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I Wanted a "Dog" Dog
(Excerpt from Time Outs for Grown-ups: 5 Minute Smile-breaks)

     It was time for me to get a dog. My own dog. I’d had my own dog once but that was only for two weeks when I was eight years old. I begged and pleaded for a puppy until Mom and Dad finally gave in and got a three-month old cocker spaniel for me.

     He barked a lot, that puppy. And he was... a puppy. Playful and full of energy.  Mom and Dad, products of Washington, D.C., had never had pets of their own and definitely didn’t know how to handle this furry bundle of bark. To tell the truth, neither did I. Whenever I got near him, he was all over me - soft fur, wet tongue and those teeth. I wasn’t too sure of those teeth. So I was a little relieved myself when Mom and Dad told me they were going to have to take him back to the kennel. They said they didn’t know how to keep him from barking and the neighbors were complaining. Maybe they weren’t too sure of those teeth, either.

     I managed to survive childhood without a dog, but the thought lingered in my mind that someday I would have one. That day came shortly after I married Rol, who had always had pets, and especially liked dogs. So it was only natural that we should get a dog for a pet soon after our wedding. As the years went by, we raised a family and went through a few dogs. You know what I mean. Unfortunately, dogs have a shorter life span than we do and just as you’re getting particularly attached to one, he or she passes on.

     During those years we had dogs for the children and hunting dogs for Rol. Now I wanted a dog just for me. I wanted a “dog” dog. Not an impressive dog, not a cute dog, just a dog. One who would be my companion, and I would be his. A you ’n me dog. He, or she, should be medium size. Big enough to know he was a dog, not a cat, but not so big as to be intimidating.

     I figured the best place to look would be at the pound. Might as well find a ready-made friend. With your children you can’t skip the baby stage, with diapers and waking up at all hours of the night. But with pets, you get a choice. I chose not to start at the puppy stage. Yes, they’re cute, but like I said, I wasn’t looking for a cute dog.

     So one day I drove down to the pound to take a look. I walked around the cages looking at all the unwanted dogs. Some were too big, some too small. Some were too active; some were too disinterested. But there were two who looked as if they might like me. One was a little smaller than I wanted. The other was a little bigger. They were both friendly and calm and nice looking. I walked back and forth a few more times. And then I knew. This was the one. The sign on the cage said her name was Sadie. The look in her eyes said she wanted to go home with me.

     I found an attendant, told her I wanted to take Sadie home, and we went to the office to fill out the paperwork. She read Sadie’s biography to me so I could tell if I really wanted her. I didn’t realize they kept so much information on each dog. The bio didn’t change my mind, so a few minutes later Sadie and I walked out to the parking lot together. Me and my new friend.

     Sadie didn’t seem to mind the new red leash the attendant gave me. She walked along relatively calmly, all things considered. Just a few tugs and pauses. We got to my car, a four-door sedan. I suddenly realized I had no one with me to talk to her and calm her down as we rode off into a strange new world. I would be driving, which usually takes two hands.

     Well, her biography said she loved riding in cars, so maybe it would be okay. By now we were at the back door of the car. I opened the door, and said, “Hop in.” She looked at me. I said again, “Hop in, Sadie.”  I tugged a little on her leash. She looked at me. Oh, I’m going to have to think this thing out. I know. I’ll get in with her. Maybe if she sees me get in, she’ll just follow.

     That worked. I got in, and Sadie followed. And then she got out. I got out. I tried again. I got in and Sadie got in. A little further this time. For a split second I considered whether to quickly reach across her and shut the door so she couldn’t get out again, or whether I should just go out the door on my side. Too late. She was out already.

     Okay. Time for some serious strategy. There were a couple of attendants from the pound taking their lunch break on a grassy knoll next to the parking lot. I really didn’t want to be their entertainment for the day, but I had a sinking feeling I already was.

     I thought it might be reassuring to Sadie if we walked slowly around the car, letting her get used to it. The attendants would see that I was taking a very wise approach to this situation. Besides, I had to do something besides jumping in and out of the car with her.

     Finally I coaxed Sadie into the back seat. She went in first, but I came along right behind her to make sure she didn’t back out. Then I jumpedoutandshutthedoorasfastasIcould! Made it!

     I got in the driver’s seat, a little more quickly than usual, and after that it was a pleasure. Sadie really was good in a car, and she’s been the perfect companion ever since.

Update at 2016: Sadie lived a good life until she passed on several years ago. To this day, I haven’t found a replacement

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