Random Friday topic.
I was allergic to pet dander growing up, so could never have a dog. After years of allergy shots as a teen, I grew out of it (well, except for cats). After college, I moved out to New Jersey to see a different part of the country, and a few months later, Holly was to move out to be with me. Trying to ease her transition (she would know no one, have no job, no friends – it was a total leap of faith in her coming out to be with me 1,000 miles away), I thought it was time to get a dog. Now, I knew nothing about pet ownership, but knew my then-girlfriend-later-turned-wife had a pet nearly her entire life, and for her it was a stabilizing life force. I lived in a subletted apartment on the Rutgers campus, so it wasn’t like I had a big place. So I got what any (dumb) smart guy would do – get a small dog. I found a “breeder” (and I say that in a loose sense – it was a backyard place, no papers) and bought a motherfucking chihuahua! Now it wasn’t one of those pussy little ones you see in Paris Hilton’s purse, this guy grew to be about 12 pounds (small, but not teacup small).
Buzz was a shitty dog, but he was mine. He loved me the best. It took forever to potty train that bastard on our NJ lawn that was literally 10’x10′ in size. He took to Holly ok, after barking his ass off when she rolled into town that August day. But since she was at the apartment, with no job yet, they bonded ok.
If you haven’t had a dog, you don’t understand both the joy and pain in the ass they are, but once integrated they become part of your family. They help reduce stress, they are easy to love and love you back hence helping fight off depression. They are funny and troublemakers, but most dogs I’ve seen are playful and loving and add a dimension to people’s lives they don’t get anywhere else.
After moving to a 1 BR apartment in the suburb of Somerville, NJ to have some privacy as well as more safety (apartment had been broken into, sketchy overall). Holly was working by then, and without the hustle and bustle of roomates going in and out, Buzz got to be a problem. He would howl and bark all day (crated, highly recommended), so we self-diagnosed him with separation anxiety. After a poor decision (that lasted about 1.5 days) of adopting a Border Collie from a shelter (to live in a fucking apartment. I told you we didn’t know what we were doing), we went back to the well (breeder) where Buzz came from, and bought his cousin Oscar.
Oscar didn’t really settle ole Buzz’s anxiety, but added some new craziness instead. When we picked him out, he kissed Holly, and the owners were very surprised because he turned his nose at nearly everyone. He was born Holly’s dog and was cra cra and thick (14 lbs). He’d bark at everyone, hide behind the toilet or under the bed, but he was our crazy kid. These two dogs were our babies, until we had kids, then they were relegated back to being a second class citizen.
We moved back to the Midwest, and they had many good years in our semi-rural home with a forest in our backyard. They would chase deer or turkey. We kept them inside during the fox living under the shed spring (the fox pups were sooo cool), but they got some exercise just running around or hanging on our large deck. Buzz peed on my head at one point (I was sleeping, and he had to go outside…bummer for me). Oscar grew tumors. Buzz got crazy at times, suffering from apparent dementia. He would walk through the house mostly on his front legs peeing. Peeing and pooping inside was problematic for both dogs. The first time I heard Birdsnest swear was about 3 or 4 years old, when emulating Holly, she saw a turd on the floor and said: “those…those…fucking dogs!”
One of the hardest weeks I have had in my life was when we decided to put both Buzz and Oscar down. Buzz was pretty messed in the head, snapping at us sometimes, and we were scared for the kids. Oscar had a tumor inside that was very large, like tennis ball size, that was making life very miserable for him. It wasn’t a black and white issue, and we struggled with when and even if we should do this. We were torn up inside about this issue. But for the betterment of our dogs pain and suffering, as well as ours, we decided to put them down. To make this worse, we did it both within a week of each other. The heartpain was immense. Watching your dog getting a lethal injection is so difficult. I’m tearing up writing this. These were family members…brothers…friends and we were voluntarily giving them the death sentence. It’s coming up on three years and we still think about them, and I am happy when the kids remember them and the good times we had together.
I knew dogs were a pain and were expensive (vet bills, dog food, medications), but I never realized how much you can love an animal and I’m not alone. My grandfather loved his German Shepard Pepper like a brother too, and he cried when Pepper died at the farm, getting hit by a car by the road. Buzz was my first dog and special friend and we had a special bond. Holly and Oscar had something similar. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there. The bond is different with each animal, and as I’ll get into a little in Part 2, a new dog doesn’t make you forget your old ones.