Love, forgiveness and dog urine

Scott Reeder
Posted 2/11/22

I picked up the phone the other day and made a dinner reservation for a Valentine’s Day date.

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Love, forgiveness and dog urine


I picked up the phone the other day and made a dinner reservation for a Valentine’s Day date.

The manager wrote down, “Party of two for 7:30 p.m.”

I couldn’t help but smile. It will be my 20th Valentine’s Day date in a row with the same person. 

Folks sometimes ask what brought us together. It wasn’t Cupid’s arrow; it was dog’s urine.

You see, I met my wife, Joan, on a blind date right before Thanksgiving 2001. We decided to go out again, so I found myself agonizing over what we should do on a second date. I knew she liked animals because she was a veterinarian. So, I invited her to go for a walk with me in Springfield’s Washington Park with my Labrador retriever, Griz.

He was a nice dog. But we were two single males who had lived together for eight years. He wasn’t too keen on sharing me with anyone else. So, he viewed Joan with a great deal of suspicion.  

“He never takes his eyes off of you – ever,” Joan said as we walked through the park with Griz leading the way. As we walked we talked about family, God, careers and other deep stuff.

After the walk, we went to my house to watch a movie. No sooner did we sit down on the sofa than Griz plopped down – right between us. We petted him as we watched Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

Occasionally, our fingers would touch as we both stroked the Labrador’s fur. A little tingle ran up my hand each time our fingers brushed against each other. But Griz wasn’t so impressed. He watched me intently but pointedly ignored this woman – an intruder in his lair.

After the show was over, Joan decided she was going to win his heart. She stepped into the kitchen, squatted down and called Griz’s name. He responded to her calls with a glare.

He walked toward her with stiff-legged trepidation. No sooner did he reach Joan than he hoisted his leg and urinated on her blouse.

I stood there horrified as the steady stream of urine raced down her side and formed a puddle on the floor. I kept thinking, “She’s never going to go out with me again.”

Joan gave me a big grin and said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s the third time it has happened to me this week.”

At that moment, I knew this would be the woman I would marry – she had grace under pressure. A month later, we were engaged to be married. 

Spouses don't come with instructions and I'll admit that even after 20 years, I'm at times bewildered as to how to respond to some situations.

But I do know this: She is the love of my life and puts up with me despite my many shortcomings.

She completes me.

When we wed, friends felt the need to offer advice. Perhaps they came plying their unsolicited guidance because I entered the world of matrimony later than most. I was 38.

Regardless, their advice, while well intentioned, was not always full of merit.

For example, a twice-divorced college buddy told me: "Never hold anything back. Always tell her exactly what you are thinking. And when she does something you don't like, make sure she knows it."

On the other hand, a relative gave me this sage bit of wisdom: "Marriage is something you should go into with your eyes wide open and through with them half shut."

When I ran this adage by my father, who ultimately was married to my mother for 58 years, he would just smile.

His folks were married 74 years, and my mother's parents' marriage lasted until the eve of their 50th anniversary, when a bad heart felled my grandfather.

They set good examples.

It is not enough to “feel” in love. Feelings are fleeting. Love is an action – not a mood. Love is choosing to put the needs and desires of someone else ahead of your own. I saw this sort of sacrificial love when my father would pick up my mother’s frail cancer-stricken body and gently place her in bed. Or at harvesttime when my mother would cook meals and take them into the field so Dad could always have something good to eat when he was working such long hours. 

I only hope Joan and I can provide an even better example for our three daughters.

If they ever ask the secret to a happy marriage I'll say this: love, forgive and never give up.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dear. 

Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, be reached at: