My first 2 posts were the “Reader’s Digest” version of what it was like when my wife and I first decided to adopt a dog to live with us. Here is the unabridged version. It’s about 10 pages when printed out so I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading part-way through, but I hope you enjoy what you do read.
“Honey, what would you like for your birthday?” I asked my wife. Without hesitating even the slightest, she said, “A dog!”
Now my wife has always owned a dog. That means I’ve been at least part-owner for at least 35 years. Not the same dog mind you, but they have always been German Shepherds or Labs. But for the last four years we have been without one. Two of those were because we were renting a “no pets” place. Our last dog, Rocky died a month or so before the move and finding a place that would allow pets was just too much work especially since we didn’t plan to stay more than a couple years.
When we bought our new home it never occurred to me that we would get another dog. After all, our new home was a condo on the top floor of a 4 story building. Not exactly conducive to dog-ownership. No back door to let him out. Heck, there was no yard even if we did have a back door. And the drop probably would have killed him.
All that would mean walking the dog with a pocketful of plastic bags for hazardous waste disposal and leaving him inside whenever we went out without him…a risk with any dog. Accidents happen.
As you probably guessed, I was not too keen on the idea, but she is a dog person through and through. Dogs actually go out of their way to be with her. Some snarling, snapping ball of mange is instantly transformed into a loving, licking, bundle of joy as soon as it sees her. She’s a regular St. Francis of Assisi, she is.
Anyway, how hard could it be? My wife could walk the dog in the morning. I’d take the pooch for the nightly stroll through the estate. And we seldom left the house for more than a few hours at a time. All dogs can be cooped up for that short amount of time, right?
So off we went to the local animal shelter. This one was the best I had ever seen. The place was spotless; the air was fresh with just a hint of kibble in it.
“The dog kennel is just through those doors and down the hall to your left. Just follow the paw prints on the floor,” the receptionist chirped like a cheery little bird. Paw prints on the floor? Oh, I got it. There on the floor were these black paw print decals showing the way. Cute. Kinda like following the Yellow Brick Road.
When we walked into the kennel there were about twenty dogs of all sizes and shapes. Some jumping around saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” and some curled up in a ball looking like this was definitely not a happy place for them.
As we walked down Rogue’s Gallery, we saw most of the dogs had an “adopted” tag on the cage. Some cages were tagged with a “Not Cleared for Adoption Yet” sign. Things were looking grim. I could see the disappointment in my wife’s eyes.
“Don’t worry, Babe. If we don’t find one today, we’ll keep coming back until we do.”
Then she saw him. He was a little white terrier (a Jack Russell or maybe a rat terrier) with tan markings on his face. And those eyes! Big, brown, melt-your-heart eyes. And, man, did that guy know how to use them. With just the slightest butt-wiggle, his tail was going a mile a minute. He just stood there and stared at my wife. Halos were slowly forming over both of their heads.
Oh, man! Not a little yappy dog! And PLEASE not a Jack Russell! Those aren’t dogs; they’re buzz saws with fur! If we’re going to have a dog, I want a big dog. One who likes to spend the night lying on the floor by the bed. One who thinks it’s too much effort to bark just because some other stupid dog in the neighborhood is barking.
But it was no use. My wife was hooked. She reached down and the little devil licked her hand. “We want to adopt this one,” she sang out for all to hear. I could feel everyone’s eyes on us. If I objected the pitch forks and torches were sure to come out.
So the process began. We had to fill out a questionnaire that was longer than a scholarship application to MIT. Then we got to wait…and wait. Then the Bird Lady receptionist showed up and led us into a little room with a few chairs and a floor strewn with doggy toys and cat toys. It looked like a five-year-old’s bedroom without a bed.
“Please wait in here and someone will bring in Flynn.” Flynn? Who names a dog “Flynn”?
“Honey, we’ve got to give him another name. I’m not calling him Flynn,” I groused.
