In Which We Get a Dog

Well, it finally happened. The children wore me down with their relentless requests, huge eyes, and earnest promises of responsibility and helpfulness. We bought a dog.

More accurately: we adopted a dog. Thanks to the wonderful efforts of the local humane society, we were matched with a sweet rescue dog who had recently graduated from a lovely program that pairs shelter pups with prison inmates for obedience training.

After I had made the initial arrangements and enjoyed a brief meet-n-greet with the furry friend, I started thinking about names. What would we call this new addition to the family? It needed to be clever and catchy. Something that sounded good rolling off your tongue. I’m partial to full names with some gravitas that can be shortened to affectionate nicknames.

Maybe we could name him Tiglath Pileser after the famed Assyrian emperor – and call him Tiggy for short. Or look to the arts? Rembrandt has a nice ring to it, with Remmie for a nickname. The Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books provide also provide a wealth of inspiring options. Botruckle (or Bo)? Or perhaps Legolas? (Well, no that would really only be appropriate for a golden retriever.)

I had a shore of names queued up, ready to try them out on my children. Names with sophistication and humor. Names with meaning and depth.

They took one look at his furry face and named him Buddy.

My children so rarely agree on anything that when they present a united front, they are darned-near unstoppable. His name was Buddy.

Thus, a compromise was struck. First name: Buddy. Middle name: Baudelaire, a nod to the intrepid orphans who form the main characters of the Lemony Snickett books: A Series of Unfortunate Events. Because the dog was an orphan. Get it?? I was quite proud of myself on that one.

I had been delaying the procurement of a dog for several years, giving myself time to adapt to the divorce, the new house, and single parenting. It felt like I had quite enough living things under my jurisdiction. But it was always just a matter of time. Kids and dogs belong together.

I was eleven when we got our dog: an Alaskan Malamute named Allegro. We got her as a puppy and before she was ready to come home, I visited her every week, helping to socialize her twelve (!!) litter-mates. This basically meant lying on the grass under a squirming pile of black and grey fur, convinced I was the luckiest human on earth.

I was utterly enamored with this dog. She tolerated me with a sort of resigned affection, stoically accepting my attempts to dress her as a cowboy or wrap her in winter scarves. Looking back, many of my memories of life with a dog were of all the things she wouldn’t do. As a working breed, we wanted her to pull a little wagon behind her. She said no. We tried to get her to run alongside a bicycle, attached to it by a giant spring. Nope. We entered her in a weight pull competition only to have her lie down in the middle of the ring and howl, rather than pulling the weighted sled across the floor. She was sassy, that one.

In a lot of ways, Allegro was more cat than dog. She was strong-willed and reserved. She simply didn’t go in for all that foolishness like devotion to her master or sloppy displays of affection. I have clear memories of lying in the backyard hammock, weeping over some teenage heartache, and feeling mightily put-out that my dog could not be bothered to come over and comfort me.

But for all her quirks, owning that dog defined my childhood. She lived for eleven years, accompanying me as I transformed from awkward middle schooler with lank hair and braces to a college graduate, ready to take on the world. We loved her dearly, and I have been a “dog person” ever since.

With a little luck, the joy on my children’s faces when I showed them a picture of Buddy and asked if he could live with us is just the beginning of many years of wonderful memories together.

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