When Tim and I married, we blended two families of three into one family of six. Together we have four sons, and no, we are not going to try for the basketball team. Or the girl. If God wants us to have another baby, He is going to have to drop one off on our front porch in a basket, Moses style. God Himself, that is, and not my mother-in-law. (Just in case she’s getting an idea.)
We also combined two cats (his) and a little black dog (hers), all of them male. My only chance at adding a girl to our ranks was a female puppy, but I really didn’t want one.
I love my dogs, but I do not confuse them with my children. I bristle at those billboards that say “Pets are children too.” I hope not, because I have never left my sons in a box with a piddle pad while I ran to Trader Joe’s for eggs.
That having been said, it’s embarrassing how smitten I am with our puppy.
I did not want another dog. Just for the record, I didn’t even want the first dog. Predictably, I fell head over heels for the little black dog anyway. Have you seen how adorable the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is? Ridiculous. It’s just that dogs are a lot of work, and I didn’t harbor any illusions that the kids – even the ones begging for the dog – would be picking up the poop or getting up at o-dark-thirty to let the puppy outside.
I wanted a tiara.
The rest of my family wanted a puppy.
Tim and the boys began their research project in pursuit of the perfect canine addition to our many-footed family. They looked at pound puppies and purebreds, and stumbled upon what appeared to be an ideal match. Reluctantly, I agreed that if they could find one within a reasonable distance, I would consider it. In light of the fact that there were only three breeders in the country, I thought this was a safe bet.
They found one nearby.
The “ours” puppy is a French Pointer, a hunting dog known for his high energy, agility and good temperament. (Think smaller, gentler German Short-Haired Pointer.) Because breeders seem to be a breed of their own and we are not a hunting family, we spent a good deal of time convincing the breeder we would be worthy of this dog. Tim and I are also known for our high energy. Our dispositions are generally reasonable but improved by a run. We hit the trails every day, and the dog would have four boys, for crying out loud.
The breeder already had six hunting families lined up to choose their dogs, but eventually agreed that we could have the seventh pick of the litter. Unfortunately, they were only expecting six puppies. All of which is to say, that we could have the reject. And even though my chances of having a female compatriot in the testosterone zone were looking slim, I was starting to think that I might get through this phase without picking up a single puppy “prize.”
But then there were seven puppies.
We do not know why none of the hunting families chose our puppy. We affectionately call him our “defective hunting dog.” He is handsome and stoic, with a dark coat, and he was the biggest of the litter. Maybe it’s because he does not like wet feet or inclement weather. Or early mornings. Like a child afraid of the dark, he wants a human to accompany him in the backyard. He has a flat personality but a sweet temperament. Oddly, he’s a reluctant eater. His littermates were pointing at butterflies as young as two months, and they now retrieve pheasants in the Dakotas. Our dog still points at butterflies, and hunts for a warm sunny spot (unoccupied by a cat) for his post-run nap.
To his credit, the defective hunting dog is equal opportunity in his loyalty. The boys and my husband all believe that they are his favorite, unlike the little black dog who everybody knows is very attached to me. As for defecto-dog, I’m his favorite, too, but I let the boys think what they wish.
The “ours” puppy is absolutely gorgeous when he runs, and to watch him climb up and speed down hills? Forget about it. Stunning. More than once, drivers passing by have stopped their cars to ask about our dog. When Tim and I are not running together, we occasionally even argue about which one of us gets to take the dog in the morning.
I told you it was embarrassing.
I had a criminal law professor in law school whose resemblance to Andy Garcia insured the attendance and attention of at least half the class. By his own admission a frustrated philosophy major, his favorite question was, “Who’s the judge?” His point being that issues of right and wrong remain essentially subjective. Experience and perspective influence whether a quality is rendered an imperfection or an asset. Sometimes the “best” is simply a matter of opinion.
Which is certainly true in the case of the ours puppy.
It’s raining lightly this morning, which I consider a welcome relief from the September heat. I am looking forward to running in the drizzle, but defecto-dog is not. He looks at me like I’ve lost my mind, resisting the lure of the leash, looking uncannily like the dog Max in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
My dog would never have made it in the Dakotas.
But we are crazy about him. He’s terrific with our kids. And as long as he’s had his morning run, he’s calm around the cats and the little black dog. The breeder need not fret – this dog runs a marathon or more every week, and he has four boys to call his own. We are grateful that – for whatever his flaw – this ridiculous dog has landed in our equally ridiculous family.
I didn’t quite get the girl dog, but I did name him after my favorite female character in To Kill A Mockingbird: Scout. He’s not exactly a hunter, but he’s our ideal family dog.
Wishing you light and strength. And a perfectly defective dog.