All of the Clinton Humane Society venom spewing — and a looming trip home for the holiday — has gotten me thinking about my dog.

When I tell stories at work and use the phrase “my dog,” people always look at me sideways since they know the only pets at my house are two fat, stupid and mischievous yet adorable cats.

But the words roll off my tongue with ease, although we haven’t lived under the same roof for more than a summer since I left for college in 1997. Kerry, my family’s cairn terrier, will be 17 if she lives to her next birthday on Monday. We brought her home on Jan. 27, 1990, when she was exactly eight weeks old.

There are very few things I remember vividly from the fifth grade. But one of them is riding home in my parents’ mini-van (a grayish-blue Plymouth Voyager) from the pet store in Niles, Ill., with our little bundle of joy in her pet carrier.

I remember seeing her in the display case at the shop, vigorously destroying the paper in her cage. I remember the store employees put a little red bow on her head as they sent us home, only to have her remove it and shred it during the ride.

As it was January in the suburbs, there was plenty of snow. I remember that, very early in her life, she fell into one of my dad’s footprints in the snow and had to be lifted out.

This is a tiny puppy we’re talking about. If you’re not familiar with cairns, think of Toto from “The Wizard of Oz.” While most cairns weigh in at around 13 pounds, Kerry pretty much stayed just shy of 11 for most of her adult life, if I remember correctly. When we brought her home she was, by all accounts, a fuzzball.

Many cairns, like my neighbor’s dog, Ginger, are sort of a wheat color. Kerry started primarily black but has grayed significantly. The hair closest to her body used to resemble a calico cat with patches of black and deep, rich brown. We never had her formally groomed, which is a good thing, because cairns are much more attractive when they’re not styled to some show dog standard.

Like many kids, my brother, sister and I lobbied long and hard for a dog. I had at one time lobbied for younger siblings and, having been granted that wish in duplicate just days before my sixth birthday, decided to try the animal kingdom for companionship.

My mom, in a trend passed down my way, heavily researched all options before determining that if we were to be a dog family, we were to be a cairn terrier family.

On the list of my mom’s good decisions, I’d place that choice somewhere between marrying my dad and giving me my own room. Allowing us to get a dog, choosing this particular breed and, with my dad, choosing this particular pet, has given us all something to connect with forever.

Good pets are like vacations or special parties. They belong to the people who were there to experience them as pleasant memories of the happiest days.

I look forward to the time when Matt, Kim and I will sit around someone’s kitchen table and talk about the time Kerry ran out the front door and froze in the middle of the street only to have a car stop directly over her, how she’d fall asleep on any coat left unattended for more than 30 seconds or the way my mom taught her to ring a bell with her nose when she wanted to go outside.

By that time, I hope, we’ll all have kids of our own, and maybe they’ll have their own dogs or cats. They’ll know what it’s like to have a pet, but they won’t know what it’s like to have had our pet.

This is a dog we posed with in our senior pictures, a dog we took on family vacations, a dog my parents will bring just about anywhere — including short-term parking at O’Hare — if it means one of us can see her for just a few minutes.

Like any aging creature, Kerry’s not in the best of health. A long battle with glaucoma has robbed her of her sight, and because of that, we’re not real sure how well she gets around anymore. You’d walk with extreme caution, too, if you couldn’t see the end of your nose. She doesn’t chew all that well, so my mom grinds her foot into even smaller pieces.

But she begs for treats at the same time every day (around 3 p.m.), follows around anyone with a hot pizza hoping for a scrap and, bless her heart, avoids getting angry with Jack, a saintly feat since I’ve been unable to explain to a 2-year-old that the doggy can’t see him and would prefer to be left alone.

One of these days I’m sure, I’ll get “The Call” from my mom or dad. Or, the next time we’re all home, we’ll have a family meeting, to which I’ll be sending my wife as a proxy. Although it’s inevitable, it’s fully undesirable.

But for today, and as long as I can, I will love my dog — our dog. I know she’ll never read this, unless perhaps we convert it to Braille, but I count having such a wonderful pet among the greatest blessings in my short life. I always knew she’d remind me of my childhood, I just never believed she’d be doing it while I’m an adult.

I guess I’d better stop now. I’ve already taken up too much space writing about a dog almost everyone reading this has never met. But if you’ve ever loved your own pet, you know exactly how I feel. So thanks for indulging me this long. And thank you, Kerry, for enriching my life.

Scott T. Holland’s column appears every Wednesday in the Clinton Herald. His e-mail address is

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