Then we got to wait some more…and wait. Finally Flynn arrives. He’s kinda quiet but still just as friendly. This guy definitely knew what he’s doing. He saw a way out of the Big House and he wasn’t about to let it slip by him. He started coughing. At least I thought he was coughing, but I never heard such a little dog cough like a foghorn. Do dogs get croup?
“What’s wrong with him?” my wife asked.
“Oh, he’s just got kennel cough.” He’s taking some medication for it and is doing just fine,” the handler assured us.
Great! Medicine. I heard a cash register ring somewhere in the background. “And what’s with his ears?” I asked. “They look like they were trimmed with pinking shears.” You know, those funny scissors tailors use to supposedly to keep fabric from unraveling. They have those blades that look like cross-cut saws. Never mind. And there were so many bumps on his nose he looked like he was part alligator.
“We think he has puppy strangle. The vet is running some tests on him to find out.” Cha-ching. I did not know what puppy strangle was but something called “strangle” couldn’t be good.
All this made no difference to my wife. She would have taken “Flynn” if he had two heads and leprosy. But the little guy seemed to really like us. Could it be I was falling under his wicked spell? Nah. And besides he wasn’t as hyper as all the other JR’s I’d come in contact with.
Bird-lady told us Flynn would have to stay until his kennel cough cleared up. And of course, he’d have to be neutered. Cha-ching. I never knew they charge by the pound for neutering. Luckily Flynn is little.
I went over to the local pet store and bought all the stuff you need to keep a puppy: A set of dog dishes, a bag of puppy training pads hilariously called “Wee Wee Pads”, a leash, a collar, doggy treats. And a carrier. The cashier gleefully emptied my wallet. “New dog?” she bubbled.
“No, it’s for me.”
A couple weeks later we got a call from the vet. “Flynn” was cleared for takeoff. The bill? Two hundred and fifty clams just to get him out the door. But out the door he did go. But at least we got a free 5 lb. bag of puppy food.
Getting him into the carrier was interesting…like getting your wisdom teeth pulled. I pushed and prodded. He squirmed and jumped. It was like trying to cram those 15 pounds of tornado into a 10 pound carrier. I finally set the carrier on end, lifted him up and kind of poured him into the opening. I slammed the door down as soon as his face was clear of the opening. Unfortunately, my hand wasn’t. They can sew fingers back on, right? Maybe they’ll grow back.
We got home after a 2-mile, and what seemed like 5-day trip. The dog just did not like the carrier. I guess after all that time in a cage I couldn’t blame him. We got home and took the elevator up to our floor. I lugged the carrier down the hall. I unlocked the deadbolt and opened the front door to our home and set the carrier down in the entryway.
Did I mention we have a cat? Not just an ordinary cat, but a big, fat cat who hates everyone except those who feed her. Lisa is her name. We also had adopted her brother, Bart, but by the time they were a year old Lisa had driven Bart out of the house. The neighbor down the street took him in.
Lisa came up and sniffed the carrier. The dog lunged at her. I never would have thought that fatso could do it but she jumped up on my back and sunk her claws into me. I screamed like a school girl. My wife was laughing so hard I thought she was going to fall to the floor.
“Get her off of me!” I bellowed. The dog is yapping, my wife is laughing so hard she’s crying. I was crying because my back was being tortured in Iron Maiden-fashion. My wife eventually peeled the cat of my back. My shirt was sticking to my skin from the wet blood.
“Stand back! I’m releasing the hound!” I said in my best-ever impersonation of Montgomery Burns. As soon as the latch was opened, the carrier door flew open. The cat took off toward the bedroom with the dog breathing down her neck.
“Stop him! He’ll hurt her,” my wife screamed. Hurt her, yes that would be a good thing. “Oh, don’t worry. She can take care of herself,” I growled and went for the peroxide and gauze.
