Andy wanted a dog. This was because my husband was clueless, of course. While his family had had two dogs, they’d been small ones. The first, his parents told him, had “run away.” [Suspected Translation: hit by a car.] The second had been attacked by a Rottweiler.
Andy wanted a big dog, probably because a big dog might survive a Rottweiler. And a car.
I’d had reasonably large dogs growing up. It went…poorly. My parents couldn’t handle their kids, let alone pets. Peter the Standard Poodle peed on the floor when excited. (He was always excited.) He also bit a pedestrian. Abraham the Mutt treed two Frenchmen, chased a special needs man into a busy Washington street, and cemented his reputation as an incorrigible bigot by growling and lunging at all African-Americans before he was exiled to the pound.
For the most part, our dogs were neglected, rarely exercised, and barely trained. I understood, now that I was older, wiser, and had binge-watched “The Dog Whisperer,” that this was probably why those dogs were aggressive assholes. (This might also have been why my parents’ children were also aggressive assholes, BTW.)
I’m not anti-pet. I had two cats I loved, possibly because they were extremely low maintenance. Bat Cat and Commando Cat slept 19 hours a day. I could leave overnight or even over a weekend and the worst they’d do is throw my hairbands in the litter box and pee on them. (Well, one New Year’s Eve the felines fell off the wagon in a big way. They opened a cabinet and tore into a bag of catnip. Bat Cat and Commando Cat partied all over the kitchen and into the wee hours of the morning. At least it was a dry mess.)
But a dog? To take on a dog is a huge commitment. You must walk them. Train them. Mop up their drool. Be prepared to spend lots of time with them. You can’t disappear overnight.
In short, you have to be willing to put the animal’s needs ahead of your own on a regular basis. I wasn’t sure Andy a) knew just how much work a dog entailed, and b) could accept that the dog might need to pee before he did every morning.
If we were going to get a dog, I would have to be the one willing to make the commitment. I wasn’t quite sure that I was.
So I stalled.
I told Andy I wanted a Great Dane/ Labrador Mix. (Our only good dog had been a chocolate lab.) Any dog we adopted would have to be a rescue, because there was no way we were supporting breeders when there are thousands of homeless dogs in Southern California.
There was no sign of such a dog. Not for weeks.
Andy saw Champ’s photo. Next thing I knew, we were off to meet the dog in Downey, at a Petsmart adoption event.
Champ was adorable. About six months old. His rescuer had been at the LA Shelter to save another dog that was about to be euthanized. She’d seen a man drive up in a pickup with the Champ, and she recognized the pup from a big litter that had been born in the Shelter the previous December. The entire litter was soon adopted. She asked the man what happened.
Champ was was no good, he told her. Champ didn’t listen. Champ didn’t behave – he stole the kids’ toys and tore them up. Champ tracked dirt in the house. His wife was sick of cleaning up after Champ. And Champ was getting bigger and messier.
The rescuer knew what usually happens when a shelter dog is returned. The Los Angeles shelters are crowded. A returned dog doesn’t have much time or hope. She looked at Champ, sitting so nicely in the pickup truck, looking at her with big brown eyes.
She persuaded the man to hand over all of Champ’s paperwork and took the dog to her rescue. She told us she renamed him “Chance,” because he’d gotten a second chance. Chance loved playing with other dogs, but he loved people, too. Her son, she said, had taught him how to sit in seconds. She even showed us how mellow he was by picking Chance up, all sixty pounds of him. Chance licked her nose.
Andy tried that, cradling Chance like a baby. Chance licked Andy’s nose.
It was all over but the paperwork. While Andy snuggled his new buddy, I filled out pages of forms. I wrote a check. Then I picked out a crate, dog food, toys, shampoo, and dog bowls. The crate was the largest one the store had, since Chance’s impressive paws indicated he still had some growing to do. The rescuer offered to help me carry the huge crate through the parking lot. I gratefully accepted, since Andy was still cooing and playing with the dog.
I was walking backwards when I tripped over a concrete parking pylon. I lost my balance and fell straight back. Since I was holding the crate, I hit the ground before I could break my fall with my hands. I was so off-balance that I didn’t even break my fall with my butt. I landed flat on my back.
That wasn’t bad enough, of course. The heavy metal crate landed on my outstretched legs.
My ponytail saved the back of my head, at least.
I was stunned for a moment.
I was mortified for an hour.
I was out of commission for a week.
Adrenaline and embarrassment helped me get up, get the crate in the car, brush off everyone’s sympathy, and get home with Andy and Chance. Advil allowed me to help Andy with our new dog’s bath.
But after that? I don’t know if I was bruised, sprained, or broken. And damned if I was going to endure the pain of getting to a doctor to find out. I went to bed and stayed there. Andy had to take care of our latest addition. He set Chance up in the guest room with his crate. For the next few days, Chance was all Andy. Andy took Chance out early, fed him, filled his water bowls, walked him, and even made playdates with the pit bull in our complex. He took Chance to the vet, where we learned that our rescue had some battle scabs and battle scars.
Andy came home every day at lunch to make sure Chance and I were okay. One night he brought home “The Dog-Friendly Guide to Dog Training.” The book had instructions on everything from teaching a dog to stay to helping them learn their name.
“Yeah, but what is his name?” Andy asked. “His real name? I’m not calling him Chance.”
I opened my mouth.
Andy glared. “I’m not calling him Damn Spot, either. He’s way too cute, and cuddly, sweet, and dignified for that.” (He wasn’t, not really. Our dog was a total goofball. We just didn’t know it yet.)
I closed my mouth and pondered.
Andy warned me, “And not one of your super long names that’s a pretentious literary reference, either.”
“So you say he’s dignified, and he’s certainly had some battles. And he’s part Dane. What if we call him Beowoof?”
“Beowulf? From the legend?”
“Yes, but it’s a pun! Beo-W-O-O-F, as in a dog’s ‘woof.’”
Andy eyed me and my pun with no small amount of skepticism.
I sighed. “You can call him ‘Woofie’ if you like.”
“Woofie it is!” Andy grinned and climbed off the bed. “Well, time for Woofie’s bedtime routine.”
“First we go out to pee, and then we get a last drink of water, and then a tummy rub – Woofie loves tummy rubs — and then in the crate for bed.”
Andy went to do bedtime with Woofie.
I lay in bed with an aching back, a dog-training manual, and overflowing eyes. The man had a bedtime routine. For a dog. I had underestimated my husband.
And for the sake of the record and puns, no, I’ve never been sorry about taking that Chance.