Tag Archives: dog

Learning to Love Chaos (or) Yes, I Adopted A Dog

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“In a world that constantly throws big, unexpected events our way, we must learn to benefit from disorder.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This quote is from “Learning to Love Volatility,” a fascinating Wall Street Journal article I read last month. The basic premise of the piece is that huge, unanticipated events, like stock market crashes, wars, and Al Gore’s invention of the World Wide Web teach us to subconsciously learn and advance through placement in an unexpected position of volatility, variability, and tension. Think “Survivor” without that huge stash of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff hidden in a hollowed-out tree or the anniversary sale at Nordstrom after the bank’s just put a $300 limit on your credit card.

Major stress.

This is an incredibly candid picture that my eight year-old freak of nature, canine fanatic took when we first brought our dog home, and the beer can is not a prop.

This is an alarmingly candid, non-ego driven, somewhat blurry picture that my eight year-old freak of nature, canine fanatic took when we first brought our dog home. The beer can is not a prop.

Building on Taleb’s “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or at least less of a loser” philosophy, I recently entered, via free will and completely by choice, the fragile, deep, dark forest of the unknown.

I adopted a dog.

For anyone reading this who happens to be an animal lover, rabbit hoarder, or somehow ended up owning forty-three gerbils, please stop. You won’t understand me or my people. We’re of the Rent-A-Pet variety, not the hearty portion of the populace whose sole mission in life is to rescue stray lorikeets (or steal them from the zoo). We Rent-A-Petters offer to babysit your awesome, perfectly trained dog for the weekend simply because we know we can give him back. We do this not to help you, but to help ourselves by placating our eight-year-old canine fanatic offspring until the next Apple product rolls off an assembly line in China.

This is not my house.

Rent-A-Pet people don’t have time to bring a real canis lupus familiaris into our lives because we’re too consumed with alphabetizing our spice racks and color-coding the origami paper in our craft closets. We are busy, buried three feet deep in the nuance of separating paper clips from rubber bands in the junk drawer so that when we’re in search of our handheld hole punch to string together a quick homemade anniversary card for our parents? We know exactly where to find it. We are orderly, organized, and uncluttered. We are a band of cleaners, our solidarity purpose sealed by a true commitment to shoe bin organization, and our group doesn’t include anything that sticks to us like hairy glue.

This is my alphabatized Lazy Susan full of spices, made all the more efficient because I never use it.

This is my alphabatized Lazy Susan full of spices, made all the more efficient because I never use it.

Until, that is, as Taleb explains, life is upended, chaos ensues, and everything we know to be true in the depths of our solid core stone hearts is called into question.

After several fly by field trips to the local animal shelter with my eight year-old canine fanatic offspring where I was in and out in less than an hour, promising my daughter that she could do anything she wanted with these cute, friendly stray dogs except bring one home, I got a little tripped up. We spent time with one I actually liked, and not in the pet-and-flip, smile-and-wave (goodbye) manner I’d handled every other four-legged creature that had come my way in the past.

Ummmm, that’s not cute.

This one was different, so unique and personally appealing that I put him on hold (yes, there’s a layaway plan for adoptive pets), went home to get my other two freak-of-nature canine fanatic offspring to meet him, and pulled my husband off the river on a fly fishing trip in New York to discuss something I swore I’d never consider: inviting a living, breathing, hair-coat creating canine into our house to stay.

Within the first few hours of bringing our new family member home, I realized that shelters kind of lie, but in a nice way. When they say the dog you’re adopting is “kennel trained, leash trained and potty trained,” what they really mean is “hates his kennel, will pull your arm off if, while on a walk, he sees one of the 1,000,000 mangy jackrabbits that cross the street on a daily basis, and will immediately take a dump on your favorite rug when he enters his new house for the first time.” I think it’s just a matter of semantics or messed up hand signals, but still. I thought I was getting a Rent-A-Pet.

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This is what happened when I tried to run with my dog who isn’t really leash trained after he saw, and subsequently cut in front of me to chase, one of the 1,000,000 mangy jackrabbits that cross the street on a daily basis.

