For the last year, since Esmeralda died, friends have asked me, “When are you getting another dog?”
When my father died, no one asked when I was going to get another senile, alcoholic Republican to brighten my days.
My favorite was when one said, “I don’t like the fact that you are alone?” I answered that I have lived alone for more than half my life. She then said, “I know that. I meant that you don’t have a dog.” So, it didn’t bother her that I will die alone and probably not be found until the neighbors can no longer stand the smell emanating from my manufactured home.
Oh, I get it.
Most people who ask either never had a dog or have never had to make the decision to end a dog’s life. You can call it “put down” or “put to sleep,” but the fact is it is a heart-wrenching decision that makes you feel guilty no matter how much people say you did the right thing. I had to do it twice in a three-year period, and both times, I had to make the decision alone.
I wasn’t ready to face that again.
On the Facial Book, I was always sharing pictures of dachshund and bull dog puppies because I think they are cute, and although I didn’t have a dog, I still like them. The jury is still out on people.
Dogs are proof evolution exists; people, not so much. Cats are proof aliens exist.
Well, the last few months, I started to consider whether it was time to bring the pitter patter of little feet into my home. I don’t like children, so it was time for another dog. But this time, I wanted a puppy. At almost fifty-one, I figured this was my last chance to have a puppy and enough energy to deal with one. I don’t know why. I can’t even stand guys who are more than five years younger than I am.
I visited every rescue site in the area for dachshunds, beagles and bull dogs, but what I found were organizations that had you fill out a twenty-page questionnaire online before you were allowed to contact them about seeing a particular dog. I do understand the application process since they don’t want abusers or dog fighters to get dogs, but they should at least contact you within a week, not three weeks later. Once they do contact you, that dog is already adopted or was never available in the first place. Then, they try to get you to adopt an elderly dog.
I have nothing against adopting an elderly dog, but I did that with Esmeralda, and frankly, putting a dog down or to sleep or killing one every two years is not part of my life’s master plan. As I told my friend Danny, “If I have to do that again in the next two years, I will have myself put to sleep.”
My master plan was to adopt a male puppy, name it Dr. Bombay and teach it to come when I said, “Dr. Bombay, Dr. Bombay, emergency come right away.”
A friend told me once, “You want to make God laugh? Make plans.”
My favorite was one on one of the English Bulldog rescues. They had a nine-month old dog available that had been returned. When I volunteered at a rescue, I saw this happen a lot with puppies because the people think the dog will be housebroken, can’t housebreak the dog or don’t know how to housebreak a dog. More on that later.
Three weeks later, I was contacted by email after I filled out the magna carta of applications. They didn't even mention the puppy and sent me a picture of an English Bulldog that they said was five years old, who didn’t get along with children, people, cats or other dogs, was returned three times and had a nice disposition. Even though the description told me this wouldn’t work, I looked at the picture. The dog was so gray and old, it was wearing a Life Alert collar. I told the woman I needed a young dog that got along with other dogs and people and cats because I was considering daycare or a dog walker since I was away from the house for eleven hours three days a week.
You would have thought I pissed in her Rice Chex. “Sorry to have bothered you. This dog is five years old. My dogs are in a crate eleven hours a day, and they are fine. Sorry again to have bothered you.” Her dogs were in a crate eleven hours a day? What kind of Bulldog prison was she running? I didn’t answer because if you get into a pissing contest with a skunk, no one wins. It can be fun with a bear. Just kidding.
I am claustrophobic, so I don’t like crates, and when did this crate thing start? We didn’t use crates in my day. Kelly, Daisy, Serena and Esmeralda never were in crates. I know two people who keep their dogs in crates for ten or more hours a day. I don’t understand it. I would like to put each of them in a crate for a whole day and see how they like it.
Even the rescue organizations call this humane. Sorry, but I see nothing humane about adopting a dog and keeping it in a cage all day. Notice they never say cage. Well, it is a cage. Go get arrested and see what it is like to be in a cage for fourteen hours with only an open toilet and twenty-one of your closest friends then do something horrible and go into solitary for a week. No, I have never been arrested although I apparently have plenty of friends who have.
They also claim the crate is good for housebreaking, but it isn't. More on that later.
