Sunday, July 1, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Milo Arrives

As always with FTT O-T, this ain't sports and I ain't making you stay, yada yada yada.

In June of 2004, my college dog died, and it took an awful lot out of me. We still had a dog, a sweet beagle that we found in a Delaware parking lot, and that was enough, really. I loved the dog, but didn't *really* love the dog, not the way I did the college guy, not the way I was ever going to love an animal ever again. We had her for four years as a solo dog, moved back from California to New Jersey, and then one day, when she was probably about 10 years old and still in fine shape, she just disappeared. Got out the back door while no one was looking, caught a scent the way beagles do, and was never seen by us again. We put up posters, checked the vets since she had been microchipped; no luck. I held my weeping kids for the better part of a week, told them about all of the other times that she had wandered off, and that was just who she was, and how we got her in the first place. We were dog-free, and for me, it was the first time that I could say this since my freshman year in college, and before that, well, ever. My childhood was a succession of dogs, as they were just something we always had. And now, well, not.

What's happened since is that small commitment animals have come into my life instead. A cat that's been here since 2004, brought in as a stray when he was born under my eldest kid's pre-school. Fish, from a friend's aquarium when they moved out of the area. Guinea pigs, excess from my sister-in-law. A small dog that stayed for two months, did not work out at all, and got ported off to the sister-in-law, who has never stopped reminding us of this fact. A rabbit, beloved by the eldest, and a parakeet, requested by the wife. I kept all of these things out of my basement cave, cleaned up after them but didn't really bond with any of them, and silently ached every time I saw a dog that looked like my college guy.

Two weeks ago, I came to a realization: it was time to try again. My kids are old enough now to do more than play with a dog. My wife has become far more active. I work from home now, which means that I can be there for the dog far more than I did when I was spending 16 to 20 hours a week on the train. Everything was pushing toward this. And today, we found our guy. That's him up there now. He's been with us for about 9 hours now. In that time, he's done what two-month old pups do: eat, void, sleep, play and get driven around... but none of that second activity in a bad place (even whined and held until we got him out of the car), and the bonding has been off the charts. As I write this, Milo sleeps fitfully, twitching with puppy dreams, on the arm rest between my wife and I.

Milo is an Elk Hound / Labrador mix -- the color of my teenage dog, the goofy hopping play walk and upturned tail of my college and 20s guy. He's smart enough to pick up ball games quickly, headstrong enough to not take the leash very well, inquisitive and curious and affectionate and energetic without being, well, exhausting. So he's part ancient Arctic mid-sized hunting dog, part couch potato. It works for who we are, and so long as we exercise him and stay on food discipline, he'll work out just fine.

Yes, he's in the no-pet basement. Yes, we've bonded. Yes, it's time. And I know that he'll get on my nerves, and that he's going to destroy some stuff, and cost me money I don't really have and take up time I don't really have and make me have regrets when the training doesn't go correctly or he reflects my flaws, or the flaws of my family...

But today was great, despite the expense and the worry.

Right now, he's dreaming with his eyes open, puffing like a little steam engine, and I can't stop looking at him, or smiling.

So welcome to the family, Milo. We've been waiting for you for a long time.

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