Monday, May 08, 2006

New Wookiee in the Family

I called my mother the other day. "Are you ready to be a grandmother?" I asked her.

I heard a loud gasp on the other end. "You've got to be kidding."

"We just got a dog," I said.

"I could slap you!"

Oh, the fun of raising your mother's hopes then dashing them to pieces! That's just one of the many benefits of getting a dog. I'm sure there are other perks. Hopefully I'll experience them soon.

My wife has been wanting a dog for some time, but I've been telling her we couldn't afford the pet deposit and extra rent we would have to pay. What she didn't know was that I had been saving up to pay those fees. She's not in the best of health and is stuck at home by herself most of the time. I figured a little dog would make a good companion for her. So, I decided to surprise her a couple of weeks ago on our wedding anniversary.

At first, I thought I'd pretend to be noble and rescue a dog from an animal shelter. But I did some research on the Internet and found out that the local Humane Society requires potential "rescuers" to submit an application, which can take up to five days to be approved. That wouldn't be so bad, but they also require you to agree to a home visit. I figured it might be a little difficult to maintain the surprise with these people coming to my home. "Nevermind these people, Honey. Folks from the Humane Society make random visits to people's homes all the time. It doesn't mean anything. Just answer their questions and eventually they'll go away."

Besides that, I have to admit I find it just a little insulting that the Humane Society feels the need to evaluate my home to see if it is a suitable alternative to oh, say, death.

So I looked up a number of other "shelters" on the Internet. They all wanted exorbitant fees for "adopting" one of their dogs. I can see donating maybe $100 towards shots and fixing. But, I'm sorry, if you're charging me $250 for a dog, you're not a shelter, you're a kennel. Besides, these dogs are "used" models anyway!

I switched my online search from shelters to online classified ads. This wasn't working out either. I went to Didn't work out. I ran all kinds of queries on Google, Yahoo, Ask, and MSN. The results just linked to shelters I had already visited online. So, out of desperation, I fell back on a last resort. I asked someone. I turned to the co-workers who share my office and said, "Hey, you guys know anyone who is getting rid of a dog?"

"Yeah, you should ask Brigett. She works at an Animal Hospital on the weekends. She's always trying to find homes for animals."

Dang. This goes directly against my theory that the Internet will replace all Human interaction by 2008. Hopefully, this is just a fluke.

It turns out Brigett did indeed know of two puppies at the hospital that were being given away. They were half-Australian Shepherd and half-Jack Russell Terrier. Needless to say, they were a little odd-looking.

When I went to check them out, the vet who had bred them told me, "These dogs are a designer breed. Those are $1500 dogs, right there."

Yeah, I thought, that's why you're giving them away for free. I think it takes more than some crazy old guy declaring his puppies a new breed to value them at $1500. Of course, I'm not an expert.

I chose a puppy and the surprise went well (in case you were wondering). Since the paltry revenue I received from Master Yoda's Blog, including Adsense, Chitika, and the T-shirt store (by the way, thanks to everyone who bought something from there), made it possible to pay the pet deposit and get the dog, we decided a Star Wars name would be appropriate, so my wife named him Chewie.

What I didn't realize was the amount of work that goes into taking care of a dog that is kept inside the home. I knew there would be a lot of work, but I didn't know how much. I was raised in the country, so all of the dogs I had growing up were outside dogs. You don't have to do much for outside dogs when you're living in the country. Set out a food bowl for them and let them go. If you forget to feed them, they can always forage. No, but seriously, just make sure they have their shots and feed and water them every day, and they're fine. They might wander off into the surrounding woods or corn fields for a few hours, but they almost always come back. They don't even do most of their pooping in your yard. And they're happy and healthy.

Inside dogs are a different story, especially if the dog is a young puppy who isn't housebroken yet. Did you know that dogs don't even develop the muscle that enables them to "hold it" until they're 12 weeks old? We've been walking this dog every two hours just to make sure he doesn't mess in the apartment. Dangling him over the balcony was working just fine until one of our cranky neighbors downstairs complained. (Like it's my fault they don't have an umbrella over their patio).

Apparently, dogs eat everything that isn't chained down. Yesterday, while walking Chewie I actually stuck my fingers inside his mouth five different times to pull out some foreign (usually plastic) object. Sometimes, I'll pull something out of his mouth and don't even know what it is. I don't think I want to know either.

I read in a book at PetsMart (I'm too cheap to actually buy a book. But I've read several complete books while shopping at many fine retailers.), that you can train a dog not to eat odd things off the ground and to abstain from other undesirable behaviors by squirting him with a water pistol. So I've been thinking about getting one of those big Super Soakers.


"No. Bad dog."

That'll teach him not to jump up on people.

Then there's the embarrassment of trying to train him to do his business on command. I can't tell you how dignified I feel repeating the mantra, "Go potty! Go potty, Chewie!", while he's piddling on the lawn. What's worse, he's already picked up parasites, which showed up in his poo one day. So, ever since then, especially while we were medicating him, I've been closely examining his poop to see if it contains any worms. This is what I've been reduced to - standing in the yard looking at dog squeezins.

And don't even get me started on the cost of heartworm medication, which apparently all dogs in Florida should take regularly. Why the heck is it only available by perscription? It's for dogs! Are they afraid my dog is going to become a junkie, strung out on heartworm medicine? I mean, I'm certainly not going to take it. What are they afraid of?

And did I mention that I found out I may be allergic to dogs?

Another thing I learned is that dogs are apparently insane. When he first came to our home, Chewie was convinced that the reflection he saw in the glass oven door was another dog - one that needed to be barked at every five minutes. He's also decided that the Persian rug in the living room is his mortal enemy. There have been many life-and-death battles between Chewie and that rug in the past few days. The rug usually wins. This is probably because Chewie's usual strategy is to get under the rug, roll on his back, and attack the rug from underneath. And then there was the other day when I was laying on my back on the living room floor. Chewie came up, laid down beside me on his back, leaned his head over, and started licking my bald spot.

But, I love my dog. I mean, how can you not love someone who is so excited to see you come home he can hardly keep from peeing? Sure, my wife is usually happy to see me come home at night. But let me assure you, she is quite in control of her bodily functions as I walk through the door. It's just not the same. My point is, in spite of all the work and expense, my new little buddy is a lot of fun to have around, and I'm glad he's a part of my family now.

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