My sweet Roo is turning two years old in a few weeks.
I greet this with mixed emotions, because I am crazy and I cannot stand the thought of him getting older.
I’d like to think I’m not a nutso dog owner — I have no illusions about him being A Real Boy. He is a dog. He doesn’t wear clothes, or sleep in my bed, or sit on the furniture. I think his biggest flaw is that he begs for food. And my problem is that I accidentally on purpose reinforced his food motivations, because I may or may not have fed him from the table on Winesdays when he was a puppy (aka, all of us had been drinking).
Otherwise, he is the Greatest Dog Ever To Have Walked The Earth.
He didn’t even teethe too badly as a puppy — yes, there are a few teeth marks on the base of my round table. And I think he nibbled on the moulding behind the passenger’s bed (weird that I call it that? What do you call the empty side of the bed?) But otherwise…nothing.
Oh, except for chewing up my $800 wallet. I hate to use numbers or talk about the specific cost of things in public, but this is one exception I’ll make in order to illustrate the point. One of my BFFs (who lives in Hong Kong) asked me about the wallet when I saw her, since she’d been with me when I purchased it a few years back. We’d been walking around in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and on a whim, I stopped in the brand boutique and I bought it. It was a little souvenir of a terrible year — to sort-of borrow from The Sundays.
Do you still use it? she asked. And I laughed, and pulled it out to show it to her.
Yes, I said, holding it up, gnawed edge and all. For a time, I swore I was either going to replace it, or have it repaired. I still haven’t gotten around to doing that, and it has been almost a year since Roo ate it.
She chuckled. She’s also a dog person — she’d texted me when she was in London a while back, en route to Wales to see a new puppy. Are you in London? I wasn’t. Change your trip! I’m going to Wales to see a poodle breeder!
And that’s how dog people work. They become pied pipers of Welsh poodle breeding excursions. I almost did change my travel, too.
So if Roo’s worst crimes are begging, gnawing a table, and eating designer goods, then I suppose there are worse things. And since it’s a really nice little purse, and since wonderful food is generally served at my table, I can’t fault him for his overall excellent taste.
I call him a “Once in a Lifetime Kind of Dog.”
Which isn’t true, because I previously had a “Once in a Lifetime Kind of Dog.” Her name was Lilly, and I adopted when she was older. She was gentle, and kind, and had a personality where even my ex-mother in law, who was just not a pet person, fell in love with her.
In mid-2006, it became clear that Lilly was dying. We went to extreme and expensive lengths to either save her, or make her comfortable, but to no avail. Then the vet finally said, It’s time. And we knew we had no choice.
I have only one real regret in my life, and that is that I couldn’t stand to be in the room when we put her down. Andrew held on to her, and I walked around the block. Isn’t that awful? It was just too hard.
After Lilly died, my mother had a painting done for me based on a Christmas card picture I’d sent of her that year. The painting hangs in my entryway now, right above Roo’s leash.
And so the story goes, when I was finally ready to adopt another dog, I went to several different shelters looking for an gently-used, certified pre-owned, midsized dog. And instead I came out with a tubby, eight week old puppy.
While I was in Hong Kong, I was FaceTiming with Kat, who was babysitting Roo, and she lowered the phone to his face. He heard my voice, and he looked around for me. Then he nosed toward the screen as if in recognition.
In my lunatic, dog-owning mind, I thought: I have done it. I have arrived.
It’s not that I think he’s a Real Boy. But I do believe there are special creatures that come into our lives to save us from ourselves. Why else would there be service dogs; seizure dogs; cancer-sniffing dogs — dogs who lay down their lives for their masters; dogs who stay?
Living with Roo has taught me to be patient; to be loyal. To love unconditionally. To become irrationally excited over small joys. To remember to take time to snuggle; to take shorter workouts and more time for dinner.
And to not take myself and my fancy things too seriously.