We all love them. America’s favorite pet!
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My cat just typed that. True story — I couldn’t make that up. That stupid cat knew with his wicked sixth sense that I was writing about the dogs, and he jumped right up on the ‘ole keyboard and tried to sabotage the article.
Okay … back to dogs. They come in all shapes and sizes. Lap dogs. Sporting dogs. Working dogs. Guard dogs. Every one of us has a favorite, and we have countless stories of how Sparky, Max or Sadie came to our emotional rescue so much so that we feel like we are in the middle of some sappy Dave Barry article. Well, here is mine.
Kim, my wife, and I have always been “lab people.” Black lab people, to be precise. With tennis balls and red bandanas, our culture was deeply engrained. Our two labs –– one after the other –– were with us as long as we have been married. Inevitably, time won out with each dog, and we each had to make that dreaded last trip to the vet. Then we reached that stage in life where we had a daughter in college, a son finishing high school and both of our jobs were demanding. We needed a break, we just weren’t ready for another dog … and it was kind of nice not running the vacuum every day. After two dog-less years, Sis, our daughter, said it was time. Although we had always bought dogs with papers, Sis informed us that we would be “rescuing” a pup. Off to the shelter we went.
Far from the rolling farm country of papered dogs, the shelter stunk of overcrowded mixed breeds. The barking alone had me checking my watch for 5 o’clock somewhere. “I am going to lose a pair of expensive running shoes to piddle and poo,” I thought. No. No. No. Too big. Too yappy. Too inbred. This was turning into a nightmare.
Then she caught my eye. Brown eyes with the perky ears of a sporting breed, she was young, sleek and athletic. A little shy, she was a real lady with a short brindle coat that was appealing. The nice, patchouli-laced volunteer informed us that the litter had been rescued from imminent death. They had to be adopted soon or, well, you know … the gas chamber. “Would you like to see her brothers?” she asked. I am a one-dog man, but we compromised and got two.
“Plott Hounds,” Patchouli said, almost under her breath. Cool, no problem. “The North Carolina State Dog. Bred to track down bear, wild boar and coyote. Impervious to pain and fiercely loyal.” Wait! What did you say? What do you mean I can’t bring them back?
Nine months later I had two carnivorous ponies named Sami and Zeke, named after Samantha and Ezekiel from the Bible. They are loving and loyal, but it was a journey in the beginning. Zeke was sickly even before we brought him home. He had to be carried out to the yard to use the restroom and became even sicker while under the knife for his “procedure.” Much to our horror, we thought we lost him a couple of times.
Through this time period, we learned about spoon feeding. How can you tree a bear if you can’t eat your puppy chow? Two years later, his head sits ever-present on his rescuer’s lap, even as I type. Sami is still a little neurotic; she is smaller and faster than Zeke. She will be second to the fight, but she will finish what Zeke starts. They dig under, or just run through, our 6-foot privacy fence in the back yard. Unfortunately our neighborhood, like so many, is starting to experience the occasional break in or vandalism that we never had before. A wayward youth in the woods behind the house or a stray dog are cause enough for a Zeke and Sami jailbreak.
Sure, you have stories of how your chocolate lab pup made an incredible retrieve across a frozen Saskatchewan swamp. Or your Border Collie pulled a child from a burning school bus. Me? We are the only house on the block that will never have a wild boar invasion, and we are the only house that hasn’t been robbed. Maybe that’s enough, otherwise I’d really like to have my couch back!