About a month ago, we got a dog. This is very significant. Which is not to say that it shouldn't be significant, but it is especially significant for us, because being able to get a dog factored heavily into the reason that we moved. We had dogs way back before my younger two kids are really able to remember them, but we weren't able to bring them to live with us when we had to move to the apartment. My daughter was only about six months old at the time, and my younger son was almost two. He has one memory of our old black lab that he clings to. A memory of the dog in the backyard going to the bathroom. I suppose that's what a not-yet-two-year-old would focus on. heh
The apartment didn't allow dogs. Of any kind. Not that that stopped people. It was very frustrating. Especially to my younger son. "Why can't we have a dog?" "They're not allowed." "But so-and-so has a dog." "Well, they're still not allowed. Just because they're breaking the rules doesn't make it okay."
The thing that made it really frustrating was that the apartment administration would never do anything about these other dogs. Not unless they actually caught the perp with the dog in the apartment. Of course, they couldn't just walk in unannounced. I imagine dog reports went something like this:
"We've had reports that you have a dog."
"No, we don't have a dog"
"Okay, well, make sure you don't. They're against the rules."
"We've had another report that you have a dog."
"No, no dog here."
"Do you mind if we come check?"
"No, no problem. You can come check."
"Okay, we'll send someone down."
"Oh, you can't come check, right now. Come check tomorrow."
"Oh, okay. Someone will be by between 9am and 10am, then."
The next day. >knock on the door<
"We're here to check on the dog."
"There's no dog here."
"Can we look around?"
>admin looks around<
"Okay, I don't see a dog. There is a bowl of water on the floor, though. What's that for?"
"Oh, my kid likes to pretend he's a dog. He was drinking out of that before school this morning."
"Okay, then. Just make sure you don't get a dog. They're against the rules."
In our eight years of living at the apartment, I only know of one dog owner who actually got caught with a dog in their apartment. I only know of this, because it was the people that lived above us. They were stupid. No, really, they were. It was a group of female college students. Which meant their boyfriends, too. They would sit around on their balcony smoking pot, and the smoke would waft in through our patio door. It was upsetting to my kids. They were more than a little upset when I told them if they didn't stop doing it, I would call the police. Personally, I didn't care if they smoked, but they needed to do it somewhere where it didn't impact my kids.
Anyway... at some point, they got a dog. And not a small dog like most of the people in the complex would get. See, cats were allowed but not dogs (I say it's discrimination). Generally speaking, the people that would get dogs would get something the size of a cat. I suppose they felt like the dog was kind of disguised that way: "No, really, see how small it is? It's a cat." "But it barks." "Oh, it's a really smart cat. We taught it that." These girls, though, got a big dog. Some kind of lab mix. And he trampled all over our ceiling all the time.
But I'm not really a snitch, so I didn't report them.
But there came a time when one of the girls overflowed their toilet. I know she did, because it came through our ceiling. Disgusting, right? So I went up to find out what was going on, because you don't really want water coming through your ceiling, especially when it's someone else's toilet water. The girl was freaking out and had no idea what to do. This is part of my support for the stupid comment. How can you be in college and not know what to do about a clogged toilet. One clue: continuing to flush it isn't going to help. She called maintenance. This is also part of my support for the stupid comment. The dog was in the apartment. Her boyfriend happened to arrive as I was talking to her, and she told him that she'd called maintenance. He wasn't so dumb. He freaked out and made a mad dash to get the dog out of the apartment. He was too late. Maintenance arrived just as he was trying to get the dog out the door. The dog did go out the door, and it never came back.
This post isn't really about any of that, but I find it amusing, so I thought I'd share.
The short of it is that my younger son, especially, desperately wanted a dog. It made us sad that he couldn't have one, and it made us more sad that he would get so upset about the other dogs around the complex that shouldn't have been there. It was a huge motivator for us to find a place where we could have a dog.
Ironically, when we put in our 30-day notice at the complex, they told me that they had finally caved about the dogs and would be allowing dogs under a certain weight limit (which I forget, but it seems was like 40lbs, which is pretty big) starting one week after we put our notice in.
Our search for a dog began.
Actually, our talk about getting a dog began. There was a lot of discussion about what kind of dog would be appropriate for the family. My wife didn't want another big dog. Our black lab had been great (really, he was great. He was one of the sweetest dogs I've ever known (and I've know a lot), and incredibly smart. Plus, he had a huge amount of tolerance for the abuse our oldest son heaped on him when the oldest son was young, so that went a long way), but she wanted a dog that would fit in her lap if she felt like she wanted a dog in her lap. I wanted something with short hair, because Corby (the lab) made enough hair to make brand new dogs out of on a regular basis. We also needed something playful but not hyper. We settled on a corgi.