Right when I least expected it, life threw me a curveball, putting me in an unanticipated and uncomfortable position that has actually (I think) precipitated growth. On our shelter visits, my plan was to someday (as in probably never) adopt a non-shedding, small dog in the summer. Instead I ended up with a shedding, seventy pound, greyhound/lab/pointer mix who is both smarter and faster than me. And it’s the start of ski season.

It turns out that Nassim Taleb was right after all, and anything that doesn’t kill you actually can make you stronger, or kinder, or better, or less inclined to worry about personal hygiene, or something like that.

That’s me, selling my soul for some obedience training. Just ignore all the hair growing from my hand. I can no longer afford my monthly dermaplane appointments.

I once thought that people who swore their dogs chose them were suckers. But I love mine, he absolutely chose me, and by that definition, I’m a full-on sucker too. He’s been with our family for a month now, and although in some ways life is harder, in many others it’s better; slower, messier, and full.

Sometimes, early in the morning and long before the sun comes up, when I can’t sleep and the entire world seems dark and still, I take him for a walk. Just me and my dog. With a patchwork quilt of snow on the ground and a tiny flashlight to guide our way, he matches my pace as we move through the night in silent step, tuned to one another and all of the elements that would scare me if I were out on my own. Yesterday, I saw a shooting star (or a rapidly disintegrating plane engine, I’m not sure which). Imagine witnessing an unexpected meteoroid rip through atmosphere as it burns a path through the clear, pre-dawn sky, with the knowledge that maybe, just maybe, you’re the only one lucky enough to watch its fall. That would never have happened in my previous life as a Rent-A-Pet person. It was pretty amazing to see.

Wrigley.

Wrigley and my  canine fanatic offspring.

A big shout-out to Calahan, who was kind enough to ask where I’ve been for the last month. The answer? Walking my dog.

For someone who never really cared for man’s best friend before adopting one, I’ve spent a lot of time writing about him.

If you want to see where my whole dog journey started, read this: Have You Seen Goldie?

If you want to see how far I’ve come, read this: My New Dog Hates Me.

If you want to cry, read this: My New Dog Is Gone

If you want to see what I do with stuffed animals when I’m bored, read this: Have You Seen Goldie? Part II

If you want to read something that might actually be of benefit to you in life, here’s the Wall Street Journal article I quoted above: Learning to Love Volatility.

Have You Seen Goldie?

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When my youngest, Essa, first spoke, her words weren’t the usual “mama,” or “dada,” or anything normal like that.

What actually came out, accompanied by a laser-like glare aimed directly at me, was;

“Can I please have a golden retriever puppy, preferably female and of medium build, with a generous spirit and twinkly eyes?  She’ll protect you from those nasty coyotes on your morning runs, not eat that much or mess up the house, and be my best, best, best friend in the whole, wide world forever.”

“Sweet!” I said, looking at my husband, Scot, for confirmation.  “She got my vocabulary genes!”

“We need to get a dog,” he replied, for the 1,000th time.

“Yeah, but not today.  Maybe tomorrow,” I answered brightly.  For the 1,000th time.

It seemed that everyone in the family, and now baby Essa, wanted a dog.  Everyone that is, but me.

It’s not that I have anything against dogs.  All in all, I think they’re fine, especially if they live across the street or next door, and preferably outside of hearing range when they bark at those nasty coyotes all night long.

Man’s best friend has always been priority numero nothing in my life.  When I graduated from college and moved to Chicago, a tiny apartment coupled with a budding career spelled no dog.  When Scot and I met and married, a slightly larger townhome and two bigger careers also equaled….no dog.  Our son, Taylor came along, and with him?  No dog.  After that, Grace popped out, and then?  No dog.  Finally (and I do mean finally) Essa was born and we moved to Colorado, into a real house with room to grow, and everything I thought I knew about keeping a dog in your yard and not mine was turned inside out.  Almost instantly.

Goldie flower hopping

But you don’t know how stubborn I can be.

