Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Puppy Drama (Act I of II)

A Tough Act To Follow
In my mind, nothing could ever replace our dog Squirty, whose one-year death day anniversary is a little more than two weeks from now.

She was our baby after our real babies had reached middle school age. She was total joy over a period of time that we desperately needed it in our lives. She filled a niche that my wife Michelle had for nurturing, and that all the rest of the family had for unconditional love.

She was an awesome dog; smart as a whip; never chewed up our furniture, clothes, papers, or anything other than the rawhide chew toys we placed before her. She was easy to house-train, and with the notable exception of her last few weeks of life, never soiled our living space that I can ever recall.

However, partially due to her really being ‘Michelle’s dog,’ and partially because I was always working, I missed out on a lot of the fun in Squirty’s puppy stage of development.

In fact, I really should back up a bit and admit that I really don’t remember much about Squirty’s tendencies early on, or how long she actually took us to housebreak; and I don’t really recall to what extent she may have had a penchant for biting fingers and other objects while she was teething. However, I do know how good and easy a pet she turned out to be. I simply can’t imagine a pooch being any better-behaved.

That’s one reason why I was somewhat reluctant for us to get another dog. I just knew that we could never be that lucky twice in a row.

But guess what? We’ve got a new dog.

Her name is ‘Izzy’…and ‘Tazzi’…and ‘Sophie’…and ‘Doggie,’ in reverse order. In the three weeks since she first entered our home, each of those names has been a story unto itself.

Three weeks ago this past Sunday, I was minding my own business, reading the paper when Michelle looks over at me with a wry smile on her face.

“You know I’ve been thinking,” she said, followed by a pregnant pause that I’ve come to realize usually means more than simply catching her breath.

“My Mom is really lonely right now, and Christmas is going to be hard on her without Dad. I was thinking about getting her a dog. What do you think?”

I stammered my halfhearted approval, not really considering the implications of such a suggestion. “Sure,” I asked, “But what kind?”

She showed me an ad in the Sunday Tennessean, advertising Toy Fox Terriers from a breeder in Dixon, Tennessee, which — interestingly enough, I thought — was the very same town our previous breeder operated out of.

Could this be the same guy?

We had actually been trying to keep loose tabs on the breeder we used previously, a gentleman named Ron Hunt, as over the years we continually fielded inquiries from folks about Squirty; what breed she was, where we got her, et al.

However, we had lost touch with Mr. Hunt several years earlier and had assumed he’d simply retired or moved away. If for no other reason than to satisfy her curiosity about the breeder’s identity, I told her I thought she should call and check it out

Squirty’s litter-mate, whom Michelle’s parents had picked out at the same time back in July of 1993, had passed away a little more than a year earlier than her sister. And with the additional loss of her husband last June, life was becoming increasingly solitary for Michelle’s Mom, who had never been alone in her entire life. She needed some companionship. I fully supported the idea of getting her a puppy for Christmas. We thought it would be the perfect gift.

And after Michelle contacted the breeder by phone that Sunday morning, we were convinced that it was meant to be.

Turns out, the breeder’s name was Edwin Overhill. When asked if he knew Mr. Hunt, the man replied, “Sure I know him. He’s worked for me off and on for years.”

Mr. Hunt, we would learn, had indeed retired from dog breeding, but still worked for Overhill at his primary business, a used car dealership in Dixon. Overhill had actually taken on Hunts’ dogs when he stepped away from the business.

So, it was entirely possible that the breeding line that produced Squirty and her parents’ dog may well still be active in those that Overhill is breeding today.

The breeding lineage and connection to Mr. Hunt all seemed much too great a coincidence to be arbitrary. Surely this was meant to be.

Or was it?

We immediately went out to see the last recently-born-yet-unspoken-for female puppy that Mr. Overhill would have available before Christmas.

She was stinky and cuddly and adorable. We were both smitten with a capital ‘S’. We just knew Michelle’s mom would feel the same way. We took the eleven week-old pup home with us that afternoon.

What we (or, more specifically, what ‘I’) didn’t know was what a challenge it would be to keep her — not to mention, keep her a secret — for the remaining ten days until the Christmas Day.

