Dog Days of Summer

fernSomewhere, deep in the recesses of the Sawyer family photo archive, there is a picture of our golden retriever, Penny, wearing an old t-shirt and a pair of my mom’s modified underwear.

To be clear, my mom does not wear “modified underwear” (whatever that might be). What I’m trying to say is that the pair my sister and I salvaged from the rag bin was modified with our dog in mind. Yes, we added a tail-hole.

Dressing up one’s pets seems to be some sort of childhood right of passage. All my friends did it with their pets. Fern did it with Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. We never dressed up my sister’s bunny (who, I’m still convinced, was possessed). But we definitely fashioned a number of outfits for Penny, and I’m quite certain that I tried to dress up my hamster using an item or two of Barbie clothing.

What this behavior comes down to, I suspect, was our obsession with creating lives, and backstories, and narratives for these creatures. It wasn’t enough for them to be furry and friendly and ever-so-lovable. They had to be part of our childhood fantasies. They had to be transcendent in some way: more human than they actually were, more talented than they actually were,  just more more. Wearing a Ryder shirt and my mom’s undies, I suppose Penny was briefly that. A dog with a wardrobe. A dog who was just a little more like us.

Penny (bless her patient soul) sprang to mind this week because of a story that nearly pushed the obsession meter off the charts: This one, about a program in which children read to shelter dogs. No, the kids don’t get to dress the dogs, but they do get to do something better. They get to give those dogs the gift of stories. And, no surprise here, the dogs actually seem to benefit.

In spite of my own obsession with books, I remember more about dressing Penny than I do about reading to her. But I do know one thing: Stories? Penny would have loved them.

5 Things I’m Obsessing About This Week (some canine-related), June 26, 2013:

1. Another dog story that will melt your heart.

2. I don’t want to eat these. (Ever.) I just want to know WHY.

3. Really interesting article about how failure can lead to creativity. I hope this helps me become better at embracing my mistakes in the future.

4. Dance like nobody–or everybody–is watching.

5. Man’s best friend is pretty great. But so is Mr. Rogers.

Happy Wednesday!


  1. Kim Martin says:

    Loved this piece Jenny–my sister and I used to dress our cat in baby clothes and wheel him around in our Barbie jeep, thanks for bringing up that memory!

    • Haha! Love it, Kim! I’m so glad to know that my sister and I weren’t the only ones subjecting our poor animals to Tim Gunn-style makeovers. 😉

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