Monday, April 7, 2008

The Grogans Have Nothing On Us

In early April 2004, Ward and I made the decision to get a dog. We had just bought our first home in 2002 and had spent the better part of 2003 trying to get grass to grow in our tiny, and I mean tiny, backyard for a dog that wasn’t so tiny to destroy.

After much thought and consideration we narrowed it down to two breeds, our first venture into canine ownership would either be a Golden Retriever (my choice) or an English springer spaniel (his choice based on the kind of dog his brother had). After making the decision to get a dog I spent the better part of two weeks reading about these two breeds in on-line articles and at bookstores.

One sunny Sunday afternoon (in early April 2004) I stopped in at Petsmart to read further on Goldens and Springers while Ward was working (he had just started his own company just months before and was pulling 80 hour weeks to make sure we survived). I had all but decided on a Springer Spaniel when as I was walking to my car I came across a truckload of Golden Retriever puppies.

A couple had come to Petsmart with their litter of Golden Retriever puppies. They claimed that they were purebred but they hadn’t been able to prove it so they were giving them away. I picked one up and he fell asleep in my arms, I called Ward. No answer. Five minutes later I called again. And again. I couldn’t stand there all day so I took a chance, I decided to keep him and hope that my decision wouldn’t change Ward’s mind about keeping me. I walked to my vehicle, small golden puppy sound asleep. It was only after I started to leave the parking lot that the yelping began.

And it continued the ENTIRE way home. At one point I seriously considered turning around and heading back to Petsmart and dropping the dog back off. In retrospect, it would have made for a much easier year, but that isn’t what I did.

No, I took the mutt home. And everyone fell in love with him quickly. Ward was a little frustrated that I had gotten a dog without him while he was out working but as soon as he got home and the pup ran to him his mind was changed. We named the dog Maximo, and we never once called him that. He is Max, the 88 pound monster we know and love today. Our neighbors call him Max-A-Million but I have no idea why.

The first few hours were blissful. The next few months were miserable. The puppy was not housebroken by any means but took instead to breaking the house. He hated being crated because I took the veterinarians suggestion to crate him and thought she meant crate him in a travel crate. Dogs hate travel crates.

Max went to the bathroom, everywhere. He wasn’t the least bit picky. He barked incessantly for what seemed like months but was really just one of the longest weeks ever because of the lack of sleep (matched only by the twin’s arrival). In eight months time he chewed on a bookshelf Ward made, he ruined our carpet from accidents and chewing on it, he ate an entire sofa, he ruined all the grass we had grown and I thought about getting rid of him almost every day. Raising a puppy is not for the faint at heart. It was a very, very difficult time in our lives as well because we were delving into the world of infertility treatments and we had family come and stay with us and Max made it better at times and Max made it worse at times. But we kept him.

Then in early 2005 we dog-sat for my crazy mother-in-law’s Shitzu. I was completely against the idea because she had all these ridiculous wishes about how the dog was to be treated and he was to sleep in our room. None of that was to happen and she wasn’t happy about it, but we were her best, I mean only option so she hesitantly agreed. What I thought was going to be an awful weekend with Snoflee turned out to be much better.

Snoflee could have cared less about Max but Max followed Snoflee everywhere. Wherever Snoflee slept on the carpet there was Max. When Snoflee left on Monday, Max seemed utterly depressed.

Now one thing you have to understand is Max is neurotic. I doubt a more neurotic dog has ever existed. He jumps at loud noises. He hates to be yelled at. He has to have someone kick a soccer ball to him if he is outside. He needs to go outside all the time. He is depressed when alone. And so on.

I saw no other option; we had to get another dog, for Max’s sake of course.

And low and behold there was a litter of nine week old English Springer Spaniel puppies for sale in the paper. Ward was not happy about the prospect of buying a dog, he is understandably against dog farms and didn’t know why I needed a pure bred dog. I didn’t need one of course, I just wanted one. I called about the litter, she had lowered the price because the puppies were getting older and not selling. She would meet me at McDonalds in Bedford on Monday.

I took the travel crate and my brother and went to get puppy #2.

