A belated thanks for the Chanukah gift
By Norman Greene
SAN DIEGO–My hands are bloodied. My eyes are ringed with dark circles. My house is in shambles. And I am exhausted. Why? It’s all because of my children’s last Chanukah present, some eight months ago.
We had been a five dog, one cat family for a very long time. We hadn’t exactly planned it that way, but that’s what happened. One by one, after long lives, our dear animals passed away. The last was Maverick, a Maltese Poodle who looked like an English Sheep dog. He was my favorite. But on August 4, 2008, he left us.
For a year and a half, our house felt empty. My wife was happy, but I was not.
Growing up. I always had a dog. There was Rusty and CoCo who were an integral part of our family in those formative years. Sometimes I thought my parents loved them even more than me. They had no pedigrees, but they exuded love and obedience.
Skip to a number of years later. One week before our daughter was born, and probably because she was a week late in her arrival, Roberta and I adopted our first dog, Brandy Alexandra. The middle name was a slight bow to my Father who wanted a name for his late brother Al…not my most favorite uncle. Brandy was a little, scraggly love machine. She adored our baby and then her brother. We never had to buy toys for either offspring, because they had the best toy in Brandy. (Saved me a fortune over the 13 years Brandy was with us.)
After Brandy came Morgan, whose sister, Maxie, was my mother’s dog. This is probably telling tales out of school, but together, having no shame, they produced Mandy, who came to live with us. Morgan was a very attentive father, constantly licking Mandy’s ears and before you knew it, they had Maverick. I feared that with such inbreeding, Maverick would never go to Harvard, but he was the most intelligent of the four dogs.
As things worked out, we inherited Maxie. Then our daughter moved home from the East Coast with her dog, Brindle. Voila! We were a five dog family with one poor suffering Siamese cat.
In mid-2009, despite warnings that my wife would move out if I came home with a new canine, I began to look for a rescue dog. My daughter flooded me with books on Portuguese Water Dogs, French Poodles, Briards and some exotic breeds that all looked as though they would be too complicated and too high strung.
In early October, my daughter asked me to pick her up to help with some errands. She wanted to drive to North County. I immediately became suspicious and loudly proclaimed that I didn’t want a puppy. I wanted a housebroken, year or two old dog. “We are just going to look,” she said, as my wife of 40 years began to pack her bags. “I’ll miss you,” I said, as I found my car keys.
So we drove to Fallbrook where a breeder had a pair of Standard Poodles, one chocolate and the other snow white. They had 13 four week old puppies, three black, two white and the rest every shade of apricot. They were cute.
“Which one do you want?” the breeder asked me, and then proceeded to tell me that the sizable deposit my son and daughter had given him was non-refundable.
Four weeks later, we brought home cognac colored Remy Martin, named to honor his French heritage and the first cognac I had ever tasted at 18 years of age.
We were advised to “crate” train Remy. This meant that our daughter in law provided us with a cage in which Remy would sleep at night. Within the first few days, he was house broken. What an intelligent animal! Of course, it also meant that at 3 a.m. and at 6 a.m., I had to let him out of the crate to do his business on our back lawn. I never remember getting out of bed in the middle of the night with either of our two children. Guess I was not a liberated father in those long ago days.
At eight weeks when we brought him home, Remy could be held in the palms of my hands. Within two weeks, he had doubled in size. Each morning, he was two inches longer. Today, at nine months, he can comfortably rest his head on our kitchen table and take anything off our kitchen counters. If he doesn’t stop growing soon, I’ll have to teach him how to smoke in the hopes of stunting future growth.
Remy is adorable, except when he destroyed an expensive, new pair of my Italian shoes and the spiked heel of one of my wife’s. Fortunately, she didn’t care for those shoes anyway. Nordstroms was kind enough to send the remains of mine back to the factory where miracle of miracles, they were able to rebuild them even before my credit card bill to pay for them came in. You gotta love Nordstroms. They only charged me $10.
Next, just as I was emerging from the proverbial doghouse, Remy chewed up a kitchen cabinet at the base. “Do something. This is ‘your’ dog,” my wife fumed.
“Oh, it’s just that he is going into puberty,” our trainer told us.
I bought an electronic collar at Petco for Remy, but even on blast, it had no effect, none at all. I returned it and sought help on the internet. A new collar arrived this week with four times the amount of stun power, but not in time to save the torn skirt on our living room couch, a floor to ceiling screen in our den, or an antique night stand next to my bed that he lovingly chewed in the eight minutes he was out of my sight.
You may be wondering about my bloodied hands. Well, a playful Standard Poodle’s baby teeth are very, very sharp. Judging by the condition of my night stand, the permanent set are not dull either.
Remy is boundless energy incarnate. Lately, my athletic wife has been taking him for long walks when I feign exhaustion. Except for the destruction, and the food and vet bills, I think she is slowly falling in love with Remy. One day, she may even forgive our children for this unwanted, but much loved, Chanukah gift. Other than “an eye for an eye,” there must be something in the Torah about that.
Greene is a freelance writer based in San Diego
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