I promise to walk him every day…

December 5, 2008

 I do love animals.  This is not to suggest that I don’t eat a disproportionate amount of red meat. I just limit my hunting to critters that are pre-packaged in cellophane and styrofoam and can be found roaming the local grocery. I want to be clear about this up front because this post may cause a stir among hardcore animal lovers.


Both of my boys would really like to bring another living creature into our home.  Currently, they would be satisfied with any creature that exhibits even a slight degree of liveliness (turtle, snake, goldfish), but a puppy would be their premiere choice.  I knew when the boys were born that eventually this day would come.  At some point in their lives, every child decides that they not only want a pet, but that they are well prepared for the responsibilities that accompany it. This phenomenon is also shared by newlywed couples who mistakenly believe that pet ownership is akin to child rearing and thus a sound test bed to measure their parenting skill (another discussion altogether).  So, it’s no surprise that the topic of pet ownership has gotten more and more air time around our home.


I am very torn. Like I said, I love dogs and cats but I am not convinced that our home, or family for that matter, is ready for an addition. Most of the trepidation I have with pet ownership stems from past experiences and the extreme string of bad luck that followed us through our pet ownership attempts. The following paragraphs will describe in butt numbing detail what I, and my ill fated pets, have had to endure.


Snuffy (Chinese Crested Powder Puff)-  Judging by the breed you probably surmised that this pet was not mine. Actually, Snuffy was my sister’s, but he did exist within my sphere of influence so I hold some degree of culpability in how he turned out. Snuffy came to us fresh from the pet store. He was fluffy, small, had a great temperament and was quite possibly the cutest animal ever created. My sister loved him dearly. Snuffy lived in my childhood home for over a decade. I’ve got news for you- Chinese Crested Powder Puffs were not designed to live that long.  


Toward the end, Snuffy no longer resembled a cute little ball of fur. In fact, all of his fur fell out and, soon thereafter, so did his teeth. My parents did everything possible to keep him comfortable to include slathering him with coco butter and dressing him in infant-sized footie pajamas to prevent him from scratching himself into oblivion, but sadly their efforts were in vain. The poor guy was miserable. To add insult to injury, he looked ridiculous. In high school, when my friends were over and Snuffy walked into the room, they would immediately stop talking and move their feet to higher ground, terrified that Snuffy would rub against them. I know it sounds mean, but can you blame them?  After all, if I went into a friend’s home and a hairless, scabby dog wearing pajamas and smelling faintly of the islands walked in, I would be slightly uncomfortable too. Eventually, my parents had to concede and have the vet put him down. My sister was so heartbroken that she kept Snuffy’s ashes for a good number of years. Of course, I was unaware that she had done this until the day I mistakenly shoved my hand into Snuffy’s unmarked urn believing that my sister was in possession of an illegal substance- friggin’ gross.


Garfield (Domesticated Barn Cat)-  Garfield was my first pet, delivered straight from the heavens. Literally, he fell from the heavens, through the floor of my Grandmother’s pole barn, landing at my feet. The weird thing was that he didn’t land on his feet like cats are supposed to do. He landed on his head. The logical person would have taken this as an omen, but not yours truly- my pity almost immediately turned into love. Garfield was not your typical cat. He didn’t groom himself so his fur looked more like dreadlocks. His crossed eyes destroyed his sense of depth perception; he used to swat at jet liners flying over our home.  And he didn’t catch mice; instead, he brought home live snakes, much to my mother’s chagrin.  


One year we thought Garfield had met his end when he ran headlong into a moving police car.  My father was convinced that my little buddy was using the Pearly Gates as a scratching post so he carried him to the backyard for burial. By the time he was finished digging the grave, Garfield had recovered and run away… creepy right? He came back several days later seemingly (?) in the same state of health as prior to the police car incident, but he never really was the same (can you say Pet Cemetery?). Garfield lived for another 7 or 8 years, but the circumstances surrounding his return made everyone a bit skittish so he was never really welcomed back with open arms. All said and done, the cat was approximately 20 human years old (that’s like a million cat years) when he finally gave up the fight.