By and by, Essa actually did get a dog, but not the kind that slobbers all over the new dining room chairs and makes my favorite fleece look like a hair-coat.

She got Goldie.

As requested, Goldie is an adorable female puppy of medium build with a generous spirit and twinkly eyes.  She has an amazing temperament, calm demeanor, requires no maintenance, weighs less than a pound, and can fit in my back pocket if I squish really hard.  Yes, Goldie is a stuffed animal, and as far as I’m concerned, perfect.

As expected, Essa and Goldie took to each other immediately, like long-lost magnet people on the sci-fi channel.  They’re absolutely inseparable and go everywhere together including the bathroom, any trip that requires Essa to pack a bag, and the creepy basement on snow days when the kids are out of school, I want to write, and the unwelcome ankle-biters are way too into my space.

Goldie night flying

Their unbreakable bond has been an amazing thing to witness, which, as the chauffeur in the family, I get to do on a daily basis.  It almost makes me want to get a real dog.  But not quite.

Unfortunately for me, disaster has struck our home.

Goldie throwing one back

On January 4, 2012 at 4:45 p.m. Essa realized that Goldie was missing.  We’re not sure what happened, and to be honest, suspect foul play.  She’s just not the kind of pet to wander off by herself, and always looks both ways before she crosses the street.

As you can imagine, Essa is devastated, and none of the 4,322 other stuffed dogs she owns can replace her most favorite bestie.  We’ve turned the house and cars completely upside-down trying to find her, called every friend, relative, and place we’ve been over the last week, initiated our code blue satellite-enabled pet tracker, posted signs, launched an aggressive email campaign, and left the front porch light on every night.  But we’ve got nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

It’s time to face the truth.  Goldie is gone.

Now that Goldie’s absence is sinking in, Essa is starting to display some seriously strange behavior, so much so, that I’m actually beginning to get scared.

Follow the evidence she’s left behind, and tell me if you agree with my conclusion.

Exhibit A

The lair

Two days ago, without asking for permission and completely unaided, Essa constructed some kind of “doggie cell block” on our front porch when she got home from school.

Exhibit B

Casually draped over the side of the cage is a homemade afghan that her ninety-year old Nonni knitted when she was born.   Because Essa’s brain stems from a large chunk of mine, I can practically read it, and in this instance, I know what she’s thinking.

She’s using the same mathematical equation that every realtor on the planet has memorized (or written on the back of his hand).

Batch of fresh cookies = yummy smells = sold house = huge $$$

Translated to Essa’s language:

Afghan = comfort = curiosity = stray dog jumps over the cell wall and into my trap

Exhibit C

Even more disturbing than the softie blanket is the paraphernalia she placed inside the holding pen.  Notice the book lying next to the-yet-to-be-put-away Christmas decoration (don’t judge me).

The bait

I know what she’s up to with this one too: random dog sniffs around our yard, spies her carefully placed item of interest, and says,

“Cool!  A book about dogs!  I’m a dog who loves reading about dogs and this strange compartment with towels all over the floor and an afghan hanging over the side looks really inviting.  Wow.  I’ve never seen anything like it before.  I think I’ll jump the fence, curl up with a warm latte, read a little, and take a nap.”

Exhibit D

Possibly the most frightening component of this whole set-up is the strategic location of Essa’s school bag, inside the doggie jail.  She’s a planner by nature, and carries the following items in her satchel at all times:

The getaway bag

– pair of black leather gloves

– crude leash fashioned out of an old piece of rope found in the garage

– $32.31 in loose change

– book about dogs, specifically, how to take care of them

After studying all of the evidence, I can come to only one conclusion.  Essa is planning to kidnap your dog.  And then she’s going to run away.  With your dog.

I’m now forced to look in the mirror and face the reality that has plagued me for years.  We’ve got to get a real dog before something tragic occurs.  Things with Essa are getting out of hand, and someone has to stop her before she ends up on Dr. Phil’s sofa blaming me for all of her weird habits.

Unless, that is, perhaps you’ve seen Goldie?