I’ve mentioned in passing before that we have a dog, but I feel the need to clarify what I mean by that. Our neighbors have a dog, but by that, I mean, they have a dog who spends 99% of her time out in the back yard, barking at strangers walking by, and getting yelled at by said neighbors from the screened porch. Our dog is not that dog.
We got our dog one Sunday afternoon in mid-May of 2007 – he was nine weeks old, and weighed roughly ten pounds. Earlier that Spring, I had allowed a tiny pinpoint-sized hole in my heart, which developed into a gaping wound that permitted dog ownership to enter. I hadn’t had pleasant experiences growing up with dogs, and had only associated them with really unfortunate circumstances. I admit it – I’m a cat person. When we decided we might get a dog, we did some socializing… of me… at adoption fairs and pet stores. Over the course of a few weeks, I was comfortable enough to tell our friends with the rescued pregnant black lab mix that yes, we would take one of the puppies off of their hands. We first met our dog when he was merely four weeks old, and spent the entire time sitting asleep at our feet. We picked him for his brindle legs and white triangle-shaped heart patch on his chest. He was also the one who liked to try and escape. The trouble-maker, if you will.
We brought him home and took hundreds of pictures his first week. His first month with us, we took him on endless car rides, to fairs, farmers markets, parks, anywhere he could meet kids, adults, teenagers, strollers, etc. We didn’t want him afraid of anyone or anything. Everyone patted his head and most commented on his very large feet. We taught him a game called, “Where’s Mama” (which is really only effective in a lesbian relationship), in which one Mama says “Where’s Mama??” and he finds the other Mama, usually hiding behind a couch or a bed or behind a car – sometimes even just behind our own hands. He’s still very good at finding Mama.
When he was six months old, we took him on a two week Thanksgiving vacation across the country, where he was introduced to various hotels (of various qualities), 15 new states, and snow. We let him run wild in the sagebrush at our destination, and I had a mini heart attack every moment he was out of sight chasing deer in the foothills.
Soon after, he was diagnosed with a food allergy. Suddenly, we had a high-need dog, who couldn’t have regular treats or food or anything, for fear that it would make him break out into a rash and lumps. Ever since, his diet consists of premium limited ingredient foods and treats – venison, duck, sweet potato. He has fish oil supplements on his food every night, and takes three Benadryl every time he might have eaten something he shouldn’t have. He is an expert at being at the vet’s office, and often lets the doctor poke, pry, swab, test, and scope with stillness and not a single complaint.
When we bought a house, the number one criteria was – does it have a large fenced (or fencable) yard? The one we bought, indeed, does. We have songs for him, ridiculous nicknames, and talk to him constantly. He is 85 pounds of pure, sweet, gentle, sensitive love. He still plays like a puppy, but naps like a dog (finally). He is often a tangle of feet laying beside us on the couch. He chases tennis balls and the cats. He slobbers… a lot. He falls asleep whenever I start to play my guitar. He steals socks and barks at any kind of delivery man. He can play with any dog of any size and any temperament. My wife assures me that not all dogs are like this.
If we love our baby half as much as we love our dog, this will be one extraordinarily loved kid.