I love corgis. They're about the happiest looking dogs I know of, are good with kids, and are just cute. So we started looking for one.
The humane society's website said they had a corgi available, so we planned to go take a look at it. You have to plan when you get a shelter dog, though, so this was to be strictly a "looking" trip. It was our first outing, after all, and I made it plain to the kids that we were not planning on coming home with a dog unless the corgi was just perfect or magic happened. We needed to spend some time looking around in order to make sure we got just the right dog.
I had one other stipulation: no chihuahuas. I can't stand the things. The bug eyes. The way they shiver and shake all the time. Nude rats. And one of my good friends from college and I had a working hypothesis for why they have bug eyes and are scared of everything. His dad was a doctor in Houston and was involved in a situation with a chihuahua removal in the emergency room once, and I'll just leave it at that. That's the origin of the hypothesis, though.
We got down to the shelter to discover that the "corgi" was actually a corgi/chihuahua mix, but I was willing to look at it, because it was half corgi (the website didn't list that it was half chihuahua (bait and switch, anyone?). And let me just say that about 85% of the dogs there were chihuahuas or chihuahua mixes, so things weren't looking good. We finally got to the room with the "corgi" to find that it was being held. This doesn't mean the dog was actually taken, but that someone was interested and in the middle of making a decision about the dog. It also means that no one else can look at that particular dog. >sigh<
I was ready to leave.
However, next to the "corgi" was an exceptionally cute little chihuahua mix. My kids adored her. I made them look at all the other dogs first, anyway. Remember, I wasn't getting a chihuahua. And there was the cutest little boxer puppy. 10 weeks old, floppy ears, sad eyes. Adorable! But he was a boxer, which was much bigger than we wanted. Not that I didn't spend a lot of time pining over him.
Everything kept coming back to the little dog next to the "corgi."
[At this point, I would like to make it point to say that this little dog was a chihuahua mixed with a German Shepherd. Yes, we all pray that the mother was the Shepherd. The alternative is too painful to think about.]
My kids, all of my kids, had settled around her. It's pretty extraordinary when all of my kids agree on something, so I caved, and I let them take her out for an introduction. Just to look! I reminded them that we were NOT getting a chihuahua.
But she didn't look like a chihuahua. She looked like a tiny German Shepherd. But with floppy ears. Even I couldn't deny that she was cute. Really cute. I caved more because the dog was so cute rather than because of the whining of my kids.
The dog did the rest.
Dogs have a way of knowing who the alpha is. Or, at least, who is the person that will be making the decision. She put on quite an act and centered on me. The kids loved her. The trainer couldn't rein her back in, but she'd come to me. I was still trying to protest "no chihuahuas!" My wife said two things to me. Okay, well, she said more than two, but she said two things that really mattered: "Look at her," and "Remember, it doesn't have to be the "perfect" dog, just the dog that's perfect for us."
We came home with a dog. And that dog was a chihuahua. Well, half chihuahua. Since then, I've decided that chihuahuas are the universal solvent of the dog world. Want a German Shepherd, but they're too big? Mix it with a chihuahua. Seriously. Go online and look at mixed chihuahua breeds. It's amazing.
And, because I know you want to know, here's Tessa:
Especially my son. It's like a dream come true for him. I caught him on the couch cuddling with her a few days after we got her saying, "I can't believe we have a dog," over and over to himself.
But, now, to the point, because, yes, there has to be a point.
I don't believe in "settling." And I didn't "settle" for this dog. There can be a fine line, though, between settling and being open to things you weren't looking for. I went into the whole dog thing with a particular idea in my head about what we were going to come out with on the other side. We had familial agreement on that idea (even if it was only grudging on the part of my daughter (she likes chihuahuas (for reasons I cannot fathom)). However, some of the specific parts of that plan were not as important as others. I tend to lock myself into ideas. Things need to be this way or that way, or they just don't work. My wife reminded me of what was important, "Look at her." So I opened my eyes and looked at the dog, and I looked at my kids, and I knew Tessa was the right dog for us. I knew it, and I was right.
She may not be the "perfect" dog. She's certainly not a corgi. But she's perfect for us. We couldn't have gotten a better dog.
Anyway, we all need people in our lives that help us to open our eyes and look. People who will help us to not stay trapped in our little boxes of ideas about how things "ought to be" or "should be." People who help us to look at the possibilities where we're not ready to see them. Even in our writing. Maybe, especially in our writing. I mean, my story was about a corgi, but I could have missed the even better one about this feisty little German Shepherd if I didn't have that voice to tell me "look at her."