You would have thought I learned some lesson with puppy #1, like never ever get a puppy again, but I hadn’t. I took a look at the puppies and quickly picked neurotic dog #2, Jake.

Now another thing you have to understand is I was desperate for a child at this point, so I told myself I didn’t mind the puppy stage. Jake was much smaller as a puppy at first than Max was so I carried him everywhere, which is how a 55 pound dog became a lap dog. Until I got pregnant if I was sitting on the couch Jake would crawl into my lap. I grew to enjoy it, to expect it. He wasn’t allowed to do it while I was pregnant and it has seriously hurt out bond, poor neurotic dog that he is.

So we brought Jake home and took him out of the crate and waited for Max’s reaction. He sniffed him and took to him immediately. An instantaneous bond was formed. Best decision I ever made right?

Not exactly. Where Max barked at night as a puppy for weeks Jake would howl for hours any time of day and it lasted months. Where Max would go to the bathroom if left inside for too long Jake would come inside and go to the bathroom. Where Max didn’t like being left in a crate Jake would literally claw his way out. Where as Max tried to dig out of the backyard at the gate Jake tried to dig to China from all over the backyard. I went through another period of regretting my decision and once seriously thought about getting rid of both of them. We never followed through with that.

Or much of anything else. They were never going to get on the couch. But they do. How else could Jake become a lap dog? They were never going to eat table food but Max just loves Bananas. They were never going to sleep in bed with us but Jake is a good foot warmer. It is in these decisions I learned a noble lesson, be careful about issuing the word never with a statement unless you know for certain that you really would not ever.

Max and Jake are great dogs. Now. In my opinion. Jake is AKC registered but we had his manhood removed at four months so I am not sure why I bothered with the registering. Jake is as dumb as Ward claims, but he has the sweetest eyes and a good heart. He gives new meaning to his name by springing into the air sometimes three of four feet. Max is smart, he can understand several words but if you even whisper the word soccer or ball you had better put your shoes on. He is the best dog I have ever seen with children and NEEDS you to have a hand on his head whenever your foot isn’t kicking a ball.

They are crated (in much larger see through crates) when we can’t keep an eye on them and most nights (because Jake has never truly learned what housebroken means). I am afraid though that lately they have been spending a lot more of their days in these crates. I am busy with the babies or worried that they are going to slobber on a baby or wake a baby and I truly feel really bad about this. It needs to change. These dogs whom stay in their crates don’t get angry that they are crated so often, instead they just jump for joy when we let them out (Jake quite literally). They are great dogs. Neurotic, slightly annoying, but great nonetheless.

They are no replacement for children, I can assure you. But they are magnificent companions. I am so glad that I didn’t let my frustration get the better of me and get rid of them. That happens to too many pets.

And I really do think that every home should have a dog.

As I write this, Max is doing his annoying bark-whine, take me outside and please me with your just barely adequate soccer ball kicking skills.

Alright boy.



wesley's mom said...

Those dogs have totally prepared you for having children.

I mean, after a dog eats your sofa, what other shenanigans can top that?

ps-who are the grogans?

James said...

Uh oh. Julie is going to read this and it's going to make her sad thinking about our (former) pooches.

Ward and June said...

Sorry, it wasn't my goal to make anyone sad, sorry about your pooches.

John Grogan wrote Marley and Me, which in case you have never seen or read it, it is the story of a neurotic dog (that they thought was awful but has nothing on Max) and a family in the making.


P.S. Max tried really, really hard to top eating the sofa when I was pregnant and he got sick (I will say that it wasn't just vomit) nineteen times EVERYWHERE in our house and I had to sit in the pantry to avoid the awful smell and cried until Ward came home and cleaned it up.

wesley's mom said...

He got sick from eating the sofa, or from the withdrawl symtoms of not having enough upholstry fabric and foam in his diet?

Hoolie said...

There are days when I regret giving up my dogs. However, I take comfort in the idea that I did the best we could with placing them with appropriate new owners. I still miss them, but they were not good with children and deserved the attention they did not get with us. Ahem . . . when will I feel like I can stop justifying this decision?