My sweet Tasha, circa 1990-ish?
She was preceded by family dogs Snoopy and Kiska and succeeded by Cody, Casey, Jackson and Snickers, but Tasha alone holds the "first dog of my own" place in my heart.
I was so lucky to have her in my life for an amazing 13 years where we lived in 4 different states, 7 different homes, held 6 different jobs and attended graduate school somewhere in the middle of it all....and she took it all in stride.
She taught me so much about how to have a great relationship with your dog and despite my many rookie mistakes, she was an amazing companion. Her head-tilts rival those of Jackson and she literally wore off her paw pads one fall day chasing a tennis ball back and forth at the neighborhood park courts. (a great example of one of my rookie mistakes!)
I still miss her and often get a lump in my throat when I see a fluffy, spunky Keeshond, strutting their stuff at their owner's side. But I like to think that when I hug my dogs now, I'm also hugging all of those great dogs that came before them, each with their own special traits and personalities. The joy and the memories that they brought to my life live on.