Shelby (Cocker Spaniel)-  Man’s best friend is not necessarily woman’s best friend. Shelby was my first dog as a married man. He was an abandoned pooch that we liberated from the pound. He was a great dog and I loved him as much as he loved me. Problem was, Shelby only had enough love for one other person- and I was it. Connie tried like hell to win the dog over, but he wouldn’t budge. Always the trooper, she hung in there and did her best to avoid interacting with Shelby- kind of that whole out of sight out of mind thing. That worked for a while, both of them were willing to coexist as long as they could pretend that the other didn’t exist at all. When Mack came into the picture, he did not abide by the same principles. Instead, Mack was more of a “let’s be friends so I can ride you like a Shetland pony and use your big floppy infected ears as reins” -kind of guy. You can probably guess that this approach didn’t bode well with Shelby, but to his credit, he never bit my son. I think Shelby knew that biting the little one was a sure ticket out of the comfort of our warm home.  


I said infected ears right?  That’s the spaniel curse- they are prone to severe ear infections. Shelby’s ears got so bad that the poor guy was in constant pain, plus the smell was foul enough to make your eyes water and keep our friends and neighbors from entering our home.  We did everything we could to ease his discomfort- to include specially prepared meals of ground lamb and rice as well as nightly injections aimed at boosting his immune system, but nothing could get the damn things under control. Eventually the severe ear problems and a host of other health-related issues forced me to take that long walk to the vet to have him put to sleep. I was heartbroken. I never loved an animal like I loved Shelby.  Sitting in the parking lot of the vet’s office, I vowed to never own another dog again, it was simply too painful to let go, and inevitably it always comes to that.


Maggie (Springer Spaniel)-  Connie’s best friend. Maggie came into our lives when Shelby was still in the picture (FYI, Shelby liked Maggie about as much as he liked Connie). Here was a pet that I claim zero responsibility for. Maggie was a pet store purchase. To note, she was a good 3 months older than any other dog in the store and her price tag was slashed in half. Be forewarned, there are no good deals when you buy a dog from a pet store. Any appearance of a good deal is a ploy to sucker you into a regrettable purchase. The reason for Maggie’s reduced price tag was that she was certifiably insane. For example, she would run full speed into the concrete retaining wall in our backyard- almost knocking herself unconscious with every iteration. Every other available moment was spent attacking her shadow. It got to the point that her nose was permanently scabbed from pounding it into the carpet.  


Most would argue that this is fairly common puppy behavior, but the fact is, she carried on like this the entire time we owned her. Things got worse when we moved into our tiny house aboard Camp Lejeune. With only 800 square feet of interior living space, it became impossible to escape her incessant fits of idiocy. But that’s not what prompted us to put her up for adoption. We could deal with her antics- especially Connie, who to this day refuses to admit that the dog was anything but “sweet”. What prompted her exodus was growling at the Mack-man when he relentlessly pursued her- can’t have that. So we put her up for adoption through the Springer Foundation. She ended up going to a loving family with lots of land for her to roam. All’s well that ends well.


That’s it for the pets.  We haven’t owned another living thing since, unless you count the tadpole that Mack received for his 5th birthday present. I think the kids named it Brent, though I’m not positive because he wasn’t around long enough for us to become acquainted. The day after he arrived, the kids woke up early to play with him- did you know that tadpoles fit inside matchbox cars? Well they do because they are invertebrates and the thing with invertebrates is they can be squished into any item you wish- just apply enough pressure. Not the best for overall well being, but like any man, I’m sure Brent enjoyed being behind the wheel of a muscle car. Let’s just hope it was on his list of things to do before he died.


