Tuesday, April 23, 2013

For the love of a dog

“If you don't own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.”
― Roger Caras

Four years ago this week, I brought my Sparky home.  I had been longing for a dog to add to my family for my entire adult life.  The Ex-Husband and I didn't agree on dogs.  I begged and pleaded and promised but he wouldn't budge an inch.

So I got rid of him.

And Sparky moved in a few short months later.

It took me a little while to find the perfect dog for our family.  I needed a dog with a good temperament for kids and adults-who-act-like kids.  I needed a substantial dog.  I wanted a big dog with a gruff bark and a cuddly personality.  A few years before I found Sparky, a good friend of mine had adopted a beautiful, smart labradoodle.  I fell in love with that dog from half a continent away.  I watched him grow up through pictures and heard tales of his sweetness and brilliance and decided that a labradoodle would be just what we needed.   And I'd heard they don't shed (bonus...and a total lie). 

And then (because fate is REAL, people), Sparky's picture popped up in one of my internet puppy searches.  OH MY GOODNESS.  I fell in love with him in about a millisecond.  AND, his breeder had named him Jackson (the official name of Thing 2...kismet from the start).  He was the cutest thing I'd ever seen and I absolutely had to have him.  The breeder informed me that he was a first generation cross between a chocolate female labrador retriever and a black standard poodle.  I LOVED HIM SO MUCH...like Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona much.  

A couple weeks later, we were on our way home with him.  Thing 1 asked me to please focus on the road and stop staring at the puppy.  He was just...perfect.  He was everything I had ever longed for.  He was the answer to life, the universe and everything.  In puppy form, I had found true love.  He threw up on Thing 2 halfway home.  He then threw up on me about an hour later.  Covered in puppy vomit and grinning from ear to ear, we arrived home with our new family member.

Bringing a puppy into a single-parent family is not an easy task.  It was like having a newborn again (well, he WAS a newborn at only 8 weeks old).  I went to work in the morning, ran home at 10 to let him of his crate to go potty outside, came home at lunch, ran back home at 3 to let him out again and was home at 5 for the evening which was spent giving him some exercise and playing and potty training.  On top of THAT, we had homework and t-ball and soccer games to contend with.

He was an active puppy who chewed on the door frames, the carpet, my Blackberry, shoes, underwear, belts, and homework (yep, it's true).  He ignored or immediately destroyed every chew toy I brought in the door, even the (supposedly) indestructible Kong.  He had been home for only two weeks (and prior to the delivery of his first rabies shot) when he ran out the front door toward the street.  I chased after him, picked him up in my arms and he, anxious to run on his chunky puppy legs, struggled in my arms with his mouth open to reveal his razor sharp puppy teeth.  Seven stitches in my earlobe later, I received a call from Animal Control.

In case you were unaware, dogs have to be quarantined if they bite someone.  EVEN ACCIDENTAL puppy bites require a quarantine.   I don't know if this is the rule for ALL dogs but it's certainly true of those who don't have updated rabies shots.  Sparky's vet was waiting until he was 12 weeks old to administer the shot...so, he ended up getting it a little earlier than planned when he spent 5 or 6 days in the Big House for Bad Puppy Behavior.  Since he was just a BABY, we would go visit him in the Big House and the receptionists would joke about bringing out "that vicious labradoodle."

I loved him no less.  In spite of all the destruction and the pain, I loved that dog.  I took him on walks.  I left him out of the crate at night so he could sleep with me.  He's sleeping on my bed beside me as I write this.  In the last four years, he's been on various Great Adventures with us and has secured his place in the family as a patient, mischievous, sweet and gentle mutt.  Sometimes I worry that he's lonely during the day when I leave him to go to work...but then On-Again brings over his two (very active) dogs and Sparky often looks at us like "OK, when are these kids heading back to the On-Again ranch??"  So, maybe he'll fly solo for a while longer.

Sparky has been a wonderful addition to our family.  I love him like I love my children (some have accused me of loving him MORE).  And I often come into rooms where my boys are snuggled up with this big giant dog on the couch or on the floor.  I can't imagine my life..or my heart...without him.

Husband vs. dog?   I guess I'll take the dog... (no offense intended, Ex-Husband!).  :)
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