Monday, June 29, 2009

Puppy Love

Nixon was my first serious "dog relationship." I had dogs my entire adolescence and thought dogs were an easy addition to the family. Yes, dogs are easy, when you are age five to seventeen and you do NOTHING to actually assist in the care-taking of said dog except for the occasional pet or game of fetch here and there.

Nixon was my learning curve, and ultimately my favorite girl.

Way back in the days of cutting my teeth on other serious relationships like college boyfriends, my first serious paramour and I decided to get a dog. Well, let me slightly rephrase. He said he wanted us to get a dog. I said no. He said let's go look. I said no. We went and "looked" and any fool who got in that car in the first place knows how this story ends. That day, with a puppy on my lap, I became a member of the Boxer Fan Club (well, maybe not that day since that little puppy had to go pee pee similar I suppose to what a camel might need to do after holding it in for oh, weeks and since the dam broke and my lap was her current location, there you have it.)

Years later, I felt it was time to resume doggie ownership but as the sole proprietor this time. I had a roommate and every time I would even look at a dog or comment on its cuteness she would say "Ohhhh nooo". I decided to pull the same explanation that I had been subjected to years before. I called her and said I was going to look at puppies. When I got to the breeder, there was only one left. A runt. And she came tearing around that corner barely two pounds but giving it all she's got. She was so tiny I didn't know if she was actually a dog or a mouse in a doggie costume. A friend was with me and when we looked at that face, we knew it was all over. There simply is no "just going to look." We brought her home and she was so little she had to get a kitty collar and a kitty crate. She never made it over 50 pounds but every pound of her was full of love, energy, and sass. Let me explain.

People say that a dog's personality can very often take on attributes of its owner. Oh, say it ain't so. Nixon was the most loving baby girl but oh, did she have a smart mouth. Hmmmmm. I am still waiting for the irony to sink in but something tells me I will be waiting a long time.

She was a back talker. I had never heard such a thing. From a pet. I would tell her no, or to get off the couch (ongoing battle) and she would do it, begrudgingly, and with backtalk like a raaaaawrr raaaaaawrr.

The first time, I could not quite believe what I was hearing. I actually asked her, "Are you sassing me." (Sounds smart, I know.) To which she looked at me as if she couldn't believe I even had to ask. I did find it funny, in an unfunny way. I came home once and she must have been in a deep sleep, because normally, that key would hit the lock and she would fly off that couch and dive into her baby's bed to pretend she was there all along. This day, she only had her front paws on the floor while her butt was all cuddled up on that couch. Oh, and the look of "UH OH" all over her face.

She is the reason people should get dog's in the first place. We had a few mishaps along the route but they made me laugh then (maybe not immediately) and they make me laugh now. When she was six months old, I took her with me on an errand on a cool fall day. Returning to the car I saw a smudge on the window that I could not readily identify. She sat in the driver's seat with a look like "Oh, I MISSED you" on her face. Upon closer inspection, I made an unfortunate discovery.

She had pooped in the car. And then, in haste to get away but with no available escape route, she ran around the car. And around, and around, and around. Nixon Andretti did laps. With poop on paws. It was on the windows, the seats, and a piece even fell in my gym bag. I was mortified. And before you wonder, YES, I took her out to do her business before we left!

I get in the car only upon confirming there was no poop in the driver's seat. At about the second red light, I realized my jeans were taking on water. From the seat. Where she had peed. Goood Lawwwwwd. Oh, I was a pretty picture parked outside my house in the urinate-o-shat mobile. I was so mad at her too. I told her not even to look at me, which she ignored as she tried to cuddle in my lap. Oh, it got cleaned and I couldn't tell anyone who got in the car for months afterward. Now, I find it hysterical and if I could tell you the story in person, I would laugh even harder.

And in another "incident" (Warning: not for those who are squeamish in the tum tum). I got home one day and noticed a distinct scent. Searching high and low, I found nothing. About 20 minutes before I was playing tennis, I took her out to run on the court. She loved it (and I loved watching her bound over the net. With clearance. Superdog!). As she rounded the net, she looked a bit tuckered. As my tennis partner and I looked on, she was suddenly ill. Poor little vomit dog. And then, and only then, did I realize what had happened to the "evidence". I actually had to wrap my nose and mouth in a t-shirt so as to not contribute to the already sickening stench on the tennis court. My partner, laughing his arse off, told me I had to scrub it clean before he would step a foot back on the court. After hauling buckets, brooms, and soap to clean up the mess, did I then counsel sweet young Nixon in no uncertain terms that her circumstances could NEVER be so dire that they would require her to eat her own doo doo. NEVER.