With no luck with these other rescues, I started visiting the Washington Animal Rescue League site again. Esmeralda came from there. I had volunteered there and have a monthly recurring donation to them. I started my search with male puppies less than one year old. None really caught my attention and most were pit bull mixes, which is why I didn’t go there first. We aren’t allowed those here. Poor pit bulls. In England they are Staffordshire terriers – Nanny dogs. What they should ban are the horrible owners and that piece of shit football player who went to the same high school I did.
Now, I was thinking, maybe I am not supposed to have a dog. Maybe the universe is telling me to wait. I was getting frustrated. I had already replaced all the carpet with laminate, so no accidents would cause me apoplexy, and I had researched daycares and dog walkers. So, out of curiosity, I changed my parameters to include females. All my dogs were female, so I just thought I was due for a change. Never think. It just gets you in trouble.
And there was this cute black and brown face wearing an Elizabethan collar. I figured she had just been spayed when they took the picture. She was a four-month-old hound mix, but all they showed was this cute face with lopsided ears. Her name was Rose Morgan. My grandmother was Rose, and yellow roses are my favorite flower.
I didn’t contact them right away. I would go on every day and look to see if any new dogs arrived, and one did – a beagle poodle mix. I contacted them, and they responded immediately that she was adopted as soon as they posted the picture.
Rose Morgan was still there with the same post-surgery picture.
The following Monday, I went on again, and there were new pictures of Rose Morgan without the collar. Something looked a little different. She was a small dog and looked to be a mix of beagle, min-pin, Jack Russell and who knows what else, but on closer inspection I noticed she was missing her front right leg. Anyone who knows me would not be surprised at what I did next. I emailed them again about Rose Morgan. I asked if she could walk up three steps; if she was good with other dogs; if she got along with people; if she had any other health issues. What I didn’t ask was what happened to her leg. I mean what’s the point? It wasn’t there anymore, so that was that.
They emailed back in an hour that she was a tripod (that is what they are called), could run, walk, go up three steps, and play like a normal dog because she never had the used of that leg, so it was amputated. However, she was the feature dog on WTOP that morning, and if I wanted to meet her and fill out an application, I need to get down there when the opened on Tuesday at noon.
The next day, I left work for a long lunch hour and only told two people where I was going. I arrived, and I signed in. Then an adoption counselor took me to the puppy room where he retrieved Rose Morgan. We went to another room to get acquainted, and she kangarooed – when they go up on their hind legs, and she licked my face. Then she played and romped, and in seconds, you forgot she only had three legs. She never had the use of four, so it was no big deal to her. She also let me scratch her belly, and she played some more. She even fetched a ball. And, she played some more.
I was falling in love. And, she played some more.
I filled out the application, and they said they would call me that afternoon. I also saw they put a pink adoption pending ticket on her room (they have rooms not cages). This meant no one else could apply to adopt her.
But, they didn’t call that afternoon, or the next morning, and I was getting frustrated. A week earlier I figured I wouldn’t be getting a dog, and then I find a dog I was meant to have and no word. At 4:30 pm, I called them. They were going to tell me to be patient, but without my saying anything, the woman on the phone told me to hold for Sheniqua. I held. Sheniqua then asked me a few questions and remembered I had adopted Lulabell, who became Esmeralda, and that I volunteered there. She also said they were getting dozens of calls for Rose Morgan because she was featured on WTOP.
Then she asked if I was aware of her health issue. I said what health issue? She said that fact that she has only three legs. Because I didn’t want to be rejected, I didn’t make a joke about how I hadn’t noticed and did they find the leg after I left.
She then told me I was approved and could pick her up at 11:00 am the next day.
I thanked her, hung up and cried. The Tin Man does have a heart.
Rose Morgan may have received dozens of calls, but the Universe meant her for me.
I did make one change. No, I did not change her name to Dr. Bombay. I changed it to Rose Marie. My gay friends want to know when I will put a black bow in her hair. My straight friends keep asking me, “Who is Rose Marie?”
Rose Marie acclimated herself to my home very quickly. She found all the toys, and she ran around here like a bitch-ass-ho on cocaine. Rose Marie also requires a special harness. It took longer for me to figure that out than it did for her to make herself at home.
Then, I began the house training immediately. Now, for those who get frustrated, here is the secret. First, they will have a few accidents. Rose Marie went into the bathroom and peed and pooped in there. If you gotta go, you gotta go. You have to accept the fact that a puppy has a small bladder and needs to go frequently. Some people think the puppy should hold it for four, five or even eight hours immediately, and when the dog does not, they give up and return the dog. I cannot hold it for two hours, so why would I expect a thirteen pound dog to do that?
