If you know anything about me, it is that animals are high on my list of happy making things. I do not just like animals. I LOVE them. By the time I started school, I had already developed a habit of bringing home strays. This habit has stuck with me into adulthood. I have no use for people who are treat them badly. I always feel a certain amount of distrust for people who don’t like them. A person who can be cruel to a dog, can be cruel to a person too. My belief about pets is that they are family. Once you adopt them, you are responsible for their health and well-being for the rest of their days.
So, you can imagine how hard it hit me when our sweet old man, Toby, died this fall. I love all dogs and would save every stray, if I could, but Toby was special. He had this gentle nature that was so loving and sweet that you couldn’t get mad at him when he (as a puppy) ripped a whole branch off our cool new dwarf apple tree that sported three varieties of apples, leaving it to sport only two. I remember the time (also when he was a puppy) when I couldn’t get out of the front entry of my house, because the reason he had been so quiet for so long was that he had been busy digging all the dirt out of a giant brick planter in an effort to refashion it into Mt. Porch, whose soily slopes were so close to the storm door, it wouldn’t open. Or there was his first romp in the snow. He was so excited he knocked me down, then kept doing so as I was trying to haul myself up off the ground. In the end, we landed in a pile of laughter and wiggly dog. It is one of my favorite young memories of him. He quieted down a lot as he grew up (so much so that we used to joke that he was so mellow because he had a stash of weed in the back yard). He was sweet to everyone and everything. He left a huge (this time metaphorical) hole in our hearts.
It has been almost five months, and I still miss him and expect to see him laying in his spot in front of the window. The other day I watched a video of him howling along to Bizet’s Habanera with me. He loved to do that, but only if I sang it with only “beak beak beak” as the lyrics. I thought I was ready, but watching it still made me cry, despite the ridiculousness of the bad operatic beaking. If I remember later, I will post the video here and you’ll see what I mean. If there’s one thing dogs know how to do, it is bring out the best and silliest in us. It is one of the things that make them so awesome.
Although Toby wasn’t our only dog, a few weeks after he died, we decided to adopt a puppy. It just seemed like the right place to direct all that emotion. Saving another homeless pet (Toby himself was rescued from animal control) seemed like a good way to honor all the wonderful things that he brought to our lives. In looking for a new friend, our only criteria was that he or she be young and of a relatively mellow temperament, because it would be easier to integrate such a dog into our family, which already features enough high strung neurotics, including myself and a terrier, who even after seeing an expensive dog therapist takes YEARS to make friends with anyone and doesn’t like it when strangers acknowledge him or look him in the eye.
As we were searching for the right new friend, I scanned Oregon Humane Society’s website regularly, contacted a few animal rescues and filled out a few applications. Then, one day, we were out having lunch and decided to make an impromptu trip to OHS. It was there that we found Gizmo, aka Gizzy and Lord Gizmogar (but only when he’s plotting to take over the universe). He is a terrier mix who has the personality of a Toby wrapped in the body of a snausage. What he lacks in leg length (and that’s a lot!), he more than makes up for in charm. I even forgave him for defacing my library copy of The House on Tradd Street. We’ll see if the Multnomah County Library is as charitable. And, in his defense, it is the only thing (except for a thankfully unplugged string of Christmas lights) that he has ever destroyed. He was young. It was a different time.
He was 10 weeks old when we brought him home. Now, at almost 6 months, he is everything I could hope for in a dog. He is sweet and loyal and gets along with everyone. He hangs so close that I am convinced that I will never again go to the bathroom alone. His hobbies include cuddling, idolizing Lily the papillon and melting hearts (even Baxter the neurotic terrier likes him). He is, of course, not a replacement for our beloved Toby, but a funny, sweet, loyal little personality in his own right. Adopting him is one of the best decisions I ever made.
But my story doesn’t end there. Remember back in the beginning how I said that I had gotten on some lists at rescues? A few days before Christmas, I got a call from someone who was fostering a labradoodle puppy who sounded like he would be a good fit for us. As difficult as it was, I said “No, we already found our puppy, but thank you and good luck finding a home for him.” But then, I started feeling bad. What if he didn’t find a home? Then my mom (who lives with me) started talking about how nice it would be to have a puppy that would sleep with her. My resolve when it comes to animals is shaky at best I do not believe in breeders or puppy mills, but am so weak that I have to ban myself from any pet store that carries actual pets, because I can’t be trusted when faced with a little kitten whose feet keep falling through the grating of those horrible cages they sometimes keep them in. At the same time as I don’t believe in funding these operations so they perpetuate the cycle, my immediate reaction is to want to save them from their pet store prisons where no one cares if they are adopted into a good home or by some beast who won’t take proper care of them. My mother is no better. She makes me look like Old Iron Fist. It is from her that I inherited the genetic predisposition to being a sucker for strays and other lost souls. And so (did you ever doubt where this was going?), we now have not one puppy but two. Saying this always makes me think of the “Two Ladies” song from Cabaret… Beedle dee, dee dee dee, two puppies! Beedle dee, dee dee dee, two puppies!
But I digress…Meet Teddy, aka Filbert (I don’t know why, it just is) and The Muppetman:
Teddy’s hobbies include looking like a muppet, slobbering, eating shoes, getting wet, tracking mud into the house, learning that neither my desk nor the coffee table is an appropriate place to stand, and playing with his BFF, Gizmo. It is impossible to get mad at him for anything, because he constantly has the above expression on your face. We don’t yell at our dogs anyway, but it would be like yelling at Supergrover. He has no concept whatsoever of his size and he is as sweet as he looks. I defy anyone with a soul to not like him.
At first I felt a little weird that I was becoming some kind of canine loving spin on the classic crazy cat lady, but then I decided that it’s not like we have twelve dogs. The ones we do have are well-fed, go to regular vet appointments, don’t bother anyone, are all licensed and are not over any legal limits. Moreover, the dynamic in the house has noticeably changed. The existing dogs are calmer and sweeter and channel their energy into playing with the puppies instead of acting out in less desirable ways. As it turns out, while having two puppies is a LOT of work, it is also insanely fun. If someone doesn’t like it, they can suck it. While we are at capacity (any future animal helping for a long, long while will be via volunteer work and donations!), what we have works for us.
More importantly, it feels good to give someone who might have had an otherwise bleak future a home. Gizmo is so quiet and sweet he shouldn’t be around people with diabetes. Teddy fits in like he was destined for this house. He looks like a total muppet, and if I have learned one thing in life, it is that you should never turn down the chance to live with a muppet.
Beedle dee, dee dee dee, two puppies! Beedle dee, dee dee dee, two puppies! And I am one of only two hu-MANS. Oh, Beedle dee, dee dee dee, I like it! Beedle dee, dee dee dee, they like it! Beedle dee, dee dee dee, this two for one!