Two days later I was back at the pet shop. It seems 30 Wee Wee Pads don’t go as far as you’d think. I picked up another couple of bags. While I’m at the counter the manager comes up. “Got a new puppy?” he asked. I stopped myself from saying something about being out of Depends and said, “Yup. We adopted him yesterday.”
“Oh, wonderful! Here’s a coupon book for our customers who adopt,” he said, pulling a book as thick as a phone directory. “There are all kinds of great buys in here like carriers, leashes, collars.”
Great. And no, the coupons were not retro-active or backwards compatible. The manager said I could return any of the unopened products and then use the coupons. Well, let’s see. The carrier has bite marks covering about seventy-five percent of the inside. The leash has a spot chewed through a half inch. I decided I’d live with the loss.
Naming the dog at this point was not tough. We pretty much figured out his personality. He obviously was not a “Flynn”. I couldn’t figure how he could have been so docile at the shelter. “Dear, he was sick, remember?” Sick, yes, that was it. This dog is so hyper when he is sick he seems normal. We tossed around a few names…”Buzz Saw” came to my mine first.
“How about Ricochet?” my wife asked.
“No that’s a rabbit’s name.”
“Huh?” She was so cute when she had that puzzled look she gets.
“You never heard of Ricochet Rabbit?”
“No, but you’re right. I can’t see myself calling for Ricochet. It sounds too French.” Then I had the puzzled face.
Then it hit me. “Remember that cartoon with the bulldog and the little terrier that jumps all around saying, ‘What’ll we do now, Spike? Huh, Spike, huh?'”
My wife said, “I have no idea what the little dog’s name was.” I said, “No, I don’t either, but what about calling him ‘Spike’?”
We both started laughing. A 15 lb. Terrier that stands about 18 inches tall with the name “Spike”. It was perfect. So Spike it was.
After a couple weeks, Spike started getting into a routine. As long as I walked him first thing in the morning…and I do mean FIRST…he had fewer accidents and was actually sticking to the Wee Wee pads when he just couldn’t wait. The part about my wife walking him in the morning never did materialize. But she did take to feeding him.
After a few days, it seemed like a good time to try leaving Spike alone for awhile. My wife and I decided to go out to lunch. I figured we would be gone 2 hours at the most. It would be Spike’s first time alone in the house without parental supervision. How much trouble could he get into in that amount of time? It would take him 20 or so minutes to even notice that we were both gone. That left less than 100 minutes. No worries.
Well, I guess Spike was either quicker on the draw than I thought, or he was just more efficient with his free time. He knew Lisa, the cat was a push-over. All he had to do was jump around and she would take off for under the bed or wedge herself in a corner. We came home within my estimated time. I opened the front door and walked in. There was Spike being his usual perky self. He jumped up and down, happy to see us home. As I rounded the entry hall to go into the living room, I noticed a small piece of paper on the floor. “It looks like Spike pulled some paper out of the wastebasket, Honey,” I said to my wife. I reached down and picked it up. It was a Rolodex card. Uh oh! We kept every phone number we ever needed throughout our whole married life on that Rolodex. I hoped this was just a one-time little naughtiness on Spike’s part. But there ahead of me lay a river of Rolodex cards. Some appeared untouched; others so mangled they were unreadable. All I could think of was, “ACK! There’s no backup!” And me a database guy. Sheesh! “This is like the cobbler’s children going without shoes. It will take hours, nay, days to go through all the cards and repair the damage, and that’s only if we can read the cards.” But that was only the start of The Nightmare on Mosca Street. I could hear a faint humming sound to my left. I looked in that direction, and there amongst more cards was the new Pedi Paws nail trimmer…turned on and running for who knows how long. Spike HATED that thing. It was second only to his arch nemesis, the vacuum cleaner. In the commercials, all those cute little dogs lounging contently on the sofa while their owners gently ground down their claws from daggers to round nubbies… Yeah, sure. Spike wouldn’t hold still long enough to even get the darn thing up to his paw. The instructions read, “You might have to introduce your pet to Pedi Paws.” It was like “introducing” a chain saw to my leg. But I digress.
