Today, I have been informed by social media, is National Pet Day. Which is kind of strange to me, because in my house, every day is National Pet Day.
Our house is owned and operated, 24/7, by two criminals named Doodle and Schoodle. They are bichon frises, which I can only guess is French for “stubborn and hungry.” They do what they want, when they want, and are blessed by being in the same house with the world’s greatest enabler, my wife.
These dogs are treated so well, my goal in life is only to be treated as well as the SECOND dog. I’ve long given up on ever obtaining lead dog status.
My wife and I have always been dog people, so we’ve always had one in the house most of our lives. Before moving here in 2000, we lived in High Point, NC and had the greatest dog of all time, a black lab named Butch. In his youth, there was no dog more obedient, as I could tell him to stay, go upstairs and be gone for a half hour, then return and Butch was still patiently sitting.
This, however, all faded away when the requirements of my job called for me to travel more and more, leaving my wife and Butch home together alone. Somehow, someone started teaching Butch the rules were for other animals. I’d be sitting on a sofa watching a show and Butch would just take a “don’t mind if I do” attitude and help himself up on the unoccupied space. Commands of “stay” turned Butch into the RCA Victor dog, as he turned his head and gave a quizzical look as if to say “you talking to me?”
That “someone” was revealed when Butch and I were out in the front yard one day. Butch had decided my instructions to him to not drift away from me were more of a suggestion than a rule, and when something caught his interest down the street, he took off. With Butch, if he chose not to listen to the calling of his name, one other thing always drew him back: the offer of a “treat,” particularly “cheeeeeese.”
As I called to Butch, asking if he wanted some “cheeeeeese” a voice rang out from an upstairs window, shouting “Don’t do it Butch. It’s a trick!” That “someone” had been unmasked.
Butch lived to be 12, and the hardest day of my life was when the vet said he had a cancerous growth that would only make his final days more and more painful. I held him in my arms, told him over and over again what a good dog he was, and looked at him through tear-clouded eyes as he crossed over the rainbow bridge. I swore I’d never get another dog.
Years later, that changed. My wife – who copiously researches matters important to her – had reached the conclusion that our next dog should be a bichon. They were cute, great lap dogs, hypo allergenic and supposedly great with kids, something important since our daughter was 8. We found a breeder in Western Loudoun who had bichons for sale, so we got in the car and went out in search of the perfect bichon.
It was my intention to get one dog, because after paying for the dog, shots, registration, etc. it was not a small purchase. They had a number of available bichons, but most were male. My wife wanted a girl, because as a male, I was already outnumbered 2 to 1. She wanted to see the ratio be 3 to 1.
After a few minutes, my daughter gravitated to the scrawniest, skinniest dog in the group, leading me to think “no wonder this one’s still available.” She laughed, however, because what this dog lacked in looks, it made up for in personality. It barked at her. It interacted with her and wanted to play. Watching this, I thought “that’s our dog” and imagined these two growing up together.
That was a nice thought, but when I turned to tell my wife we had found our dog, she was already holding the other female. It just sat there like a lump of clay, showed no emotion and looked at you as if to say “you may rub my head now.” She voiced the opinion that SHE had found the perfect dog.
I looked at my wife with one dog, all smiles. I looked at my daughter with the other, hearing her giggles and childish laughter. I knew I was the trouble.
As a result, the ratio went to 4 to 1. A wise man does not choose in a battle of wife versus daughter if he can avoid it. Which for me was to buy them both.
Unlike Butch, they never got to be taught basic discipline. It was considered “mean” to raise your voice or say unthinkable words like “no” or “get off the dining room table.” They would jump into your lap not so much to express their love for you, but to get closer as they looked into your eyes to say “what are you going to do for me NOW?”
They are 15 now. They are a bit slower running upstairs to shred tissues from a bathroom trashcan after you’ve specifically told them not to. One has gone blind, although if you crack the seal on the refrigerator door, she can walk a straight line from anywhere in the house to be around your ankles in seconds, just in case you didn’t know she was there.
Add up all the pictures ever taken from the various phones and cameras in the house, and over half are of these two hounds. They go where you go, they want what you have, and whatever you do for one, the other will soon be along with a hurt look as if to say “what about me?” My wife these days even makes them custom dinners, as dog food is no longer good enough. Hard to believe, but there once was a time when she’d come home for work and worry about cooking dinner for me, instead of those furry criminals.
But they’re family, they have their moments, and have woven themselves into the fabric of our lifetime of memories, even if their playful ways have removed some of the fabric off the back of the sofa and loveseat. They have made the house a home, all the while both emotionally and physically marking their territory on virtually every inch of carpet we have.
So Happy National Pet Day. To some, I suppose it’s a yearly event worthy of celebration.
Here in Ashburn, it’s simply every day of the week which ends in “Y” :)