How a family lives together varies by country and culture, but the standard family with husband, wife and children is no longer the norm. Living with multiple partners, adult children, grandchildren, adopted or foster children, cats or dogs: In this series, people talk about their families. This week: Lissa Agema (47) and Wilbert Stegeman (47) from Emst and their beagles Daisy (8) and Femke and Joep (4).By Hannah Koenig
Both Agema and her husband grew up with large dogs. When the profit consultant and accountant is stuck at home due to chronic migraines in 2006, she sees the walls coming at her.
“Knowing I would never be able to train for 40 hours again, I decided I wanted a dog. My husband and I are stubborn so we started looking for a dog breed with spunk, so our dog would fit into our sign that fits.”
15 years ago they got their first puppy. Agema: “Sam has meant a lot to me. Thanks to him I got out and I got a social life again. We also went through a lot with him. He had a TIA, pneumonia and a tumor, so we had to get removed a leg He was a sweet dog and at the same time the coolest beagle you could meet. Sadly Sam passed away last year.”
My husband and I watched the birth together. It’s a dirty mess, but you can get that from your own dog.
Grateful for what they have
Stegeman has a spinal cord injury due to an accident in the water and is in a wheelchair. Agema: “We have been through a lot in our family. The spinal cord injury, my chronic migraines, the amputation of Sam’s leg and his death. Because of the setbacks in our lives, we are grateful for what we have. That we were not allowed having children together is a shame. But we have filled our lives in a different beautiful way.”
Eight years ago, it quickly longs for another dog, a companion for Sam. In 2014, beagle Daisy comes to enrich the family. “When Sam learned to live with three legs and Daisy grew up, we started longing for a puppy. Sam was everything to me and I wanted to pass on his amazing DNA, so we decided to go for a litter. It worked out. Sam has Daisy mated twice and then three weeks later we saw at the vet that she was pregnant with five puppies.”
Zoek je een hondenvriend voor je kind? Ouders van Nu zet de voor- en nadelen op een rijtje.
Legs and heads in a row
The house is being prepared for the birth, and the couple is not doing half the work. “The freezer was in the living room and we slept between the onions and potatoes. We had made a beach outside, with umbrellas against buzzards, and we had a special puppy box made.”
The two are thrilled when Daisy has her puppies. “My husband and I watched the birth together. It’s a nasty mess, but you can get that from your own dog.” They were supposed to keep one puppy, but it ended up being two. It was a struggle then, but Stegeman wouldn’t have it any other way now. “When we come home and we see all those paws and heads lined up at the gate, it’s gold.”
They write the names of all the dogs on Christmas cards. They were also mentioned on the funeral card and ribbons for the flower arrangement when Agema’s mother died in the spring. “My brother and sister call the names of their children, I call the names of our dogs. Unfortunately, as a dog mother, I don’t get any allowance, and that’s a shame, because dogs are expensive. We spend 80 euros a month on food. Here comes the expenses for the vet , the walking service and the cost of fun and tasty things.”
A different family
Because of the beagles, the family doesn’t go on vacation. Not a big deal, according to Agema. Every day she imagines that she is on holiday when she leaves the herd in the countryside where she lives. If the couple had had children, they probably wouldn’t have had so many dogs. “Because we don’t have kids, we now have a different kind of family, and I’m grateful for that.”
Her family no longer feels quite complete since the death of beagle Sam: “I would prefer to go back to the time when we were all together.” Agema is itching for a fourth dog, but at the moment she stays with the guest dog Jip. Still, she doesn’t rule out a fourth dog in the future. “There is enough love for a new family member. Time will tell what the future holds.”