Saturday, September 25, 2010

A New Addition to the Family

For good or ill, we're often defined by those we share our lives with. Others may judge us by the company we keep, and those we choose as friends can offer insights into our hearts that a simple conversation can never reveal. And, after all, those who lay down with dogs shouldn't be surprised if they have to live with fleas. Which brings us to today.

Until this past winter, Nonie and I had never been without a dog. Our first dog was Honey --- a pet she inserted into our marriage (against her new husband's wishes), because she couldn't bear the thought of seeing the poor creature put down. She'd had a rough upbringing, wasn't completely housebroken, was afraid of her shadow, and was, in essence, the world's wimpiest dog. She was also one of the canine world's great escape artists, vowing at an early age that no fence could hold her. But, she had a good heart and, though I would have much preferred starting out a new marriage with a new puppy, she managed to infiltrate our house to the extent that evicting her became impossible. Kind of like the stepchildren of a new spouse, stepchildren, except that stepkids usually don't pee all over everything.

Shortly after Honey and I can to a grudging truce, another dog appeared at our house...again, courtesy of my wife, who apparently was unable to resist taking any stray home with her. (I was too kind-hearted to demand that she take the intruder immediately to the pound. It is a persistent shortcoming of mine --- one that I've been working to remedy --- but on this occasion I could only grunt and resign myself to more years of living pergatory). Skipper was peppy, and filled with a zest for life. He was also far more fearless than his small size warranted, showing a willingness to take on (and get tossed about) by dogs twice his size, without the slightest inclination to learn from his experience and adopt a more discreet attitude about defending the world from other dogs. He did like Honey, however, and would growl at salesmen who overstayed their welcome. The two of them formed a real odd couple, and were with us for many years.

When Honey finally died at a ripe old age, the family was finally ready to exist as Nature intended: with one dog. Since this state of affairs proved intolerable to at least one member of our household, however, I soon found a small beagle puppy named Daisy gracing our house. A bout with parvo virus and extensive vet's bills later, she was a fully functioning member of the family...running off following her nose whenever possible. Though not an escape artist, she would usually take off for hours at the Yanik Family Farm...usually just before we wanted to leave. On one of these adventures, she led an aging Skipper on a merry adventure, through fields and forests, and causing a forest-full of worry for Nonie, who does not take kindly to any misadventure visited upon any of her pets.

We found both dogs a bit later...courtesy of neighbors by the farm, who called the number on their dog tags. Daisy, a healthy young dog, was none the worse for the wear; Skipper, the old codger, didn't fare quite as well. He died a few months later --- although not directly from his ordeal: it weakened an already aging dog, and probably shortened his life. But I suspect he found the freedom of wandering about to be quite an adventure.

Back to being a one-dog family, life seemed far less chaotic: there was only one animal to feed and let outside---Daisy. (Well...aside from the cat, but I continue to deny any active involvement in any cat-enabling activities). One animal to play with and shower attention on. One animal to worry about and take for a walk. One animal to crap in the back yard.

Obviously, something had to change...and, true to form, one day Nonie came home with a puppy she'd stumbled across at the soccer field. A cute, rolling ball of fuzz that resembled a small golden retriever. But, apparently a lot more domestically astute than her clueless husband, her approach to smuggling newcomers into the house had become far more sophisticated. This time, she took care to introduce the animal to our two small kids first. And, realizing at once that she'd managed to turn my flank yet again, there was little to do but groan and accept the reality that the little fuzz ball would be around for a while. We named her Callie.

Daisy and Callie were with us together for many years. Daisy seemed to be a magnet for misadventure and played the part of the animal world's Don Knotts. She was also stubborn as a mule, liked to howl, and tended to venture off on any scent trail that crossed her path. Callie, on the other hand, was sociable and loved to play fetch. She also loved camping, and accompanied us on many of our most memorable trips. We lost them over the course of the last two years---Callie two years ago at Christmas; and Daisy earlier this year, as we were getting our new house ready. Both dogs would have loved the new place: plenty of room, and lots of interesting smells. And their shadows will still haunt our memories.

Since we moved, Nonie has been increasingly agitated, insisting that the absence of a canine presence meant that the new place was seriously understaffed. For myself, I appreciated the respite, the lack of drool, and the absence of crap in the yard. Today, though, the Zoo had one of its many pet adoption events...and so we drove to Royal Oak to see if any of the animals struck our fancy.

There were, of course, the beagles: sweet and serene, pleading to be taken home. There were even two adorable beagle puppies---eight weeks old, and cute as the dickens. We do, after all, have 4-1/2 acres for a dog to explore. But with their tendency to roam---and with horses nearby---we weren't quite sure that a beagle would be our best bet.
We saw a number of other nice dogs...of various cross-breeds. In the end, Nonie was drawn to a black lab mix...with a sweet disposition and an eagerness to please. It's also a male...which will be quite a switch, since nearly all the dogs I've had (all but Skipper) have been girls.
The animal shelter named him "Bosley"...a name I like, and would just as soon keep. I think it has just the right mixture of whimsy to suit him.

Alana thinks we should call him "Buster" (possibly after the Mythbusters test dummy...though I'm not sure she had that Buster in mind). I suspect "Buster" will prevail.

So...welcome Bosley. Or Buster.  Or Whatever.

And if it's not too much trouble, please try to keep the crap outside.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

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