We moved because Andy wanted a dog. I mean, we might have left our townhouse less than a year after we got married because avoiding the neighbors we’d seen naked was exhausting. Or possibly because the two small bungalows next to us were slated to be demolished and turned into apartment building that would block our view and light.
But really, I’m pretty sure it was the dog. Don’t get me wrong, Andy liked my cats. Not enough to clean the litter box, but he said very complimentary things such as, “I love seeing them sit in the kitchen window.”
Me: “Really? Cuz they are so cute lying in the sun?”
Andy: “No, cuz they scare away the pigeons and I don’t have to clean pigeon crap off the glass.”
Andy’s still working on the art of smooth compliments. Pretty sure that’s a long-term project.
Even though my cats were okay, Andy really wanted a dog. And our townhouse wasn’t exactly dog friendly. It had a yard, yes. A square yard. Literally. No more than three feet on each side. Just enough for a few flowers a chair.
Definitely not big enough for a dog. Well, not the kind of dog Andy wanted.
Andy wanted a BIG dog. No ankle-biters for him. The man even dragged me to the Big Dog Parade in Santa Barbara. We met some English Mastiffs, some Great Danes, and even a dog sled team. (They pulled a wheeled sleigh down the street.) Andy was in heaven.
I didn’t really mind. I’d grown up with dogs (also cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, turtles, etc.). My favorite dog was our chocolate lab. She was stubborn, high energy, and difficult to train, but she was also a sweet dog who lived to chase tennis balls until she died at age 17. Her eulogy:
I think that I shall never see
A ball marked “Penn”
And not think of thee.
When I saw two Labrador/ Dane mixes at the parade, I knew exactly what kind of dog I wanted. But there was no way I was getting a purebred. While my father’s Labrador and my mother’s Standard Poodle came with pedigrees, I thought that a) It’s insane to pay hundreds of dollars for a dog when millions need homes, and b) mutts are less likely to have health problems.
I checked out rescue sites and put out the word to various dog-loving friends – we wanted a Lab/ Dane rescue.
But first we needed a house with a yard. A Mastiff might lie around all day, but a lab? No way. They need space to run. A lawn to dot with drool-covered tennis balls.
The housing market in LA has always been good, especially in the South Bay. After all, they’re not making any more land by the beach. I knew we’d have no problem selling the townhouse, and there were plenty of houses for sale.
The problem was Andy.
Turns out that Andy was far pickier about houses than he was about spouses.
I scoped out over a hundred houses while we painted, sanded, stained, and staged the townhouse before officially putting it on the market. I showed less than a third of those to Andy, after nixing any on tree-less streets. (You can take the girl out of the tree-laden East Coast, but you can’t take the East Coast tree-lover out of the girl.)
According to Andy there was something wrong with every single house:
“The addition looks ugly.”
“The yard is tiny.”
“It’s another poorly designed addition.”
“The street is too busy.”
“This family room was added and it looks like shit! Seriously, does no one consult an architect?!”
I apologized to the realtor more than once for wasting her time.
She waved me off. “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ve worked with Andy before.”
“How long did it take him to pick out the townhouse?”
“A year, I think.”
I groaned. “We’re NEVER gonna get Damn Spot.”
The realtor said, “I beg your pardon?”
I explained, “That’s our future dog’s name. Damn Spot. So when he misbehaves I can say, ‘Out, Damn Spot! Out I say!’”
Our realtor laughed like that wasn’t the worst abuse of Shakespeare ever. She was cool like that.
I finally found an adorable little house on a corner lot, complete with tree-lined sidewalks. It had been built in 1954, and amazingly, none of the previous owners had put on an addition. Instead, beautiful used brick landscaping had been added in the front, and a brick patio looked out on a huge (for Los Angeles) backyard in the back. The backyard was enclosed by six-foot cinderblock fences. Even a big dog wouldn’t be able to escape. (Or SPOILER ALERT so we thought.)
It was at the very edge of our price range, and only in our price range because it was right across the street from a middle school. Generally people willing to live near a school have kids, lots of them, and this house only had two bedrooms and a tiny office. The owners had been forced to lower the price. Only one offer had been made – by a teacher who worked at the school. (Then she realized that it was probably better that her students and today’s helicopter psycho parents didn’t know where she lived. She withdrew her offer.)
I loved the house. I KNEW that was my house. But I tried not to get too excited about it, because I was sure Andy would hate the school’s proximity.
The realtor and I brought him to the house on Good Friday. Andy said nothing as he checked out the yard and the hardwood floors.
I didn’t dare say anything.
After we closed the door behind us, Andy paused on the brick steps, looking up at the trees, then back at the porch. Despite the lunchtime shrieks from the school kids across the road, he announced: “I really like this house.”