We had big fun. I won't go into all the road trips, the lake, the park, how she would run in these crazy circles like a jackrabbit. Or how every friend I had (including old roommate who never wanted a dog) fell in puppy love with that little girl. She warmed even the hardest of hearts.

And she was a great litmus test. Once, a boy came over to court me, and when he met her he literally tapped her head with one finger, then said, "hmmm, now I smell like dog" and went immediately to wash his hands. She and I looked at each other and knew that would be the last of him.

When we met JohnnyMac, she became completely enamored with him and would only do what was asked of her if it came from him. Once, we were sitting in the living room and she was trying to get on the couch. I told her she had to stay down. She walked around our ottoman to nestle by him and lay her head on JohnnyMac's knee. Those big eyes looking up at him. And don't think he wasn't a sucker for her. Goodness.

I never wanted her on the furniture and devised many schemes to keep her off since each initial scheme failed miserably. Someone told me to put sheets of foil on the couch since animals don't like foil. Eureka! Until she found a way to put her paws on the arm of the chaise, and use her teeth to pull the blanket off the back of the couch OVER the foil so she could nestle right down for a long nap while we were away. Upon discovering this I thought Curses! JohnnyMac asked how I could be mad when my dog was a GENIUS! Touche.

When we were pregnant, and got our new gorgeous king-sized bed, we decided (I decided and JohnnyMac very reluctantly agreed) that Nixon couldn't sleep on the bed anymore. I was concerned she would jump on the bed when the baby came. One night, I came to bed and there is JohnnyMac reading his book, and covered in his 50 pound fur blanket: Nixon. I asked him how that happened and I do love that he acted as if she snuck up there on her own merit like some canine Navy Seal. He also gave mock surprise when he put his book down and pretended he was just noticing her presence. A sucker! I told you!

When our munchkin came into the world, we followed all the steps to help Nixon adapt. And once when I was holding him over my arm, she bounded up and touched his face. I remember being upset with her because it startled me. But she was just trying to get to know him. At that time being such a new parent, I wasn't taking any chances and I wouldn't even let her in the bedroom at night the first month because baby and baby's crib were in our room. She would sleep outside the door and sigh, often and loudly, to let me know her disposition. And her exile didn't last long.

The first month of his life, she started limping. We had no idea why or the source of any injury so we took her immediately to the vet. She was x-rayed and examined. The wise old vet who had been her vet from day one, said there was actually nothing wrong with her. And that it might be her way of getting attention with the new baby.

"So, she's faking an injury?" I asked, incredulously. He laughed and said he could not confirm or deny. She was FAKING IT. And she never limped another day after that.

She got to spend more time with him. And he used to giggle and laugh when she would try to kiss him. I encouraged him to stop opening his mouth when she did kiss him but my words only had so much effect.

I wish they were friends now. I would love seeing them together. And she would love the copious amounts of food that doesn't seem to make it into our munchkin's mouth. And he would love chasing her and trying to catch her little nub as it wagged a thousand beats per minute.

Just after she turned seven, she died unexpectedly as we played in the back yard one day. She was completely healthy and the vet could identify no known cause. I only then understood how people lose a pet and immediately add another pet to their family. You are not trying to replace, but there is a distinct and lonely gap left behind when you lose a pet, and the gap Nixon left is bigger than I could have ever dreamed. I miss her and while I want another dog, I admittedly want one just exactly like her. Sassy mouth and all.

We know we will have another dog one day. A wise girlfriend told me we may not want to have two little bottoms to be cleaning up after at the same time. Now that I am a Boxer Fan Club member, I already know what breed that dog will be. JohnnyMac doesn't get a vote, but who is he kidding, he will be a sucker for the next one too. And our little man will know why they say dog is man's best friend.


Vodka Logic said...

I must admit at the moment I am not a dog person, it isn't that I don't like them I am just too busy right now. I do however love your story... I assume you have seen the movie, or read the book, Marley and impact the first time, but the second time I watched I cried my eyes out.. go figure.

Sorry about your loss..


Anonymous said...

Dang that sucks.

Dogs are way better'n people.

Fine Life Folk said...

The look that the toddler was giving the dog -- that is priceless.

Anonymous said...

I totally just started tearing up. We have a boxer, Oscar who exhibits all the same temperament. He can thank you because tonight he's sleeping on the bed.