Posted by: laughs4dads | May 19, 2010

How Much Is That Puppy (Goldfish, Hamster, Frog, Rabbit, Kitten, Etc.) in the Window? Part V: Woof

Now that I’ve dispensed with all the lesser life forms, let’s talk about dogs.

When I was growing up, I always wanted a dog. My mother, who liked to meet me halfway in such things, responded with a series of short-lived parakeets, all of whom were named Chipper. One of them committed suicide by flying repeatedly into the floor-to-ceiling mirror my mother had installed in the living room to “make the room seem bigger.”

(As tragic as that is, there’s something I’ve always wondered. I can understand a little bird not understanding the concept of a mirror and not realizing that it wasn’t simply more room he was flying toward. But, that aside, wouldn’t you think there’d be some innate survival instinct that would tell him it was a bad idea to fly directly into that other bird coming right at him!)

My mother finally relented and got me a wire haired fox terrier whom we named Samantha. I loved this dog so much. I taught her all kinds of games. She even played basketball with me. When she was two and a half, she got hold of something poisonous on the street and died suddenly. I was heartbroken.

We replaced her with a male wire haired fox terrier named Samson. I loved him, too. I taught him to crawl under my bed and roll a ball back to me so that it seemed I had a magical returning ball. Then we found out he was eating his way up through my mattress. He also enjoyed eating delivery people. At two and a half, a vet declared him insane and put him down. I did not know this was going to happen. I thought we were boarding him for a weekend. You can just imagine how I felt about that.

Then my mother bought a toy poodle named Coquette. She was okay, but unlike the others, she was my mother’s dog. She lived until well after I moved away.

So now I had a daughter and, by golly, she was going to have a dog. For some reason, I had always wanted a keeshond, which is a medium-sized fluffy gray dog that the Dutch use to work on boats. They basically look like gray Q-tips with tails that curl up on their backs. We got a female. Casey named her Joanna.

Of course, taking care of Jo-Jo was supposed to teach Casey responsibility. All parents say that when they get their child a dog. All parents are wrong.

Casey was in school. I still worked at an ad agency then. So Joanna became Barbara’s dog, and Barbara, who had been denied a dog growing up, adored her.

Joanna wasn’t the most active of dogs. A few times a day we’d take her out for a drag, and the rest of the time she was basically an ottoman in our living room. But she was very sweet and cuddly.

When she passed (at age 10), I didn’t want another dog. I was beyond the whole “teach the kid responsibility” lie and, besides, Casey would be heading to college in a few years.

But Barbara liked having a dog around, and Casey still loved animals, and so I was overruled. This time they selected the breed: a Shetland sheepdog. And we traveled to New Jersey to pick one up.

Casey had decided in advance that he would be named Toby, and when the breeder put the little fur ball in Casey’s lap, the name seemed to fit somehow. We drove home, Toby nestled comfortably in Casey’s lap.

And then a funny thing happened. Toby became irrevocably, gushingly, my dog. He’s handsome, cute, funny, smart, athletic…in short, everything you could want in a son if you don’t mind the lack of opposable thumbs. To this day, he is my constant companion, my buddy. He is sleeping right behind me even as I type these words. My devotion to him (and vice versa) is a source of great comedy for my friends.

Casey, meanwhile, went to school in Rhode Island, where she and her roommate kept a pair of rats.

So is there a moral to this tale? Yes there is. By all means, get your child a pet. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that anything but a dog is worthwhile having, or that anyone but you is going to take care of it.

On Friday, I’ll conclude this series on animals with a pop quiz.




  1. Thanks Mark!

    • I guess you’re not as “liberated” as we are.

  2. How do you train all your dogs to do these crazy things? And can you teach mine to stop eating used tissues?

  3. Shetland Sheepdog – best dog. no contest!

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