Sunday, June 10, 2012

Beware of Dog

At 1:42 a.m. one recent night-turned-morning gone very, very bad, I contemplated my circumstances whilst my head was the filler in a pillow sandwich.  I had just been awakened by my needy newborn, whose needs had been addressed, but who nevertheless continued to howl.  And howl.  And howl.  There was no consoling him.  My only recourse was to block-out the wails and whimpers and wait for him to fall back to sleep.  I've been through this before, of course, but it's really true that you somehow forget or repress the less pleasant parts of the experience.  

If you haven't seen me in a while, you may be thinking, "Wait.  Whaa . . .?"  Because you are correctly calculating that I am well beyond even "Advanced Maternal Age".  Fear not.  The newborn in question is of the canine variety.  I have a new puppy in the house.  And by house, I mean in a crate in my bedroom just two feet from my head; at least during the night-time hours for purposes of house-training.

Although it's all a bit furry, from what I can tell, the basic reason I have a puppy two-feet from my head at night these days is that I have children. Children like animals.  Before the puppy joined our troupe, we already had two cats and a perfectly fine, reasonably well-behaved three year-old dog.  I had weathered extensive lobbying for rabbits and rats (yes, rats) and fish.  There was even once a request for a snake, but I made it clear that if I ever encountered a snake in or around my house -- for any reason and even if just borrowed or on loan from someone else -- I would leave and never return.


Lengthy petitions for more cats were denied without further review.   But somehow, the request for a second dog kept finding new life in an extended series of appeals during which the assigned judge repeatedly stated on the record that the matter would be taken under advisement.  (Between you and me, my husband should never be left in charge of any matter that may require saying "no" to wily, doe-eyed girls with their hands clasped beneath their chins while their eyelashes bat up and down at an unnatural rate of speed.  Especially if these girls are dramatically inclined, self-proclaimed animal rights activists and cunning bacon-vegetarians.  (If you are not familiar with bacon-vegetarianism, it is the kind of vegetarian who abhors and refuses all meat in the interest of preserving animal life and eradicating animal cruelty; except for bacon.))

Having given credence to the idea that a second dog might possibly be procured this summer after school was over, the judge then vacated the bench in favor of an extended business trip to Germany.  But a business trip full of schnitzel and sausages and beer is exactly when the scheming bacon-vegetarians will make their move.  And by move, I mean surf the web site of the local Animal Humane Society (AHS) for listings of adoptable puppies. Which they will promptly find.

Consider further that it is a rainy Friday night and the bacon vegetarians (BVs) are bored and restless. "Please, mom," they begin.  "Can't we just go look at them?  We've got nothing to do and it's just right down the street."  They are correct on both counts.  The three of you are confronted with the vacuous space that results when a fatigued parent is left to entertain fatigued children at week's end.  And the AHS is indeed just a mile down the road.

Familiar with their feigned innocence and superficial reasonableness, you anticipate their strategy: get mom in front of the adorable little puppy and she won't be able to say no.  Who cares if dad is in Germany.  I mentally steel myself for "no."  Certainly there will be other adorable puppies to be found in the world when both parents are stateside and school is adjourned for the summer.  Just dangle the carrot of a puppy "soon," I calculate, and I will be able to avoid a puppy now.

"Sure," I hear myself say.  "We can go look.  But we can't get a dog until dad is back and school is out.  O.k.?"


Confident that I have everything well in hand, we proceed down the road into the Humane Society (whose layout we are very familiar with due to all of the lemonade stand funds that have been donated by the BVs over the years) and proceed directly back to the puppy area.  And there he is:

He is truly adorable, but then, of course, all puppies are adorable.  As the BVs ask to play with him in one of the visiting rooms, I remember that the web listing said something about the dog having a health condition that would not require any further care from the owner.  I also recalled receiving a similar disclosure when adopting one of our cats many years back and it turned out to be the equivalent of a feline cold that just necessitated a few days of isolation from other pets.  No big deal.  I ask the volunteer attendant if she can open the cage so that we can take the puppy to a visiting room.  The attendant cheerfully retrieves the dog and I notice that something about this puppy's face is slightly off just as I register the attendant saying, "oh this puppy is SO cute and SO friendly.  He's just a lover!  And you don't even really notice that he only has one eye."


The BVs and I look at the dog again, more closely, and sure enough, there is only one eye.  Two sockets, but only one contains an eyeball.  The other is just the ocular equivalent of a soap dish without a bar of soap.  My already fatigued mind struggles to comprehend this reality and sputters in its effort to generate even one, coherent follow-up question.  The BVs, on the other hand, instantly lock and load and take the kill shot, which they are eerily good at for proponents of peace and goodwill towards all living creatures (except those made of bacon): 

"Mom!  Look at him!!!!  We have to get this puppy.  He only has one eye and he's SO cute and cuddly. And friendly.  Look at him, Mom!  We can't just leave him here!!!  He NEEDS us!"

