Write In Between

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Life is Merrier with a Boston Terrier

When our beloved Golden Retriever, Sandy, died, we wondered if we would ever find “puppy love” again. In time, our grief yielded a search for the next dog. We had been Big Dog people, but now, took our time weighing the attributes of Purebreds vs. Mutts, or “mixed breeds,” Big vs. Small. “Small Dog” won out for many stage-of-life reasons. “Boston Terrier” was picked for smarts and heart: Big Dog attitude in a pint-sized body.

Enter a 4 ½ pound black and white “Boston” puppy, adopted from our carefully selected breeder (paid for with an obscene amount of cash—did I mention the puppy’s “champion” mother’s c-section birth?) and dubbed “Brady.” (Thank you New England Patriots.)

Ever since, we experience the antics and angst of a bug-eyed, he’s-so-darn-cute-where’s-the-cookie, four-on-the-floor heart breaker.

Our kitchen became Puppy Central. And life was good.

Occasionally, we forgot that puppy proofing is as important as baby proofing. Alas, an AWOL packing peanut from the latest Amazon order was lurking under the dishwasher… and that became “Emergency vet visit #1 (don’t ask why we number them)” to our local Animal Hospital. (Did you know that some vet hospitals actually offer 24/7 services? Indeed, and it comes with a price.)

Styrofoam ingestion made our poor pup lethargic, nauseous and poopy (and I don’t mean “sleepy.”) A helpless 6 pounds, Brady had little to lose. Whisked to the vet, given anti-nausea drugs and rehydrated by injection (they shot his upper torso with water and saline that would “absorb”) Brady looked like a cross between a sumo-wrestler-dog, and the Michelin-tire-mascot on teetering legs. To our relief and Brady’s, a day later, remains of the packing peanut made its “appearance,” just hours short of the “if it doesn’t pass, we’ll have to operate” option.

Housebreaking was delayed by several weeks as there was too much snow on the ground in February and March. However, Brady was a star pupil at Puppy Kindergarten, performing commands from week one. Other dog owners wanted to trade their dogs for “teacher’s pet,” until we revealed Brady’s social indiscretions in the potty department. But, by May, things were growing, and we had little yellow burned-out spots all over our greening lawn. We considered letting the puppy beyond kitchen confinement, and life was good.

I was out of town when I got the call that Brady was limping. No evidence of injury, but a limp. (Note the timing: over a weekend, outside of normal business hours.) After hubby consulted with me long distance, I shared the breeder’s warnings about potential puppy bone injuries (compared to former Big Dog.)

Dutiful husband packs puppy for “Emergency room visit #2.” Imagine this comedy: 6’3” owner carries 11” dog from the car. Midget dog and owner register, are “tri-aged,” then wait. Patient passes all orthopedic exams. No hint of limp or pain. No harm done, better to be safe, “especially with a puppy.” Later at home that same day… the limp, complete with whimper, reappears. “Emergency vet visit #2, the Sequel” records nothing conclusive. “He’ll be fine.” Of course. “We’re here all weekend if you need us.”

Brady became a champion retriever of any item you would toss, whether you meant him to have it or not—like trash, laundry, hats, you-name-it--a fabric Frisbee being his toy of choice. This dog retrieves better than our Golden ever did. Yet mid-game, he decides he’s too tired to retrieve anymore, especially if you throw a ball a good distance in our yard. He thinks you don’t see him that far away. Suddenly he exercises a strange fascination for grazing. He’ll just stand there like a miniature Holstein chomping away, outstanding in his field. “Don’t eat grass, stupid! Want another ticket to the vet?”

Memorial Day weekend, we bring Brady to town for “socialization.” The parade passes by. Our eldest son discovers we own a chick-magnet. Four women stop to coo at and pet this friendly dog in a 15-minute period. Son says, “where was this dog before I met my girlfriend?”

Did I mention boy-dog got neutered? Not an “emergency vet visit” but another hospital visit just the same. I wish the vet gave frequent flyer miles!

