We go to the woods or marsh everyday and hike, or to the beach so they can run and swim (the cold North Atlantic doesn’t seem to bother them).

    1. I think this is a fantastic comment.

      I also think that people who lead busy lives & live in apartments and work long days should not have dogs.

      I live out in the countryside in the UK with fields on my doorstep and watch people walk their dogs daily in the woods.

      I know it must be a city thing, but the idea of keeping a dog in an apartment, not walking it daily and instead dropping it off at some sort of doggy day camp just sounds really sad. And your comment about wanting to get a dog that you could teach to do its business on an indoor mat just feels so selfish. If you can not give the dog the life they need (i.e daily walks and exercise) then do not get a dog.

      I also agree about the type of dog/pt you decide to have. Beagles are hunting dogs.

      That is just my opinion – and as you have said previously everyone has one….

  10. Please do not get any other dogs! You could not keep Linus (the supposed love of your life) and you couldn’t keep Mr. Bikini. I feel badly for these dogs getting attached to you and your family, and then boom – your life circumstances change where they are no longer convenient for you so you discard them. Thankfully you placed both in good homes, but still.

    I have worked in animal rescue for over a decade and have seen it time and time again. People’s lifestyles change and the dog goes. So incredibly sad. I don’t wish you any ill will in stating these facts. I’m just a frustrated long time reader who has followed you since your single days of apartment living in NYC with Linus as your partner in crime. I lost a lot of interest in you, and quite frankly respect (there are dog trainers you know that can work with a dog to teach him proper behavior around children!) when you gave him to your sister thousands of miles away. The bottom line here is you should not own anymore dogs. Please don’t get anymore!! Dogs are the only creature on earth who give pure 100% unconditional love, and you are clearly unable to give anything close to that back.

    1. LS CT, I agree with every single sentence in your comment. My mother loved her dog more than her two kids (even though we knew she loved us unconditionally) just like Stephanie states she did Linus. My mom could have never given her dogs to any home. I see so many sad stories in animal rescue and I guess I am glad both dogs found good homes in the end but it is disappointing.

    2. What guarantee would she have that the dog would not bite her children after training? I have a good friend that has a son with a giant scar on his face from a dog nobody thought would bite. I am glad you love dogs but children need to come first. Also, life does change. People need to move because of war, death, unwanted job changes etc. you can not predict the future. I work in a school and I see people choose multiple animals over the welfare of their children. There is nothing wrong with finding a loving home for an animal. I am an animal lover as well but think you need a dose of reality.

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