So, I did something a little bit crazy and very expensive, but absolutely wonderful. On Saturday, I adopted a dog. Now that he’s a huge part of my life, I figured I had better get around to writing a post about it before I can write anything related to my daily living! Also, the Today show this morning is all about Call Me Maybe, which brings back happy memories of standing at the top of a sunny slalom course at USCSA National Championships this past spring so I’m happy to sit here and write.
This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. I have wanted a dog for my entire life. I can remember playing with puppies at a the SPCA with my childhood best friend and longing for the day when we’d turn 14 and be allowed to volunteer there, but it seemed like so far off in the future and by the time we actually did turn 14 there was no way for us to get to downtown Springfield anyway. I have been seriously contemplating dog ownership for well over a year, considering how a dog would fit into my life, and what kind of dog I would want.
When I came to New Orleans to find a place to live, I was struck by how dog-friendly the city is. There are water bowls outside of shops for the hundreds of dogs out walking with their owners, poop bag dispensers everywhere from tiny grassy lots to the big beautiful parks, huge amazing dog parks, a vet on seemingly every corner, and the bar near my house has a dog-friendly patio. Where else can you bring your dog while you stop for a pint? Sadly, this area also has the highest amount of strays in the entire country. There are a lot of rescue organizations, but without spay/neuter laws, it’s extremely difficult to control the dog population. Shelters are always full. With a big apartment and two dog lovers for roommates, it seemed like this was the perfect year to venture into dog ownership.
With these thoughts in my head, I hit Petfinder a few months ago while still in Massachusetts. WARNING: everyone who has ever been on Petfinder.com knows that it will tug at your heartstrings, eat up all your free time, and make it impossible to say no. Click the link at your own risk. I was in contact with the woman who runs Animal Helper here about a lab/boxer mix that I ended up meeting a week or two ago. She was sweet and friendly, but a very strong puller on the leash, a little more rambunctious than I had hoped, and a big shedder. Although some of these things seem like they aren’t a huge issue, or that they would be trainable, I’ve never done this before. After that meeting, I thought to myself “Well, I’m not dead set on getting a dog here just because I’m here. I’ll only do it if I find the right one.” It’s like god was listening to me, because later that day after a morning adventure at the Audobon Insectarium and an incredible lunch at Acme Oysterhouse (chargrilled oysters with smoked tobasco, anyone??), it started to rain and I
begged asked James if he’d humor me and visit the LA-SPCA which is just a short trip over the Crescent City Connector on the West Bank.
When I saw him, I knew. He was chillin on his little dog bed, just hanging out amidst the crazy barking, but came right over to say hi when we walked up to his cage. He was a good size, beautiful, and his oh-so-official name tag said he was super smart and scored an A++ on his behavior test. Of course, that’s not good enough for me, I’ve gotta test it out myself. We took him outside, and immediately I was struck by how well he walked on a leash – one of the things that was really important for me to find in a dog. Also, even though he had the same length coat as Nina, he barely sheds at all. When we got him outside and took him off the leash, he’d run around and explore, but as soon as you called him over, he’d run to you like the big goofy pup that he is and flop his butt down on your feet, lean into your legs, and it was impossible to resist giving him a good tummy scratch.
That first day, I brought home an application but was still skeptical. After discussing the issue with my mom, who thought I should wait, and my friends here, who thought it was a great idea, I was no closer to being 100% sure. I filled out the application but was still unsure about the decision. The next morning, I ran my finances for the next year and determined that I could afford a dog and still have some spending money and enough to cover all the essentials. We went back to the SPCA with Andrea, my roommate, and my friends Ellen and Alysse. All of them were completely taken with the pup, and thought it would be a great decision to adopt him. I kept thinking, this is a long-term thing! And when I did, I realized that I have literally no plan for the future beyond this internship. I’m going to get a job. I know that. But where? Will I be moving? What area of dietetics? I couldn’t picture my own future, so how could I possibly imagine where a dog would fit into it beyond this one year? With all these things swirling in my head, I was grateful when my landlord didn’t answer his phone to say that I was allowed to have a dog, so he was put on 24-hour hold.
James and I went home, and I was pretty quiet as we worked on a puzzle. There was a lot going on in my head. It’s funny how we live with life’s uncertainties constantly but when they’re brought to the front of our consciousness, it can be really scary. Around 2:30, we got the call that I could go pick him up. I sat there after hanging up the phone and looked across the puzzle at James.
“We can get him”
“Ok, so do you want to go? We can go, the puzzle will still be here.”
“I…I just don’t know. He will need stuff.”
“Well, we can go get some stuff.”
“Yeah, Wal Mart is on the way. But…”
“Do you want to do this? It’s a big responsibility”
“Well…let’s go to Wal Mart”
We went to Wal Mart. Pushing the cart, all I could think of was “Is this right? Am I ready?” I am always really anxious about things when I’m not sure that I’ll be good at them. It’s really stupid and also the reason that I don’t play pool. I probably miss out on some seriously awesome things because I’m afraid of being terrible at them. This really needs to change – I smell a New Year’s resolution. But even after making this realization, I was still caught up in the blank page that I saw in my future, and I stalled. James said I looked like I was going to cry in the middle of Wal Mart. Instead, we ditched the cart and bought a box of Oatmeal Squares, a bag of Zapp’s Voodoo chips to try, and a big sparkly water to drink. All of that self-doubt made me really hungry.
The next morning, I woke up without that gnawing uncertainty in the pit of my stomach. Instead of being on the verge of tears, I had a smile on my face. I knew. I didn’t want to get the dog with any bit of doubt, but I had spent the night tossing and turning, contemplating where I’d take my dog for walks, how I’d come up with the money to move somewhere with mountains and how much he would love hiking them with me, and all sorts of other dog-related things. He was in my head, and making his way into my future.
He was my dog.
We woke up, went to Petco to get a crate, and promptly left after learning that the computer system was down and I had maybe 130 cents on me, but definitely not 130 dollars. We went back to Wal Mart and got a collar, leash, bowls, toys, and other essentials including the maximum amount of cash back. Then, we crossed the bridge. Actually it took about 30 minutes because the on ramp we usually used was closed and we went around in circles for quite a while before finding a way onto 90. I was sure.
I am happy to report that thus far, the hardest part of having this dog has been naming him. We finally settled on Louie, after Louis Armstrong (spelling change to avoid people trying to pronounce his name “Lewis”) as an homage to his hometown. He has been trying to lick at his neutering incision, so he’s wearing a cone of shame, but that’s really more entertaining for the rest of us than it is annoying for him. I’ll spare you every last detail, but basically my life has been filled with walks and fetch and teaching new commands and it has been really awesome. Now for the good stuff: pictures =)