Monday, March 12, 2007

A Dog in the House

Last Thursday our family acquired a dog. The dog was handed to us by a family friend who found it wandering around Long Beach without a collar. Since the friend lives in a humans-only apartment complex, she was forced to find a home for the critter. This is where we came in. Now, I’m going to have to preface the rest of this entry by stating that I am NOT a dog person. I like cats, reptiles to some extent, even the occasional hamster-like creature, but dogs have never been on that short list. Suffice to say, if I was caught in an avalanche and on the brink of death, and there was a Saint Bernard coming toward me with a cask of brandy around its neck, I’d probably give a weak smile at the sight of him. Outside of that imaginary scenario, I couldn’t fathom the idea of being glad to see a dog.

So when Ema approached me in the kitchen last Thursday evening and told me about this stray Dachshund, I was less than enthused. She told me how small she was, how cute, how cuddly. How she wouldn’t wreck anything in the house; how much the kids would love her. Now I don’t know how your household works, but at my house neither my wife nor I claim to have the ‘final word’ on any decision or dispute. We compromise our decisions and come to an agreement based on the least amount of projected damage. In other words, even something as appalling as bringing a dog into the house must first undergo careful consideration before the inevitable – you guessed it – approval. As usual, my careful consideration consisted of me going on a fifteen minute tirade about how opposed I was to this idea. It’s important to let the other party know your position is soundly-framed and well-mortared so that, even in the event of you relenting, they will know exactly where you stand on the subject. The dog was delivered the following day.

I was one week post-op, still recuperating, down to my last four doses of prescription pain meds – let’s say not in the best mood to receive this canine care package. Maybe I was more vulnerable than usual. Maybe fighting the constant pain had weakened my resolve, altered my sensibilities; but I’ll tell you, when I saw that little dog my heart melted. Forty-one years of disdain, apprehension, and contempt for all things dog-like seemed to disappear.

So we’re in the kitchen, and all eyes - my children, my wife, the family friend, were upon me and everything seemed to slow down to one-quarter speed as they glanced up at my face, awaiting my reaction. I realized in that infinitely long moment just how crucial it was for me to stand my ground, not show any signs of acceptance or weakness. After all, just twelve hours before I stood in that same kitchen and read my beloved the riot act. But, it was no use. The crack of a smile escaped as the dog ran up to me and licked my ankle. I tried covering it up by morphing the smile into a smirk and saying “You are a very short dog.” but it was no use. My cover was blown. I knelt down, scratched the dog’s head and said the only thing I could think of which might save me an ounce of dignity: “You are three dogs long and one dog high. Let’s hope you never have to dig me out of a snow drift!” I turned and walked down the hallway toward our bedroom, and heard the sound of little claws on our floor scampering up behind me.