“Are you sure about this?” I asked. “We’ve talked about this for years,” my husband said. “It’s now or never.”
“We’re pretty old to be adding a little one to the family.”
“All the more reason to do it now, while we still have some energy.”
I looked again at the image on the computer screen and felt my heart swell.
“He is beautiful,” I conceded.
So, four weeks later, after a lot of preparation, a smiling man laid in my arms a squirming twelve-week-old puppy.
Rex is a rescue dog, so his lineage is a bit cloudy. We know there is some German shepherd, but Daddy didn’t stick around for a paternity test, the scoundrel. So, we can guess at border collie, retriever of some flavor, or a splash of beagle, but the fact is we don’t know. Nor do we care. Rex is a bundle of energy, slobbery kisses, and a classic “what’s-that-sound” head tilt that stole our hearts from day one.
Having a dog for the first time in our long marriage has presented us with some logistical challenges. Bob’s retirement was a key factor in getting Rex, as we felt strongly that working full time would not give us the kind of time we needed to invest in raising a young dog. That’s worked out fine. Except this one time...
Our daughter-in-law had earned her doctorate, a glorious achievement that she managed to pull off while being married to an Air Force officer and giving birth to the world’s cutest grandson. (Stand down the counterclaims; we aren’t opening that can of worms.) Bob and daughter Angie decided to make a whirlwind drive to North Carolina, attend the graduation ceremony, and then blast back up the coast by Sunday night.
That plan left me a solo puppy parent on a workday, so I let my fingers do the clicking and found a certified dog sitter not far from my office. She had good reviews and repeat clients, so I felt certain she could handle one lively shepherd-and-whatever-else-he-is.
In the dark hours of Friday morning, I sent my family off on their trip, and, a couple of hours later, loaded Rex into the car with enough cargo to support an entire colony of puppies. Food, treats, six toys, his bed, favorite blanket, medical record, both leashes, a spare collar, and poop bags in a quantity sufficient to embarrass a Great Dane.
The sitter’s house was small but neat, and I said lots of reassuring things to Rex as I carried him up the steps. “This will be fun! She even has a dog, so you will make a new friend. You’ll spend all day playing!
This is great!” I rang the doorbell, and the stillness of the morning was subsequently shattered by a cacophony of noise from inside. A crash, barking, some yelling, more barking, another crash, the sound of canine nails digging into woodwork, more barking. Rex’s ears went flat, and when the door was yanked open, revealing a young woman straining to hold back a massive dog, Rex began to tremble in my arms.
She coaxed us inside, using both hands on a short leash to restrain her dog. Pretty animal, and his tail thumped wildly, but the way he lunged and pulled at us was starting to panic both Rex and me. We sat on sofas in the tiny living room. The resident dog twisted and jumped and tried every evasive maneuver taught at Top Gun to get away from his owner.
“He calms down after awhile!” The young woman smiled as she shouted over the din.
I sat there, my four-month-old baby trying to bore a hole in my chest to hide in, and thought about all the “must-dos” on my desk.
“Isn’t he used to bigger dogs?”
I looked at the dog sitter and fought hard not to say, “Yes, he is. But not Cujo.”
In the end, I just could not do it. I knew, if I left Rex in that house, I would be in a state of near panic all day. It was no good. I had no choice. We drove to my office, and then I walked Rex on the grass that frames the parking lot.
“Okay, Rex, listen up,” I lectured as we walked. “We have to go into the office for a little while. I’ll get some work off my computer and we will go home. Please be a good boy.”
He didn’t like the elevator ride, but the fuss my incredible boss and coworkers made over him put the sparkle back into his face. “We’ll close him up in our section,” my office mate Carol suggested. “He’ll be fine.” That’s what we did, and I was frantically printing, emailing, and piling papers in my office when I looked out the door toward the waiting room.
Rex was in the center of the space, head tilted, eyes closed, an expression of pure contentment on his face as he deposited an exact replica of Mount Rainier on the carpet. We’re talking a Dairy Queen double-scoop, swirled perfectly right to the little fold-over at the top. A heartbeat later, the smell exploded in the air.
“Carol!” I managed to gasp.
“Now, that’s impressive,” she exclaimed. “That’s gotta be half his body weight.”
Professional humiliation comes in many forms. Maybe you botched the big sales presentation. Maybe you were introducing your boss at a conference and went blank when you got to his name. Did you write an email to your friend in which you described a coworker as being “dumb as a sack of hair,” and then accidently send it to the sack in question?
Those are nothing compared to being on your knees with a bottle of disinfectant, trying to lift a stain the shape of Africa out of the carpet while your coworkers attempt to corral your dog. It took three poop bags, an entire roll of paper towels, and intervention by the professionals in housekeeping to render the office habitable again.
Back in the car, Rex put his front paws on the center console and gave me a doggie grin that said, “What a great day! What are we gonna do next, Mom?”
I shrugged at him and smiled back.“We’re gonna go home and work on my resume!”