June 25, 2015

Happiness is

I’ve wanted a dog my entire life.

Really, my entire life.

My stepmother had this dog. Or at least this little thing approximating a dog. Ketchie, it was named. But as it belonged to my stepmother, one would be hard-pressed to imagine it being a source of dogginess for me. For the record, she treated the dog just fine.

But I’ve always wanted a dog. Something big and strong and doggy-smelling. I stopped to pet people’s dogs, heard stories about them, actually looked at the pictures of dogs the ladies at the DMV keep on their desks. I never once giggled when someone referred to her “grandpuppy.”

Unfortunately, my husband waited until after we were engaged to tell me he’d never liked dogs. Too much work, too much poop. I tried to convince him this attitude was a result of a misconception: he grew up with a cocker spaniel and seemed to think he had experienced an actual dog, rather than a bundle of stupid with big eyes.

“I wish we could get a dog,” I’d say.

“Thirteen years,” he’d reply. “Thirteen years, and never once was Midnight

housetrained.”

“But it was a cocker spaniel.”

“Thirteen years of coming home to find poop on the rug.”

I mostly stopped asking for a dog and got the kids to start asking, instead. Well, mostly Benjamin. Zachary turned out to be afraid of dogs after a large puppy knocked him over. He was happy to stick with the cat. Every couple of months, Benjamin and my husband would have a conversation that went like this:

“Can we please get a dog?”

“You can get a dog when you’re eighteen.”

“Please, Daddy?”

“Thirteen years. We had to replace that rug when Midnight died.”

Sometimes, I tried myself. “Sweetheart,” I’d start. “I want to get some chickens.”

“What?! No chickens.”

“Then how about a dog?”

I tried this tactic variously with goats and a pony. No dice. And, to be fair, we were moving every couple of years. We lived in rentals sometimes, where it was hard enough getting approval for the cat.

“Plus, Zachary is afraid of dogs,” he’d remind me.

“Oh, he’ll get over that as soon as we get my dog.” No, our dog. I’d have to share it with the kids.

And then we moved to Vermont.

Oh, right. I haven’t written in so long you may have no idea we’ve moved to Vermont. So, hi! We moved to Vermont at the beginning of June. And everyone here has a dog. They don’t let you register to vote if you don’t have a dog. It’s how they check you’re actually a Vermont resident.

So, my husband agreed to get a dog. Zachary, on the other hand, did not agree. While Lilah’s and Benjamin’s enthusiasm certainly made up for his obstinacy, we did need to get him over his fear. We took him to look at a dog, which was perhaps the wrong dog because he was totally cray-cray. In a good, lab kind of way.

On our second morning here in Vermont, Zachary and I went hiking on the trails behind our house. On the way back down, I noticed something. “What’s that on the trail ahead? Huh. That’s a bear. I think we should go the other way for a few minutes.” The next day he asked to go to the shelter to look at dogs. Nothing like a bear to convince a kid a dog is an asset.

At the shelter, we walked down a line of cages filled with barking dogs. The kids covered their ears, and I was sure Zach was about to bolt at any minute. They moved quickly past a dog throwing himself against the bars. Next, they paused sympathetically near Irish, the dog so afraid of people that you could only stand to the side of his cage, rather than looking at him head-on. And then all three children stopped in front of the dog nicknamed Bob Marley.

All three children stopped and pointed. “This one?” I asked. All three children nodded. That’s the first time anyone ever got three children to agree on anything that wasn’t ice cream.

I’d write more, but it’s time to feed the dog. And then we are planning on hiking Mt. Mansfield.

I’ve wanted a dog my entire life. A big, doggy kind of dog.

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