Apr 292016

I mentioned in another post about pets that it has been said that we human beings are the only creatures on planet Earth who willingly take a member of another species into their homes simply for the pleasure of its company. We refer to them as pets, but in many cases they become beloved members of our family.

On an April afternoon seventeen years ago, I brought home an adorable schnoodle puppy, little more than a tiny ball of curly black fur. When I held him in my arms, cuddling him, it was love at first sight.

The English Major in me wanted to name my new puppy after a famous writer. Macho Guy nixed letting me call the pup Shakespeare. The last thing MG wanted was to be outdoors in front of the entire neighborhood calling, “Here, Shakespeare!” I had to give him that one.

Then inspiration struck—a famous writer’s name that could have two meanings. Why didn’t I think of it sooner? So, I named my little fur baby Dickens. The name suited him perfectly.

Dickens 1 Continue reading »

Sep 102013

Jolana Malkston 2No, I didn’t spell it incorrectly. What follows is not a tale of “man’s best friend.” When I wrote “fiend” in the title, I meant it. If you read Marley and Me or saw the film, you can guess why.

At age twelve, our Lovable Lab left us for the Great Dog Kennel in the Sky. I was heartbroken and wouldn’t consider getting another dog. I didn’t want to face the future loss of another pet. Aside from a few bad habits—filching our unguarded snacks, shedding constantly and passing toxic gas—Lovable Lab would be a tough act to follow.  No more dogs. Nope. Never again. Wouldn’t let the guys bring up the subject in my presence.

I should mention that I was and still am the only female in our household—even our pets have always been male—so I was outnumbered. The male majority decided to get another dog. When I objected once more, Macho Guy, Firstborn and Baby Brother voted me off the island.

The male triumvirate decided against another Labrador retriever. No other Lab could measure up to Lovable and would be a continual reminder of our loss. They bought a book on dog breeds and began searching the contents for Lovable’s successor.

Pay very close attention to what I am about to tell you. It’s crucial, and here it is: Never choose a dog based on what you read about the breed in a book. I cannot stress this enough. Never. Never. Never. We did it once and only once, and it was one time too many.

The triad discovered their candidate for pethood in that dog book. They fell all over themselves trying to win me over to the dark side. They were the irresistible force; I was the immovable object. The threesome took the book to me already open to the page devoted to the American Eskimo breed and insisted that I at least have a look.

I looked. The breed resembled an arctic fox. Beautiful, really. Pardon me for employing a cliché; its long fine fur was as pure white as snow. According to the book, the American Eskimo doesn’t drool, its fur has no odor and stays clean when brushed regularly, and the breed only sheds once a year. {The troika was quick to point that out; the three knew how much I disliked vacuuming up after the constantly shedding aforementioned Lovable Lab.) The one negative I spotted was “likes to bark.” The more I gazed at the dog’s photo, the more uneasy I became. You know that hinky feeling you get when you sense impending disaster? Well . . .

Of course I gave in. Being outnumbered and outvoted guaranteed that I would. The big boy and the two little boys began scouring the classifieds to find American Eskimo puppies. Victory whoops accompanied the discovery of a breeder a short distance from our home. Oh, joy.

Naturally, the testosterone trio picked out a male pup. He was three months old when we took him home, and he was not housebroken. He demonstrated that little detail on several occasions. I suppose we were partly to blame for his becoming our problem pup. We didn’t have sense enough to buy a crate and crate train him. Instead, we put the pup in the boys’ old playpen.

Eventually, I learned that the dog book contained a significant inaccuracy about American Eskimo dogs. Remember the claim that this breed only sheds once a year? Right. Our AE started shedding on January 1 and stopped shedding on December 31, so sure, that’s once a year. The dog book also contained a huge understatement: the American Eskimo dog likes to bark. No. Our AE loved to bark and barked constantly. He lived to bark. He even barked at bird farts.

There were also noteworthy omissions from that book. For example, AEs are trash connoisseurs, and they can climb. I discovered these missing details when I returned from shopping one afternoon. Before leaving, I put our little AE pup in the playpen. Upon returning home, the pup greeted me at the door, panting, tail wagging. That little surprise was nothing in comparison to the shock I experienced when I walked into the war-torn battleground that once was my kitchen. The trash receptacle lay on its side, mortally wounded, its innards strewn on the floor in every direction. The invading force sat at my feet wagging his tail and beaming with pride at the devastation he wrought. In his twisted little mind, I believe he expected praise for his accomplishment. I imagine my screams startled and confused him.

That was only the beginning. The list of the AEs escapades is extremely long, so I’ll just give you a few of the highlights.

One week after we brought him home, he bypassed the steps and attempted to leap onto the back deck from the ground. He didn’t make it. He slammed into the side of the deck, broke his right hind leg and fell to the ground.

Baby Brother (a teen by then) left an open bag of chocolate stars in the den and went out to play hoops. The AE ate the entire bagful. During the night, he barfed up the chocolate all over the house, staining our greige carpet, and had to be rushed to the vet with chocolate poisoning.

The AE loved to chew things but he was very selective. He never chewed anything old, always something new. For example, Baby Brother had two sets of headphones lying on his bed, one new and one broken. The AE chewed the new one. Macho Guy bought himself a new pair of wingtip shoes. The AE got into his closet, ignored all the older pairs of shoes and chewed the tongues out of the brand new ones. Macho Guy is also our handy guy. He had a huge collection of power tools in his basement workroom. We locked the AE down there to keep him from wrecking the rest of the house while we were out. We even put him in a harness and tied him to one of the posts. Somehow, he slipped out of the harness and chewed all the cords off Macho Guys power tools.

One time Macho Guy set out to catch a mouse in the den with traps baited with peanut butter. He caught something bigger. The AE loved peanut butter and he was always too curious for his own good. He found one of the traps. We heard a loud WHAP! The AE barreled out of the den yelping. He slammed into one wall after another and then began running around the house. When we finally caught up to him, we discovered the trap hanging from his tongue.

He also succeeding in embarrassing the family by flunking dog obedience school twice.

I cannot explain why, but we all loved that crazy dog and were grief stricken when he died. If nothing else, the AE was unforgettable.

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