They embrace the puppy as if they have time-traveled and returned just in time to save him from the smoldering wreckage of a cold and harsh future with some other family.

I am totally screwed.

My prepared line of defense that "there will be other puppies" will instantly fail.  Because there will NOT be other one-eyed puppies.  Having never before in my 44-years of living encountered a one-eyed puppy, I know they are rare creatures who must keep company with the likes of unicorns and leprechauns and actually compassionate conservatives.  This puppy is, in fact, one of a kind.

To make matters worse -- he is delightful.  He exhibits no signs of abnormality, except for the missing eyeball, of course.  He is lively and happy and playful and puppy-ish, but not freakishly hyper or frenetic.  The BVs are cooing and hugging and bonding with him.  Finally, I grasp the only lifeline that is available and explain that we can, perhaps, put the dog on hold for 24 hours so that I can consult our veterinarian and gather information about any long-term care issues for one-eyed dogs.  And also, there is the matter of consulting the German office and somehow raising the prospect of possibly adopting a one-eyed puppy dog. 

Apparently, there are generally no long-term health issues for a dog born with just one eye, as this one seems to have been.  All sources indicated that he would adapt just fine.  Having never known life with two eyes, he would be blissfully unaware that there was any mode of existence that provided for better peripheral vision and depth perception, as well as a much lower frequency of being startled from the left.  On top of this, the German office responds with, "he's cute!"  Which provides no quarter for further objection or delay.

And so, 24 hours and a trip to PetSmart later, the BVs are joyfully clutching the one-eyed wonder dog in the backseat. 

We named our first dog Ozzy.  After Ozzy Osbourne.  In case this isn't self-explanatory, I will explain.  At the time my then 7 y.o. did a great impression of Mr. Osbourne.  In case this isn't self-explanatory  . . .  well, let's just say that she had somehow been exposed to Mr. Osbourne and had an uncanny ability to mimic his accent and speech patterns.  (I blame her parents.)  She even went as the Blizzard of Ozz for Halloween that year:


Wanting to memorialize this special talent, I suggested we name our dog Ozzy.  Everyone agreed.

When it came time to name dog number two, I invoked what I thought was the firmly established convention of naming our dogs after hard rockers.  I considered the following:

Jimmy Page
Robert Plant
Roger Waters
Steven Tyler
David Lee Roth
Eddie Van Halen
Dee Snyder
Nikki Sixx
Carlos Santana
Roger Daltrey
Pete Townshend

It turns out that the vast majority of hard-rocking types have very pedestrian first names.  Ozzy and Roger or Ozzy and Carlos just doesn't quite cut it.  But then:

AC/DC.  Angus Young.   



Hence, I suggested Angus.  Ozzy and Angus.  Perfect.  

Summarily rejected by the BVs.  Angus, I was informed, was a horrible name.  Completely unacceptable.  I was crushed.  This was the perfect second dog name.  How could our children be so blind? And selfish?  What about me and the name I wanted?

I adopted a fall-back position.  What about Ajax?  Or Pirate?  Or one-eyed Jack?  No, no and Mom! There was only one name that would do, and it was the name given to him by the Humane Society.  The name already printed in all-caps on his complimentary dog tag.  The most iconic and cliched dog name of all time.  The only name, apparently, that could be given to a dog with this marking:


And so, his name is Spot, though I whisper "Angus" on the side and give him treats when the BVs aren't looking.

But although his origins are humble and his name simple, the ego on this dog is something else.  It's all about him.  All the time.  He wants to jump on you.  He wants to bite your shoes.  He wants to pee exactly where he is standing . . . in the middle of the dining room.  And as if a "Spaniel-mix" with the ego the size of a St. Bernard needs any further boosts to his self-esteem, he was just named "Pet of the Month" by our veterinary clinic.  This will certainly go straight to his head, so I have banished him from all of our computers, especially since he tried to take a bite of out my MacBook Air.  He most certainly will not be allowed to google himself, if I can help it.  Because if he did, he would find this for the month of June 2012, at


Pet Of The Month

Kenwood's Pet Of The Month - Spot
Name: Spot (3 months)

 Likes: Playing with my brother Ozzy, meeting new friends, and going for walks!

Dislikes: Being alone; stairs that I can't get up; when my food bowl is empty!

When I grow up I want to be: Professional hole digger.


As is often the case with so many aspects of human relations and the conundrums we find ourselves in, Shakespeare has usually been there well before us and said all that can be said, quite well.  From existential crises of "to be or not to be," or sage advice to "neither a borrower nor a lender be" or "It's a long way to the top if you want to rock 'n' roll," Shakespeare has been there and done that.  Well, that last one might have been AC/DC, but in any event when our newest family member ran off and deposited this on the carpeting,

 I found myself channeling Lady Macbeth: "Out!  Out!  Damn, [S]pot!"