I am not convinced that we need to bring a pet into our family. I hope to make it abundantly clear that my reluctance is not due to my dislike of animals. On the contrary, I like animals so much that I want nothing more than to protect them from the Groah family “Pet Curse”.  But, as stated, I am torn- torn between my desire to protect and my desire to provide Mack and Cayden with the experience of a “boy(s) and his dog”. If anyone knows of a durable breed that can withstand the types of afflictions described above, please let me know. I will consider the options with an open mind.



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Jen posted the following on December 6, 2008 at 4:30 am.

Get a lab, very durable, but get a female as the males can be a bit exciteable (as we have learned from our 1yr old lab/sharpei mix).

mary posted the following on December 7, 2008 at 10:41 pm.

German shorthair pointer probably a NOT, though cute and cuddly way way too much energy for our middle class, 3 bedroom suburban house, got her at the shelter and oh yea she is deaf make sure if you adopt that the animal can hear you yelling—- no peeing on the carpet you idiot!!!

Mike posted the following on December 8, 2008 at 8:12 pm.

Dude, I remember those dogs of yours! Anyway, we still have Kova and his new sister Kara, both Australian Cattle Dogs. Very obedient, intelligent, resilient (can’t ride them though – too small) big enough and with strong jaws to deal with attackers or large charging bulls, they can run all day or chase the crap out of tennis balls and keep you peeing yourself with their sense of humor and good naturedness. Trust me, you do not want to be on the wrong side of these guys if you have ill intent in mind as they have been bred to nip at cows, bulls, sheep, my hands and boots – did I mention they have strong jaws? They are extremely loyal animals, cute, easy to take care of and don’t weigh a ton. The boys would love one as Keegan loves both of these little food blisters..

admin posted the following on December 8, 2008 at 9:59 pm.

Maybe I should combine all of your inputs and get a def, dumb, high-energey cow!

None of you are making this easy. I think what I’ll end up doing is buying the guys a pet rock and see how long it takes them to kill that one off, then I’ll re-evaluate the whole dog thing…

Mike posted the following on December 9, 2008 at 3:29 pm.

Well if they are like Keegan then you will have rock poop all over the place in no time as he can’t seem to pick up after the dogs. And then the pet rock will die quickly as he can’t seem to feed or water them either! But in the meantime you’ll have dents all over the house as they “walk him” and duck when you hear the “whoosh” as the pet rock does a flyover or kill run close to mother earth. Really, who ever heard of a high energy cow anyway? How about purchasing them a friggen star out in space then? Or better yet, buy them a real live Tuna fish and go for the green pet, maybe you can shove a GPS tracking unit up his ass and they can track him from the computer as he swims the worlds oceans. Of course you’ll have to keep the jokes to a minimum every time someone opens a can of tuna..Shaneypoo – remember the truck? With your luck, someone will steal your damn dog!

admin posted the following on December 9, 2008 at 9:34 pm.

Mike are you off your anger medication again. At your age you really should’nt get so spun up, you’re liable to blow a gasket.

I didn’t know you could do that with a tuna, I’m going to have to look into that…

Kelli posted the following on December 11, 2008 at 11:18 am.

I thoroughly recommend going to the pound (where they euthanize) and adopting the Dog That Isn’t Barking Like a Maniac When You Walk Between the Cages. A simple method to some, but foolproof in my experience. And don’t adopt a puppy. Potty training and teething (read: chewing anything its mouth can fit around, including sheet rock), AGAIN? Why put yourself through that hell?

Kelli posted the following on December 11, 2008 at 11:21 am.

Oh, and by adopting at the pound you save a dog’s life! I’d avoid pet stores in the future – puppy mills and all that. They’re bound to have mental problems.

admin posted the following on December 12, 2008 at 6:29 am.

Kelli, one thing I know for sure I will never get another dog from a pet store, I am confident of that one. Trouble with the pound is which pooch do you rescue, both Connie and I are saps so we would come home with a whole pack of dogs, know what I mean?

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