Back to the battleground.
My wife’s cute back scratcher with a little hand with curved fingers at the end of the handle was now an amputee. Not even the thumb survived the jaws of death. Only the palm was intact. Evidently Spike had come up with an answer as to whether to eat Rolodex cards with a fork or fingers. He chose the latter. The TV remote lie next to it. NO! NOT THE REMOTE! But my fears were quickly assuaged. It somehow avoided even the slightest indication of a tooth mark. Spike obviously has scruples.
You know, there is a heck of a lot of toilet paper on one roll. And we’re not even talking about one of those double rolls either. No, sir. A regular 2-ply standard roll…It was heaped on the floor in a pile about 2 feet high. The rest of it went up and down the hall about a bazillion times. And Spike proved he was not ready to leave the Shaulin temple yet. He definitely could not walk on the paper without tearing it. There were shreds of TP everywhere. Some of it landed on the counter top in the bathroom. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere I looked. Oh, please! It was just too early for the holidays. I don’t care what Macy’s says.
That was about the extent of the damage except for a chewed-up ball point pen here, a shredded emery board there. A doggie crate was immediately moved to the top of my shopping list. Did I have a coupon for that? Yes! Fifteen percent off!
Back to the pet store with my tome of coupons clutched to my chest. The crates were in the back of the store. There were crates of all sizes. Some with two doors, others with only one. Some were bolted together, some just snapped together like assembling a moving box. Flap A goes into Slot B. Swing the front side up and clip it into place. A piece of cake. Soon the mayhem would be confined to “the cage”.
After my wallet went on another crash diet, I got the crate home and set up in a flash. It really was easy to do. My wife dug out an old blanket from the cedar chest and folded it up ever so nicely and placed it in the crate. I read through all the instructions about introducing your pet to his “new den”. That word “introduce” seemed to always bode ill for some reason. But I’d give it the old college try. It was obvious we couldn’t let Spike roam free when we were not home so this was our only hope.
I put his food and water dishes inside the crate…way in the back so he’d have to actually go inside to eat. After some coxing, he finally would go in to eat. He’d even lie down in there once in awhile. This was great!
I started shutting the door on the crate when he was inside. Then I started latching it, but letting him out when he finished his meal of coupon-free, full-price-paid food. Then the big test came. How would he act if we left him alone in the crate?
My wife and I started by standing out in the common hall a few doors down from ours. We did this for 10 minutes. Then 30 minutes. No barking or whining from inside. Good! It was working just like the brochure said it would. We decided for another lunch.
Again, it was just a couple hours. But I was confident. I had followed the directions and succeeded. After a comfortable, relaxing ride home, we entered our home.
Oh, no, not the rolodex again! Although the waters had not the force of the first torrent, the damage was just as bad. The phone! Where was the phone?! I called it from my cell so I could track it down. No ring. Nothing! The Wee Wee Pads in the bathroom were shredded.
But how? How could this be? Even if Spike had gone ballistic in the crate, he couldn’t get out. It was a finely crafted piece of American workmanship made to hold up to 100 lb of carnivore. Surely, Spike could not open it.
I looked at the crate. The front panel had been bent inward to such a degree that the top clips had sprung. It lay flat on the carpet in its unassembled, American-made finery. The crate was up against the living room wall next to the left front speaker of my hardly used, still shiny home theatre set. The speaker wire was chewed through in three places. Evidently, Spike had reached through the bars and hooked the wire with his claw-like, un-Pedi-Pawed paw and pulled it into the crate. When he was tired of gnawing on wire, he made a break for it.
So we gave up on the crate and after a few more outings with Spike to guard the castle, he finally calmed down, trusting us to come back. Now when we go out we just find a few tissues pulled from the waste basket, set as milestones along the carpet of our life with Spike.