Sunday, December 17, 2006

Doggone it!

Never say never.

A year ago, you may recall, I went on record as saying no dog would be allowed to live under my roof, within the confines of my house. We had just moved into a new home, with fresh carpet and paint, and that clean smell of lemon oil and fresh flowers.

Didn’t want dog poop in the rugs, or pee stains on the carpeting.
Didn’t want chewed shoes and gnawed-on furniture.
Didn’t have a yard large enough for an outdoor dog to be happy, either, and was against that anyway, since I wasn’t too keen on having dog paths rutted along the fence lines.

You may also recall that one year ago, I was facing cancer surgery, so my somewhat pessimistic, intractable nature was forgivable.

Never underestimate the power of a mother-daughter-niece conspiracy, nor the pure ability of a dependant, small animal to melt the coldest resolves.

While I was recuperating from surgery, these women were plotting to overthrow the edict of the king, a prisoner of foley bags and pain killers. They researched, they shopped, they talked to vets and breeders, and on a cold weekend in February they obtained a 2-pound ball of black and gold fur, dubbed “Dazzle.”

My daughter was so afraid of defying me that she took the dog to my niece’s house and spent two nights there. On the third day she meekly came to my bedside with “Dazzle” tucked inside her jacket, with nothing but its furry face showing, and conducted our first introduction.

I’ve had dogs since I was a kid.
My first dog was a mixed-breed with some kind of German Shepherd heritage that we had to get rid of after a few years. She developed an allergy to St. Augustine grass and an affinity for cedar shake shingles siding on the house.

The next dog was a pure-bred German Shepherd pup for which my dad paid $50 and traded a long-bow to the breeder in North Harris County. “Jim,” the dog, not my dad, contracted encephalitis during an epidemic in the ‘60’s, and had to be put down.

“Rommel” was the next German Shepherd puppy, the runt of the litter from a dog owned by a great aunt in Montgomery County. Rommel used to ride around in the car with me, tongue dripping slobber down the side of the car door as he held his face into the wind.

Rommel lived a long happy dog-life at my dad’s house after I moved away from home, and was beloved by the entire family--even my mom, who does not like animals. One spring morning, Rommel laid down under a plum tree for a nap…and never woke up.

When my father found him, he was still laying under that tree with pink plum blossoms littering his dark coat.
I cried when I got the news from my mom.

But they were all outdoor dogs.
We never had indoor animals.
When our kids were in Junior High, we acquired a black Chow puppy with a little purple tongue. Two years later he was joined by a curly-haired black Cocker Spaniel named Duke, and the two frolicked together in our large back yard. When I began to come home in the evenings and regularly find the water and food bowls empty, I gave the inseparable pair to a co-worker who agreed to accept them as a package deal.

No more animals, I vowed.

Now you know why I was adamant about no dogs.
Too much trouble, I feared, suspecting I would again be the final buffer between a pet and starvation. And to myself, I admitted, I feared another emotional attachment to an animal I knew I would immediately love.
That was what these scheming, conniving women were counting on.
They were right.

So when my daughter entered the room with a tuft of black fur and two gleaming eyes peeking out of her jacket, I melted.

“Dazzle” completely captivated us all, and now will frequently bound onto our bed and snuggle under the covers between my bride and I, with a small, satisfied sigh signifying she’s completely contented.
So are we.

When our daughter announced she would be moving into a house in February, my wife was shattered. We assumed Dazzle would stay with us, since our daughter would otherwise have to keep the dog in a kennel during the day while she worked.
The dog goes with her.

To avert an emotional crisis, we initiated a search for a temporary companion for Dazzle and my bride, and a permanent replacement pet when our daughter moves away.

So on a lazy Saturday afternoon in the back of a dusty blue van at a gas station in Central Texas, we met the next melter of hearts, another fur ball of energy and wonderment—and if our kids don’t get on the stick, our next grandbaby.

“Sophie” rode home in the arms of my wife, who has already bonded with the animal, and the animal with her. They are inseparable... and Dazzle has gotten used to the idea, too.

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