For the Chinese, 2010 has been the year of the tiger. For me 2010 has been the year of the dog. It’s been one year since I brought our dog Moose home. As easy as it would be to say that 2010 has been a year I would never want to live through again, Moose joining our family would be well worth repeating.
When we moved into our house in Jacksonville around 2003 we had no idea that for the next 5 years we would be living in a genuine Animal House! No, not the John Belushi 1978 Animal House. More like Discovery Channel’s Animal Hoarders animal house. We had birds flying down the fireplace flue and zooming around the house, possums in the garage, rabid bats in the attic, squirrels running on the roof all hours of the day and night and a fox that liked to hid in our front bushes. The first night in our home should have been an omen of what we would be in for. Exhausted after a long day of moving boxes and furniture, my husband Scott and I plopped down on the couch in the den for a much needed break. We sat looking at the fireplace and talked about how cool it was that it was a ‘see-through’ fireplace for both the den and the living room. After a few moments Scott noticed that you really couldn’t see into the living room – something was blocking our view. He got up and moved closer to the fireplace to see what the impediment was when all of a sudden he jumped backwards. “What is it?” I yelled. “Something is in the fireplace” he said quietly. Slowly he opened the metal screen and there smack dab in the middle of the grate was a very dead and severely bloated squirrel. Later that night we awoke to the sound of tapping on the sliding glass door in our bedroom that led outside to the back screened patio. After turning on the outside light, two very large raccoons were sitting on the other side of the glass peering into our room. They were not at all affected by my blood-curdling scream and just sat there knocking their creepy black paw-hands on the glass somewhat annoyed that we weren’t letting them in.
Another animal adventure happened when my daughters Kelsey and Casey’s guinea pigs died. We had had Mary Kate and Ashley for several months when suddenly they both just up and died within hours of each other. Of course this happened when Scott was traveling for work and, bonus, I was newly pregnant with Sydney. During the first few months of that pregnancy I was so nauseous I literally spent all my waking hours either throwing up or feeling like I had to throw up and having to deal with 2 dead guinea pigs did not help soothe my stomach at all. After sorting through everyone’s closet in order to find a shoe box big enough for both the deceased (I figured since they died together they would want to spend eternity together) I grabbed a shovel from the garage and dug a hole in the backyard near the fence. I put on two pairs of yellow Playtex gloves and gingerly lifted first Mary Kate and then Ashley and gently placed their piggy bodies into the shoe box. After I dropped the box into my freshly dug grave, I covered it up best as I could because and that point I kept gagging and throwing up. With the deed done, I went back into the house concentrating on how I was going to break the news to my girls that they would never see there furry friends again. Oh, but Mary Kate and Ashley had other plans. Because just two weeks later during Thanksgiving dinner on our patio my husband paused before carving the turkey, glanced up and noticed remnants of what looked like a Sketchers shoe box and some mounds of fur scattered around the fence. Realizing what he was looking at he desperately tried to get my attention but I was too busy trying not to barf because the smell from the bowl of green beans that was placed in front of me was making me sick. Luckily none of our guests noticed that anything was amiss and after everyone stuffed themselves and went home, Scott went outside and stuffed what remained of our domesticated rodents into a much deeper hole and this time covered it properly.
When Sydney was about 2 years old, we decided to get a dog. We had had a dog previously, but after she died Scott was adamant about no more dogs. He took Lucy’s death harder than all of us and didn’t want to go through it again. When someone in his office sent an email about needing to find a new home for his dog, Scott thought maybe it was time to forgo his No-Dog Policy and give it a shot. We met Max the following Saturday and all three girls went crazy for him. Remember Tiger from the Brady Bunch? Well Max looked exactly like that only way cuter. He was adorable with one ear sticking up and the other folded over. His shaggy blonde coat was shiny and soft and his tail never stopped wagging. So of course he came home with us. That Monday, Max’s owner quit his job and was never heard from again. It only took us a few days to realize why. As cute as Max was, he was really the canine Anti-Christ. If there was anything, anything on the floor, Max would eat it. Not chew it – eat it. He ate Kelsey’s socks, the wooden food from Sydney’s play kitchen, Casey’s Polly Pockets. We would find Barbie dolls with no heads and shoes with no laces. The girls hated taking him for a walk because if he went poop there was always a ‘surprise’ sticking out of the steaming pile that they would have to scoop up. But Max’s favorite cuisine was my underwear. He would settle for the girl’s underwear if he had to, but he loved mine. No matter how cleverly I would hide my hamper he somehow always found a way to satisfy his palette. One morning I woke up and literally had no underwear to put on – not one pair. But what finally sealed Max’s fate was when I woke up one night to a very strange sensation. Scott was of course out of town so I was extremely confused until I realize that it was Max – eating my underwear – off of me! Bright and early the next morning I called my husband and told him “this dog is gone the second you get back”. So Max went away to live with some other unsuspecting family (they thought he was adorable too) and a more stringent No-Pets Of Any Kind policy went into effect.
