There’s something funny about owning a dog.
Growing up without any exposure to the canine species, I was dubious about my husband’s intense affection for them.
“You,” he would say, “need a dog.”
And after many years of marriage, it was time to finally get ‘the dog’. Our daughter was fixated by the idea. She read volumes of dog books, looked at every dog being walked, interviewed everyone she knew that had ever owned a dog, and drew pictures of the ideal dog. My husband and I took a different approach. We looked online and rejected every possible candidate. There were only two things we all did in unity: the first was to build the perfect dog run; the second was to pray fastidiously.
We searched for over a year.
Then, one Monday, I saw a strange-looking mutt on the web; she was at a shelter about an hour away. I e-mailed my husband the dog’s picture with the simple note of, “This one will either make you say ‘yeah!’ or ‘yuck!’.”
He sent me a reply within minutes.
Later that week, we were driving home on a Saturday evening from visiting relatives. He took a very early exit off of the freeway.
“Where are we going?” I asked glancing into the backseat where our daughter had happened to have dozed off.
“To that pound,” he said without taking his eyes off of the road.
“For what?” I asked bewildered.
“Keep your voice down. I just thought we’d take a look at that dog.”
He gave me his most exasperated visage. I could only stare at him blankly.
“That dog from earlier this week? The one you e-mailed me? Are you feeling okay?”
Clarity was dawning in my mind.
“The ‘yuck’ dog?!”
“Yeah, well… you know. Some people take bad pictures. Maybe this dog does, too.”
“Should we wake her up?” I whispered while gesturing to our sleeping beauty.
He turned onto a different street.
“Yeah. I’ll do the talking. We’re here.”
And he did do the talking. Our daughter was convinced that we were just there as a fun trip on the way home. I, on the other hand, couldn’t breathe from nerves. We were going to look at a REAL DOG! Not just a picture! Was the ‘yuck’ dog even still there? What would it smell like? Would it be a brute? Would it be one of those peeing dogs that urinated every time it met someone new? Would it bark until the neighbors called the police? Would it have to be brushed every day? Wou—
I shook myself. We were just there to look. ‘Looking’ did not mean ‘bringing home’.
But it did. The dog was elderly, mellow, loving, funny-looking, and needy. It became another member of the family immediately.
In the end, the dog run was useless. The dog suffered strongly from separation anxiety. She would bark and tear at the gate until she was hurt. The dog came to live exclusively inside.
But the prayer worked.
Every person who met the dog in years to come would marvel. With a slow shake of the head and a soft pat for the dog’s ears, they’d say in a hushed tone, “You’ll never find another dog as wonderful as this one.”
And that’s what is so funny about owning a dog. I’d never known how empty life used to be until the ‘yuck’ dog came home. She brought humor, warmth, an incredible ability to vacuum up the most miniscule food particles, and utter devotion. It’s humbling to be loved so completely. I thought I was just getting a dog. My husband knew better.