Putting the puppy in a crate, especially when you are home is cruel. I know I will piss people off, but that is how I feel. Eventually, the puppy will have to go, then soil itself. Using a crate as a time-out is even worse. Then it just becomes a jail cell for the dog. If you cannot deal with your dog's energy and play, don't adopt a puppy. Go buy a Digger the Dog toy.
For the first day, I walked her every two hours, and she peed on every walk. With each pee, I praised her. Did I tell you her first four days here it rained non-stop? She didn’t care, and I continued to walk her and get drenched, but this was important. She only had one more accident that day, and it was by the front door – the door we use to go out, which meant she knew where to go but couldn’t hold it. She also would gently bark at the door if she needed to go. Serena did the same thing after her first day with me.
It takes patience and a willingness for the first few week or two to take them out quite frequently, so they learn outside is where they go. You are not going to have a puppy who only goes twice a day, especially a small one. They will also have accidents but probably by the front door or whatever door you use to go out.
Rose Marie also made it through the first night, sleeping my bed.
I once dated a guy who asked about Serena, “Does she have to sleep in the bed?”
I answered, “She was here before you, and I imagine she will be here long after you.” Serena lasted eleven years longer than that idiot. My friend Christian said he smelled like death and was the closest I ever came to necrophilia.
That night, I peed five times but only got up three times. She was fine. I am fifty after all.
When the morning came, I went to pee, and she came into the bathroom and did the same thing. I just said a firm no, but I couldn’t be mad. She held it for eight hours. That was her last accident. I now walk her every three hours, and she is fine. The next morning she waited for me to be ready in five minutes then she went outside.
Then came the real test. I have a tendency to project a past experience on a present one. Whenever I left Esmeralda alone, I expected to come home to at least one destroyed object – usually a door jam or a wall. I have scratch guards leftover on the door and window sills here. Or, she would take down all the window treatments. Or, she would knock over whatever she could out of anger. That poor dog was through so much, I just had to deal. I also had to paper train Esmeralda because giving birth so many times left her with no bladder control. I can teach you how to paper train, too.
Serena on the other hand, never destroyed anything except for a small section of a wall while trying to extract her last baby tooth. That repair took five minutes.
I went to the gym the next morning and did my back and bicep workout in a record twenty minutes. I was a black and gray blur! The manager said they always talk about how I work out with no rest between sets and run all over the gym, but this was amazing. Glad to know I am the subject of protein shake blender conversation.
I pulled up into the driveway, and I took a deep breath. After all, I really am tired of that couch. I would like some new curtains, and who cares about the small area rug in the living room. I would just deal with whatever I discovered. I did close the two bedroom and bathroom doors, and the laundry and closets, too.
I looked through the window first to prepare myself. The place looked exactly as I left it. I opened the door, and nothing was amiss, except my dog. She was nowhere to be found! No wonder the place was immaculate. She escaped. Then I heard a bit of scratching and who came crawling out from under the couch? Miss Rose Marie. Then she sang, “I Wanna Be Around to Pick Up the Pieces When He Breaks Your Heart to Bits.”
I felt awful that she hid under the sofa, so I bought her a canvas mobile home dog house with no door where she could sleep when I am gone. It also coordinates beautifully with my decor.
I have since gone grocery shopping and to a dinner, and each time I return to a perfect home. No, I am not going to another neighborhood by accident.
I wonder if part of Serena’s soul is in Rose Marie. Serena had no interest in destroying things either. Part of Esmeralda’s may be – the part that hides under the couch when I leave, except Esmeralda hid under the furniture when I was home.
I hired professional dog walkers who will come by twice a day for a few weeks, then once a day. It is owned by a nice middle-aged Jewish couple who run an insured, bonded and licensed service and offer boarding in their home. Mrs. M only took Esmeralda out back to smoke, and I don’t want Rose Marie to smell like Marlboros. There is also the issue with the Rose Marie tripping her. This little tripod is the fastest dog and the best leash walker I have ever had.
She may only have three legs, but to me Rose Marie is perfect!
On Halloween, I am going to put a black bow in her hair, and call her Sally Rogers. I did, however, get her a black collar. Surprised?
If don’t have a leg to stand on or you wish to live in a cage, follow me, join me, get on my mailing list or just visit: www.miltonstern.com.