Saturday, August 13, 2005

Hell's Frozen Over

My husband told me that hell would freeze over before he got another dog. Let me tell you, it’s freezing here in Suburbia, Los Angeles.

My middle son, A, has been asking for a dog since my brother brought home his fit-in-a-teacup Chihuahua at Christmas. My daughter wanted one, too. J was a little hesitant since he’s allergic to cats and certain kinds of dogs. We’d had one for a long while before M was born – 11 years long I had her, in fact. My Abby, a Scottish terrier, predated my husband. He’d never had a pet and eventually learned to love her but when she went to the great grassy field beyond the rainbow he swore we’d never own another dog. Too expensive, he said, too sad when it’s time to go separate ways.

He kinds-sorta relented, however, at the repeated sight of a nurturing A with my brother’s dog. Couldn’t resist at least a consideration of bringing some of that love home.

So on Thursday, A and I stopped by on a lark at our local Humane Society. We wandered up and down the aisles, looked at all the dogs – A liking in particular a short, fat guy with beyond-hope teeth that caused his lip to rise. But he had bad fly strike (a new term I learned for awful, open sores that develop when flies eat the skin away) and was too old (ten years). We did take note though of a nice sized miniature pinscher – she was sweet, accepting A’s tender nose-touches, quiet. She reminded me a large Chihuahua, just the sort of dog A had been hoping for. I saw she was three years old. There was a similar dog about a year old except he was really small. Much too small to manage the over-affection M would most likely heap upon him. We checked out some others, a Benji-type terrier, a large Dennis-the-Menace terrier, a hound puppy with the best floppy ears. We filled out the requisite forms and were given a time to return, the next morning at nine a.m. sharp.

The three-year old pinscher was the one we’d be meeting. My husband started downing the Tums when I told him of the appointment. One thing is looking at dogs, another thing is adopting one.

“A dog…who’s going to pick up after it? Who’s going to pay for it? The clutter we have! She’s going to get into everything! The trash, your papers, your books! My shoes! And what about peeing in the house? Oh! And boarding her…how are we going to leave at a moment’s notice for the weekend?”

“What weekend?”

“The weekends that we do that!”

“What weekends?”

“You’re so mean to me!”

So…7:30 a.m. rolls around the next morning and I’m the one lying in bed, positively petrified. I’d read about pinschers on the internet, I read that the breed isn’t so hot for kids. That they’re hard to housebreak, that they’re curious and owners need to baby proof.

“Oh no…I can’t do it,” I said.

“Oh right…get out of bed, we’re going down there. You told the kids, they want the dog. Even J wants the damn dog.”

“I had dreams all night about this…the trash, peeing large puddles on our carpet. Although oddly it wasn’t my house now, it was my house with my parents. The one in Pasadena.”

“It’s a sign that we shouldn’t get a dog. Stay in bed.”

“No, no, you’re right, the kids want it, they’ll be heartbroken if we let them sleep past the nine appointment. No, we have to go.”


Off we went – a half hour ride, facing no traffic. A sheer miracle if you know the 210 freeway. We got there in time and walked into the pound. A dragged all of us to the right cage belonging to our potential dog – the quiet one, the sweet one – and there she was, barking up a storm in her little cell. The kids were thrilled but D and I sort of swallowed hard and walked around the place in hopes for an alternative. The terrier I thought I liked growled like a madwoman at D, to which I responded nastily, “She senses your dislike of dogs.”

“You’re so mean to me.”

“Proof’s in the pudding, buddy boy.”

At which point I walked up to this sweet-looking Benji-dog to prove my love of all creatures small and large – she growled at me, baring her teeth.

“All right, all right, this one’s out.”

We proceeded to knock off our list of potentials pretty much every dog in the place except the barking fool in cage P12. She barked, she slid her slick body against A’s hand in the cage, she offered up her soulful black eyes and wagged her tail. Her ears flopped. She barked again and twisted and hopped up and down like a kangaroo.

“Oh man,” I said.

The adoptions clerk came to us, leash in hand, and opened the cell. The pinscher was all over the place, the leash finally clicking.

“Lordy,” I said as the clerk handed me the leash, the dog pulling at me in a billion directions. The kids shrieked with pure joy, J commenting to me, “I think she’s the one, Mom, the perfect dog.”

“Criminy,” I said. “This one needs some training.”

M was delirious with giggles, hopping as much as the dog was. We all got into the clerk’s office. The dog sniffed all over the place, constantly moving, at last scarfing scoobie snacks the clerk gave her. She was cute, I admitted, when she made her way to me. I held her little face and she looked at me, licking my chin, her little body still for that moment. She wandered to D and nuzzled him. She let the kids pick her up and she didn’t growl or complain or nip despite her legs hanging down unnaturally. The clerk stared off into space.

She and I chatted a little – there wasn’t much information. The pinscher was a stray, picked up on the ruined streets of Pasadena – god only knows what she was doing to support herself, the poor girl. She passed her social tests with flying colors, though.

“Is she housebroken?” I asked.

The clerk shrugged, shaking her head, her little black bangs wiggling, “No idea.”

I could tell the pinscher had no real basic training – she didn’t respond to sit or stay, she wouldn’t walk on the leash in any respectable manner.

The kids loved her, of course. She seemed tolerant, patient with their attention. Capable of affection. All a good sign. D sighed and rubbed his face as the dog slid under the desk to the clerk, M hanging onto the leash and going under the desk, too.

“What do you think?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes and shivered, the kids repeatedly singing out, “Are we going to keep her? Are we taking her home? Are we getting her?”

The clerk offered us time, until noon to decide (clearly the little one had no one else waiting – no other takers on the premises – a good dose of euthanasia was most likely waiting for her), walking out with the dog, us in tow. She put her back into the cell to await our decision. The kids gathered around her, the dog barked a little. The terrier across the way growled like a fiend.

Only a few minutes passed before we found the clerk and told her, yes. The walk to the car was crazy, the ride home was crazier (the dog was positively nuts). We made our way straight to our vet and got her a rabies shot and review. The vet told us our little dog was nowhere near three – she’s a year old, still a puppy in her mind even if her body’s full grown at near 14 pounds. No fleas, great teeth.

So now…we have Sassy, a one-year old black and brown miniature pinscher (a “minpin,” or “min pin” in dog circles). After nearly 24 hours with the girl, we cannot believe our luck – she’s housebroken, she’s smart (she’s picking up some basic commands), she doesn’t disturb any of our “stuff”, and she’s great with the kids, playing along with them. Letting them love her and get to know her. She’s in constant motion but not hyper like she was when we first took her home. I think she’s a keeper.

So…meet Sassy…no…meet her now…no…wait…there she goes…oops!


LeaLea said...

Adorable!! I'm a terrier fan, but can see how one that hasn't had a family could be growly! :( I have a cairn terrier and a corgi.
Sassy is a sweetheart!

nappy40 said...

Oh how cute!

Brenda said...

An adorable dog story and an adorable dog!

Adriana Bliss said...

Thank you all! Yes, she's a dear. I have to say, though, I'm awfully tempted to get a pal for Sassy. My husband is sweating...LOL!