Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Best Christmas Present Ever



“He sure does have some stinky toots,” my husband said while we played cards with friends. We all wrinkled our noses in agreement and waited for the air to clear.

“Maybe it’s his food,” I muttered later, as I walked past a dog dish full of canned organ meats. The smell hung right there in the air, all fingers pointing to our new pup’s putrid digestive system and unappetizing menu. Then I noticed the jar of freshly fermenting sauerkraut overflowing onto the counter above his bowls. I had no idea homemade sauerkraut and doggie toots smell identical.

Our new puppy, recently adopted from a pretty nasty animal control facility in the Phoenix area, got sick two days after we brought him home. I know—shocker. Somehow, surrounded by dog cells adorned with “This dog is sick but adoptable” signs, our little lab contracted a nasty case of kennel cough. But he wasn’t coughing. He just had . . . tummy issues. Which morphed into an eating and drinking fast (who knew he was a religious dog?) and landed him in two vets’ offices the same week.

“Where did he come from?” they asked us.

“The pound.”

“How old is he?”

Blank stare.

“Is he a Labrador/shepherd mix?”

“Okay.”

As best we can tell, he has absolutely no medical history and has left no paper trail. He just appeared on a street corner on Christmas Eve somewhere in Phoenix and was delivered to the pound sometime on Christmas Day. Which wasn’t a very nice present for him, if you ask me.

But I’d been praying for a new dog for almost a year. Specifically, I prayed for a dog who needed us. It’s hard to figure out how to find a dog like that. I did have some important specifics, though.  First, he/she needed to have a kind heart.  Second, he must be allergic to the following: 

Garden hoses
Lawn chairs
Household furniture
Extension cords, and
Chocolate truffles. 

By the time our first dog dissected all of the above, my husband figured out Harmony suffered from a PVC deficiency. I discovered she loved Lindt’s truffles when I dropped one and, before I realized it wasn’t in my mouth, it turned up in hers.

I never forgave her for that, by the way.

So, how were we gonna find the perfect dog? Our last two pets were both pound puppies. They each had a history we were forced to figure out one weird experience at a time. Harmony, our redheaded beagle mix, had clearly been abused by a tall, dark man wearing a baseball cap. Either that or she just didn’t like my brother-in-law. But she loved riding in the car, especially if we took her to the junipered hills of Payson. Sound asleep for the two hour ride to the mountains, the first whiff of pines and burning woodstoves that floated in through the car vent woke her up. That’s the first time I ever saw a dog smile.

She was perfectly portable.

Our next pet, like the first, was the quietest dog in the pound. She had exotic eyes seemingly enhanced by black eyeliner, faint brown spots beneath a silky white coat, and the agility of a ferret. For her whole life, she had the playful spirit of a puppy and didn’t care whether we joined in on the games or not. But she hated the car. Was terrified of travel. Taking her anywhere spelled torture, so we stopped doing it. This afternoon I found her collar and tags and cried all over again.

See why we needed a new dog?

“Well, maybe we should find a puppy who has no history or baggage and doesn’t need a therapist,” Rob suggested.

“Yeah, a dog with a clean slate,” I said.

“Or a lopsadoodle who doesn’t shed so we can keep a clean floor,” my husband answered.

I’m absolutely positive those of you who own doodle dogs are thrilled with them and the frugal way they keep their hair to themselves. But they remind me of those little metal dog pieces in a Monopoly game. I’d have to name it Park Place or something. 

Nope. No doodle dogs.

I’d found a few lovely labs online that were so precious their breeders wanted between $300 and $2300 for them—and wouldn’t throw in food or toys for that amount. Even I choked on those prices. Which makes sense. The same way we search out new cars is the way we find family pets—used dogs with low mileage.

Puppies were definitely out. My husband is now and forevermore on blood thinners. Puppy punctures and Warfarin are not a great combination. Rescue dogs didn’t make the list, either. As much as we love our dogs, at the end of the day they are still dogs. We are not co-parents of canines with a rescue organization calling the shots. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Once again, we wound up at the nasty Animal Control facility where sixty dollar dogs are at a premium.

“I thought we preferred females,” my husband said as we peered through the bars at convict number 361.

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” I answered. “We can figure out how to cope with boy dog bathroom habits.”

“But this one isn’t a chocolate lab,” he pointed out.

“We can paint him.”

“Are you sure he’s the one?”

I was so sure. We’ve discovered that I have a talent for picking out great pups. The next day, after a lot of anxiety (mostly revolving around an impromptu raffle at the last minute for the yellow lab everyone recognized to be a great find), that brave little stray took a chance on us and became ours. We brought him home, named him Buddy, re-named him Brody, normally call him a “her” and wonder why he doesn’t answer to Body (“His name is Brody!” my husband keeps reminding me.)

Now you know why we needed a dog. We were shriveling up into old retired people.

Brody the Brave got well. And I think we’re getting younger every day he’s here. I don’t know who loves who more—the creamy young lab we rescued from the clutches of five other people who probably would have adored him as much as we do, or my husband and me who are laughing and moving more than we have in the year since we lost Sydney.

So what if he toots as bad as homemade sauerkraut? And even if, between specialized dog food and dog toys and beds and blankets and two vet bills and double antibiotics and vitamins, our $60 dog is now valued at more than ten times that much, we still saved $1700 over the price of that cute little piranha toothed lab I read about online.

I prayed for a dog who needed us, but all the while I knew what I was really asking for was the buddy we desperately needed. We found him. Maybe we found each other. 

It looks like Brody had a merry Christmas after all.