Life with a dog, a humorous and touching look at Pet ownership
|MAN’S BEST FRIEND
A FAITHFUL COMPANION, A WARM FOOT-REST ON A COLD EVENING, SOMEONE TO TAKE THE BLAME FOR THAT AWFUL SMELL.
A FAMILY WITHOUT A DOG, IS LIKE President Trump without classic literature. Both can exist for their entire lives quite happily without ever feeling the need to acquire the other. And despite this, I showed up 11 years ago with an adorable yellow lab puppy under my coat.
I knew my wife and daughter would be thrilled. I was half right. My wife’s exact words were, ”that better not be what I think it is!” I guess I had read the signs all wrong. When she said there’s something missing in our relationship, she needs some warmth and intimacy. Turns out she meant from me.
My response, get a puppy. Nothing gives more love or warms your heart like a puppy! Our Boo-Boo loved to be hugged, would fall asleep with his head on her lap, and even had that new-dog smell.
That was eleven years ago. He’s no longer a puppy. My life, our whole family’s life has been forever changed by his presence over the last decade.
He has been underfoot, overfed, inconvenient, inconceivably stupid, amazingly smart, completely lovable, a huge burden and family guardian. He has pooped, peed, and puked in several rooms in our house, as well as every square inch of our yard.
And the whole time, Boo has been completely and utterly devoted to our family.
As a less than a year old puppy, Boo-Boo took off through the garage between the car and the door to the house , ran right between my 3-year old daughters’ legs, lifted her off the ground, gave her a brief ride, and deposited her smack dab on the back of her head. I was terrified that she might have a cracked skull or sustained a severe brain injury, and yet I couldn’t stop laughing. She was fine. It’s one of those rare moments that show up on “America’s Funniest Home Videos”. To this day, my now 14 year-old resents me for laughing at the incident. I feel bad. Sort of. She wasn’t watching from where I was. It was funny.
Boo-Boo turned out to be a barker. He would bark at everything. He would bark at anything. Someone knocks on the door, he barks. A car drives in the driveway, he barks. A car door slams across the street, a siren in the distance, a sudden glimpse of his own shadow. You get the idea.
Whenever we had guests, he was the first to greet them. He’d charge down to the landing with his short hairs on end, (my oldest referred to this as “ having his grumps up”), sounding like he was about to kill anything that didn’t belong in our house. Many guests came to our house only once.
Those brave enough and those able to hear us over his barking, “he’s harmless, come on in”, would be treated to many inquiring sniffs and an occasional lick.
The barking eventually got to my wife, and not in a good way. During the summer with the kids home, our front door practically revolved with friends and neighbor kids coming and going all day long. And each time that door opened, he spazzed.
This led to the purchase of a shock collar designed to gently remind him that barking was less than desirable.
Let’s just say he was a slow learner. At the first bark, he would get a warning beep, and the next bark would result in a mild electrical current being shot through the underside of his neck. He acted like it hurt. Big baby!
Being a stubborn dog, initially it would go like this. Bark, beep, bark, shock, yelp. If he continued, each bark would result in a shock and hence, a yelp. Eventually he put two and two together and learned the trick. He got one free bark. As soon as he heard the beep, he resorted to growling as loud as he dared.
Our two daughters had mixed emotions regarding electrocuting our beloved pet. The oldest cried and cried, worried that we were hurting him. Well, we were. My youngest however, had this to say. “ Daddy, can I shock Boo?” Two very different kids, to be sure!
All along, we tolerated the barking, because he was basically a good dog. Not real bright sometimes, but nice. I can’t tell you how many times he has turned quickly and smacked his head on the wall he was standing right next to. Or the number of times he has overestimated his stair climbing abilities and ended up sprawling in a heap at the bottom of a flight of stairs.
Over the last several years, he has mellowed considerably. Now, when someone knocks on the door, they are usually met with a little less of a vocal greeting than in the past. He still barks, but not as loud or as long. That’s a good thing.
One thing that Boo does and does well, not to mention often, is place “land mines” in our yard. I knew when I brought him home that this was a result of constantly feeding him. By constantly, I mean daily. But I have to say, I was naïve. I assumed, my mistake, that dogs were like humans. Once every couple of days, once a day at best. Not our dog. I am convinced that his current output is greater than his intake. It has to be. I know what we feed him, and yet I have personally witnessed him drop the bomb no less than four times in fifteen minutes. He’s our very own Play-doh Fun Factory. I thought of strapping a slider tight against his behind to see if maybe I could get an octagonal shape, or maybe just a simple triangle. Something to liven up the clearing of the mine fields.
I think partly territorial and partly age, this dog's abilities must have set some sort of world record. I really should call Guinness and find out.
And now, as he enters the twilight of his life, he is showing his age. He has put on about twenty pounds, doesn't hear so well, and has a tough time getting up off the floor. Hmm, sounds familiar.
I know his time is drawing near, and I know I will miss him. Until then, I'll keep the pooper scooper