How I’m Learning to Build a Stronger Bond with my Dog

It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.

Merre Larkin
5 min readOct 5, 2021


Author and dog at new residence.
Shelby and me at our new place. (Author’s pic)

My adult son and I gushed over the Budweiser commercial featuring a yellow lab puppy and a Clydesdale, and subsequently fell in love with the idea of getting a puppy just like that one. We had a golden retriever who was getting older and slower, and we felt ready for a puppy, or as ready as you can ever be. I checked with our property manager to see if she’d okay us getting another dog, and she gave us the go-ahead.

That’s how we ended up with Shelby, a very light yellow Labrador retriever who flew in from Missouri at eight weeks old in 2016. We named her after the Shelby brothers in the Peaky Blinders. Yes, they are a murderous gang, but they have their softer sides, too.

My son and I went to pick her up at the San Francisco International Airport, and our lives have never been the same. In a good way, of course.

My son happened to meet his girlfriend only a few months prior to Shelby coming into our lives, so in the beginning, he wasn’t as involved in the puppy process as I’d counted on. However, as Shelby adjusted, and my son adjusted to his serious relationship with a young woman, we all settled in together.

Our golden retriever tolerated her. Our cat never took to her. She bullied him, and we had to protect him from her. Her behavior with Max did resemble that of the brothers from the Peaky Blinders. He learned to stay hidden from her, especially as she got bigger.

She never got very big, though. My son maintained that she was the runt of the litter. I always countered that it was a blessing because her wildness would have been that much harder to manage if she’d been bigger.

My son and I shared the responsibilities for Shelby as we remained apartment-mates. However, when I broke my ankle, all the responsibility for Shelby became his. Since I broke my ankle slipping down a set of steps going down into our laundry room, and we had an even longer set of steps to tackle every time we left our second-floor apartment, my son took Shelby out to do her business for over a year.

It wasn’t just my ankle that was the issue. It also was his laidback style with her that preempted me from…



Merre Larkin

Writer and avid reader. Life coach. Educator. Counselor. Marathoner. Survivor. Here to share, here to learn.