And one other thing — what the heck do we call her? I certainly didn’t want to have her getting used to any name other than what Michelle’s Mom would eventually give her, but at the same time, I had to get her attention somehow. So I just stuck with ‘Doggie’ as it was both neutral and something that rolled off my tongue anyway, since it had been the endearing nickname I had called Squirty her entire life.

I also didn’t realize how tough it would be to housetrain the little munchkin. Like I said earlier, I really wasn’t in on that part of the deal with Squirters. If she was any more difficult than this one in that department I certainly don’t remember it.

However, to my chagrin, Doggie would not be a willing participant in the ‘Let’s Relieve Ourselves Out in the Cold’ club. She would do fine so long as we’d been holding her and then took her out periodically after she’d been sleeping. But several other times, left to her own devices, she would squat indiscriminately all over the house. This was particularly frustrating if it was really cold outside, as she wanted no part of eliminating in the harsh elements, and would refuse to ‘do her business’ when requested, only to do so indoors usually just minutes later, after coming back into the nice warm house.

Part of me was preaching patience to the other part of me that was cursing my wife for suggesting the idea of getting her Mom this dog in the first place. But then frustrated AJ would remember, “it’s just for a few more days, then it’ll be over.”

Cynical, right? Heartless; selfish? Guilty as charged, your honor, but with explanation.

See, I’m currently unemployed. However I do have a big freelance project that I’m STILL trying to finish, so that I can turn my attention to finding another full-time gig.

Not only did having a puppy quite necessarily strapped to my lap keep me from getting any serious work done, it also kept me from dealing with an even more pressing issue.

Thanksgiving Morning, my main desktop computer died. At the time I thought it was a bad motherboard, so I immediately ordered a new one. Well, if you’ve ever replaced a mobo, you know what comes next (for me, anyway) — hours of installing, usually with a certain amount of troubleshooting when things don’t go as planned. And of course, things did not go as planned.

When I reinstalled the mobo, I got nothin.’ No activity of any kind. Was it a bad power supply? Was it something that was causing an electrical short? I won’t go into the minutiae of what gyrations I had to go through to nail down the problem, but suffice it to say, it was a time consuming process — one that was impossible to engage while trying to keep a precocious puppy dog from chewing through the computer’s power cables.

I ended up delaying getting my main computer up and running in favor of attempting to do the work on my laptop, which has most of the same software as my main box, but only about a third of the RAM memory, hard drive capacity, and processor speed.

The work came along, but at a much slower pace than I needed it to in order for me to accomplish my activity goals.

Bottom line, I was really anxious for Christmas, not so I could get presents, but so I could get rid of one.

Now again, lest you think of me as some hard-hearted beast, let me just say that I loved that dog. She absolutely melted my heart on a daily basis. If I had been smart, I would have simply locked her up in our master bathroom with her bed and toys, and proceeded on downstairs to work. Trouble was, we really did want to try and have her at least partially potty-trained before giving her to MIL for Christmas. But in reality I just couldn’t bare the thought of her being cooped up in another room while I was in the house. There was a true love-hate thing going on within me. I wished this little dog wasn’t always there underfoot, but in truth, I just couldn’t stand the thought of her being anywhere else.

However, now well into her fourth month of life, she was becoming much more of a handful. Instead of sleeping six hours during the day, she now seemed alert and wanting to play all the time, and when playing didn’t mean chewing on and/or biting her toys, it meant chewing my fingers and nipping at the hem of my pants every time I walked across the room.

She had also now found her voice, and began to treat us to both her impish, high-pitched, yet (thankfully) low-volume bark as well as her aggressive, yet incredibly cute, gurgley little growl during physical play.

When the time came for MIL to receive her gift, everything seemed to be going according to plan. Michelle presented Doggie to her Mom on Christmas Eve. She was immediately dubbed ‘Sophie,’ as MIL had already picked out a name in the event she would ever get another pooch.

Over the following two days before she left for home, MIL and Sophie were inseparable, and everyone felt great about the way it had all come together.

However, in the back of my mind, I had a feeling that the marriage was far from perfect. Michelle’s Mom is almost exactly fifteen-and-a-half years removed from the puppy-raising experience; after what I had gone through with the little critter, I was pretty sure that this time wouldn’t be quite as easy as the last one was.

Next: Meet Tazzie (that’s short for Tasmanian Devil)
blog comments powered by Disqus