Flash forward two years. New city, new house. Sydney was in pre-k and obsessed with getting a pet. Any pet. Her favorite thing to ask for was a turtle and a fish. Anytime anyone would ask her what she wanted for her birthday or for Christmas or for anything she would answer, “I want a turtle and a fish”. Every time her Uncle Kevin would call she would beg him to please, please send her a turtle and a fish. After picking her up from her class one afternoon I noticed that she was grumpy and a little angry. “What’s wrong sweets?” I asked her on the car ride home. “How come Ethan can bring his pet to school and I don’t even have any pet?” she whined. My mind raced to the weekly calendar her teacher sends home on Mondays. I didn’t remember that today was supposed to have been Pet Day. I asked her what kind of pet Ethan had. “A caterpillar” she said sulkily. A caterpillar. I thought a caterpillar was kind of strange for a pet. At home I looked on the class calendar and couldn’t find any reference to pets for any of the days. So I asked what some of the other kids brought in. “It was just Ethan”, she told me. “I didn’t know he was in the bathroom and I had to go so I opened the door and I saw his caterpillar.” Trying very hard not to fall on the floor laughing I told her that the calendar didn’t say to bring in a pet so she shouldn’t worry about it. Later that night, after telling my husband we both laughed until our stomach ached. “I guess, maybe we should think about getting her that turtle and fish she wants so much” he said finally.
But instead, we ended up going to a dog adoption event in our neighborhood. Scott and I went without the kids to avoid any drama. As soon as we got out of the car Scott spotted a man with a big, beautiful Rottweiler at the end of his leash. “If that dog is available, we’re getting him” he said and he hurriedly walked that way. Scott loves Rottweilers. By the time I caught up, Scott was already talking to the human on the other end of the leash. Unfortunately Jenny the Rottweiler had been promised to someone else, but if that person didn’t show up in a couple of hours the dog was ours. We took a half-hearted look at the other dogs available but I already knew Scott had made up his mind. We left agreeing that I would stop back by before picking Casey up from play practice to bring Jenny to her forever home. A couple hours later I went back only to find out that the Jenny was gone. One of the organization’s volunteers told me she thought there was a Basset Hound available. Our beloved Lucy had been a Basset Hound. I went in search of Lucy II and instead my eyes fell upon a little white dog cowering under a table. I went over to where the dog was and talked to the foster mom. As I sat down on the grass, the dog came out from under the table and crawled up on my lap. He laid there while the foster mom and I talked and I knew that I wasn’t leaving without him. He was ugly -shaved bald because he had been found with a matted coat full of fleas. They didn’t know his background but the foster mom believed he had lived in a home at one time because he was completely potty trained and knew some basic commands like sit and stay. No one was sure of his breed but the vet that had initially checked him out believed him to be about 2 years old. “What’s his name?” I asked. “Moose” she said. I signed the necessary papers and Moose was now ours.
When I returned home, Scott met me in the kitchen fully expecting Jenny the Rottweiler but seeing Moose the Bald Wonder stopped him in his tracks. “Is that a dog?” he asked me. “Yes and his name is Moose” I told him confidentially. “Did they not have any uglier dogs” he joked. “He’s going to be beautiful once his hair grows back” I declared with more confidence than I truly felt. And his hair did grow back and then some. Moose ended up being identified as a Miniature American Eskimo and his thick fuzzy white coat makes him look like the Michelin Man’s lesser know brother. Moose is beautiful and well-behaved and much better than a fish or a turtle or even a caterpillar! He loves going to the bus stop in the mornings and afternoons and lays very still so all the elementary kids can pet him. He is a total house dog and follows me around all day to the point that by mid-afternoon he is exhausted and has to take a nap in his bed. Going in the car is his most favorite thing in the world which is good because during school I spend almost every afternoon picking up someone or taking someone somewhere. As far as watch dogs go, he stinks. But he always knows when someone isn’t feeling well and needs some gently licks to cheer them up.
We had his coat cut super short because the vacuum kept getting clogged, but Moose is still adorable and sweet and gentle and even a little goofy. That day in September 2009 when I went to the adoption event I had no idea what the rest of the year would be like for me. But someone sure did. And I will be forever thankful that Jenny went where she was supposed to go and Moose came home to me.