Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Big Furry Toddler

I didn't wait long.  The silent house and the mornings with only the cat to feed and let out were too much for me to think of.  After all, I am on my own every other week, and even my only child's ability to enjoy my own company more than most, even my circle of friends and then the kids' energy when they land in again wasn't going to be enough.  There's independence, and then there is being alone.  With all due respect to Midnight the Gorgeous Feline, the only cure for that is a dog.  Well, for some there are men to live with, but not for me, at least not until The Boy walks across the stage to receive his high school diploma.  That'll be about seven years from now, which is too long for me to contemplate going solo. 

Enter Jack.  Like when you've just gone through a break-up and look on Match.com to make sure there are still living, breathing people out there to have dinner with (okay, haven't done this for a long time, but I had a vague memory) only two days after Gus passed, I found myself on the website for the Humane Society of North Texas.  So many fellow dog-lovers tell me they want to take ten of these mutts home. But I know what I want, or know it when I see it, and like my house hunt a year ago, I narrowed it down quickly but visited with an open mind. The children and I endured the furious noise of the Big Dog House, didn't see any other dog that held any interest, and then we found him. 

"He's...big." The Boy was skeptical.  The Girl allowed this but thought, as I did, that he was terribly handsome and sweet.  So two weeks ago, I picked up Jack, all sixty pounds of him, after his procedure.  Like most men after such a trial, he was diminished, and the first few days were pretty calm.  He did knock out four miles with me the next weekend, although the leash was strained.  An ill-behaved little dog is annoying but manageable, but not everyone finds a large black lab mix charming, and he's stronger than me.  As expected, his personality came out, and needed to be harnessed for the good of the household.

The dog trainer, an odd duck who nevertheless knows what he's doing, gave us some helpful guidelines for letting Jack know who's driving this bus.  After we realized this guy, who looks like a black Irish Setter, could open doors in our house (and then, in fits of anxiety, used the same trick on the deadbolt in the kitchen and locked out each of the children) we also found ways to keep him calm while we are gone.  He is remarkable in many regards but mostly because he can handle almost a whole workday on his own without wreaking havoc or making a mess.

As for the other stuff, it's rather like I live with a very large, furry toddler.  I have some experience with the human sort, and with handling the occasional recalcitrant lawyer.  It's helpful to have this to draw upon. We only go for walks when he has eaten and hasn't had too much stimulation.  I spend a lot of time watching what he's putting in his mouth, and fairly often reaching into his massive jaw to pull out an acorn or leaf or very large stick.  I ignore his bad behavior unless he's hurting himself or others, and try to catch him doing something good.  He gets either/or choices.  Are you going to stop eating grass, or are we done playing in the yard?

And now, six years after my last adoption, I learn from other dog types that Jack needs socialization. I feel alternately like a grandma asking why teenagers need  Facebook accounts and then thrown back into the milky haze of my days of staying home with overly articulate preschoolers, worrying anew. Will my baby get into the right doggie daycare?  What if he gets into trouble?  Falls in with the wrong pack?  Who will watch him when I travel out of town?  Will he misbehave when his routine is disrupted?  Do I miss having someone who actually wants me to fuss over him? Ya think?

Anyway, most nights, so far, he sleeps by my bed and makes all sorts of noises and smells.  He wakes me at six in the morning for attention.  I cannot believe how much he eats. So in this way, he's sort of like a man.  Except he's already pretty obedient and loves me without reserve.  Beat that with a stick.


  1. Brings to mind this PSA:

  2. I think I could help you out when you are out of town...