Summer brought boot camp for Brady, (obedience training at a kennel) while the family vacationed. It was a good investment, but honestly, he can still be tricky. That’s because Brady has entered the “adolescent” dog phase. Translation: dog has more sophisticated tastes, but still all the finesse of a slob, with highly-developed radar for any crumbs that hit the floor. If it’s on the floor, it’s his. Most family members abide by the rule: no people food for the dog. But every now and then, there’s a glitch.

A glitch came in the form of a weekend sleepover with my daughter’s school chums. They came bearing chocolate-peanut butter goodies, snacking and giggling the night away in the family room till they dropped. Recall, teenage girls “sleep in,” Mom does not. (After all, Brady needs a walk and breakfast.) Brewing her tea, warming the waffle iron, Mom notes Brady’s absence. Spied in the family room with the snacks, our guilty canine “discovers” the plate of chocolate thingamajiggies.

Minutes later, we’ve got a mess that defies description. Omigosh! All the Small Dog Books warn of the risks of chocolate! This warrants an early morning vet call for “advice.” How much did he eat? Was it baker’s chocolate? Did you know that the caffeine in baker’s chocolate could set a Small Dog’s heart a-racing to the point of death? Okay, it was a fire drill. All necessary parties were alerted. “Emergency vet visit #3” was underway. The final report? “Not enough chocolate ingested to cause significant health concern.” Brady can be discharged. But of course, “we’ll be right here the rest of the weekend should significant diarrhea (Significant? Care to quantify that?) develops.”

Fall finds Brady chasing leaves in the autumn breezes and getting more adventurous. He’s a great little car traveler too, save the unpleasantries of Small Dog flatulence that has been known to call for the immediate evacuation of vehicle occupants. We’ve already purchased a Christmas stocking (Oh, stop!) for the dog and a sweater or two. Life is good.

This week, Brady developed purple spots on his forehead...we deduced they came from the dog trying to lick something food-encrusted in the dishwasher as a dirty grape juice glass hung above his head dripping purple on his white fur. Combine that with now-sticky honey drips, and it was bath time for Brady, also known as the kitchen sink circus.

It was late, but a dirty dog needs attention. The ritual takes place. Brady becomes hyper during the toweling off process. I begin to lower his wiggling wetness to the floor when Wonder Dog decides he can fly, leaping catastrophically onto his head, yelping. All three teens appear at the sound of the yelp-crash. Momentarily recovering, Brady looks like Wile E. Coyote dazed by an anvil dropped on his head by Roadrunner. In fact, he seems to almost faint, but then Psycho Dog emerges. Its one of those scary moments when you think a Jekyll-Hyde escapade is about to happen.

I call the vet, wishing I had the number on speed-dial.

Older son drives while I cradle the still-damp head-banging hound. We head out late on a cold, rainy night. Privately I’m wondering if I can be reported for numerous ER visits for the same family pet? I’m delusional now, plus I’m ready for some serious pet heath insurance—something I once scoffed at as “too extravagant.” Next I’m wondering if I should be getting my head examined!

“Emergency vet visit #4” is a shining moment. The doggy snoozed in the car. It works wonders. Brady walks into the ER under his own power, looking quite “normal.” (I’m thinking of my wallet. Maybe I should make a break for it--false alarm--thanks anyway.) Conscience gets the better of me. I won’t sleep if I think Brady has a concussion or … worse.

Brady won the hearts of all the late-night hospital employees; he passes all physical and neurological exams. The vet reminds me that if he momentarily blacked out, it could have been from pain, or from head trauma. Observation might be “wise.” Dog stays overnight. Son drives me home. I pour a glass of wine and phone my husband, the business traveler: “Guess what?”

That was the tipping point. We all really crossed over, worried about our pathetic pooch. The vet called next morning to say Brady was fine. Amen.

You know that you’ve crossed over from being a dog owner, to a dog person, when you find yourself sparing no expense like you would for a child. We truly are “dog people.”

Its not just puppy love, its “till death, do us part.”

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