My lovely and talented wife Alison and I were having dinner with some friends – two other couples – a few months ago at the Olive Garden when the subject of dogs came up. Both couples had dogs and had pictures to prove it.
They talked about the dogs as if they were people and one even said she left the television on certain channels for the spoiled canine when they left it home alone. How perfectly silly, I thought. I tried to act interested in all this, but honestly, I’ve never been much of a dog person myself and not much of a pet person in general. It’s not that I dislike animals, it’s just that raising three human beings over the last 22 years left Alison and me without a desire to add any other living creature to our responsibility list.
The kids did talk us into a goldfish about 12 years ago but, tragically, the fish went belly up after just two weeks. Goldfish, by themselves, in a small bowl on the bathroom sink really don’t have much of reason to live if you think about it. Barbara Ann was his or her name. I am embarrassed to say we didn’t even know if the fish was male or female. That is how impersonal our relationship was.
The only other pet our family tried was a Yorkshire Terrier we named Max 10 years ago. Huge mistake. That dog yapped and yapped and yapped. And we could not get him house-trained – not that we knew what we were doing. We cleaned up messes for a month until we decided the dog had to go. We gave Max away. We found him a good family and waved goodbye as he left our driveway for his new home in Prentiss County, then kicked ourselves for going soft on the dog idea in the first place. What were we thinking?
As I said, that was 10 years ago. Our youngest, Walker, is now 16. The two other bedrooms upstairs are now quiet as his sister and brother have moved out and have their own apartment in Starkville, students at Mississippi State. A couple of months ago, Walker broached the subject with his mother – he wanted a dog. Alison patronizingly asked me what I thought about the idea (the decision to get a dog had already been made by them), and I told her I would not oppose having a dog, but that I was not taking care of it in any form or fashion. Count me out.
Then I hear Walker has found a puppy on the Internet that he wants. In Iowa. My, how times have changed. When I was a kid we adopted a dog from the Johnsons’ down the street; now people trade all kinds of animals on the World Wide Web. Amazing.
The breeder started sending Walker pictures on his phone, and the first of this month Alison drove to Memphis to pick up a package named Russ at the Delta cargo area. He had made the 90 minute flight from Omaha to Memphis in a small carriage.
Russ is a silver Labrador retriever. They are rare, and I have the emptied bank account to prove it.
The afternoon I got home from work and saw the little fellow I changed my whole attitude. It was love at first sight. How I got suckered into this I don’t really know. Just in these first few weeks I have gone from vowing ambivalence towards this new pet brought to live at my castle, to taking him outside in the middle of the night to take care of business. And he licks my face when he greets me, and I kind of like that. What has happened to me, I am not sure.
I just wonder if I am going to become that guy who tells friends and co-workers dog stories they don’t care about. You know that guy. Like the other day, Russ got one of my socks and took off down the hall. Alison went after him but could not catch him as he started running round and round the couch. So, I tried to meet him as he scampered ahead of her. He saw we were trying to trap him, so he took off under the chairs. It was hilarious!
See, I don’t want to become that guy who annoys people with their cute dog stories.
Wednesday I put Russ in his crate for the night. Soon he will go in the fancy pen we have built for him out back. But for now he’s inside. As I turned off the light I grabbed the … I reached for the… I took the channel flipper.
“What it’ll be tonight Russ, Fox News or ESPN?”
Tim Wildmon, a Baldwyn resident, writes as a community columnist. He is president of the American Family Association, but his opinions do not necessarily represent the views of AFA, unless noted. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.