Monday, November 23, 2009

K-9 Invasion

A number of people who've read my blog and newspaper articles have told me that my writing reminds them of the movie Marley and Me. It's a film based on the autobiographical book by writer John Grogan. The book describes everyday life during the thirteen years Grogan and his family lived with their out-of-control dog, Marley. I have to admit, I haven't seen the movie. I'm at a stage of life where the only movies I get to see are in computer animation or involve Hannah Montana singing hip-hop-ho-down songs in the midst of an identity crisis. But from the way people describe the film, I can understand the comparisons. I don't mean to put myself in the same league with Mr. Grogan as a writer (I'll wait until someone pays me millions of dollars to make a movie out of my book before I do that). Still, there are some similarities. We both write about real life--beginning in, and inspired by, the home. I've found that the people who enjoy my writing do so mostly because they can relate to it. They think many of the things I write about are funny because I focus on the things they deal with too. They understand the frustration of trying to fasten a car seat while your wife stands nearby saying things like "Why is it taking so long?" and "It's supposed to attach easily." They get how disheartening it can be to just finish filling the bath with water, only to notice the ripples around your two-year-old's private parts that tell you he's peeing in it. They know how hard it is to pull a Spiderman action figure out of a clogged toilet when you're already ten minutes late for work. Yes, people relate to writers like Grogan and myself because... well... we put into words the things they themselves feel and encounter. Hopefully, we do it in a way that makes them laugh at the otherwise maddening realities that make up family life. Laughter, after all, reminds us that the very moments that seem so upsetting at the time, often are the endearing memories that make us smile and reminisce fondly later on.

I mention the comparisons I've gotten to Marley and Me because, if true, then my writing is about to become even more Marleyesque. That's because the Howards have a new family addition. Last week, like so many pansy fathers whose resolve is no match for the sweet, persistent "please daddys" of their little children, I gave in and agreed to getting a dog. "How disruptive could it be?" I thought. "We have a fenced yard now. I won't have to walk the dog or follow it around with a pooper scooper." Yeah, let me be the first to admit it: I'm an idiot! I didn't consider the fact that my wife would adopt a dog in desperate need of an exorcism. I haven't actually witnessed it yet, but I'm pretty sure that when the dog isn't eating the kids' shoes, vomiting on my new rug, or attempting to make passionate love to my leg while I'm in the middle of a business call, she's probably in the next room levitating above the floor, spinning her head all the way around, and speaking to my children in Lucifer's voice.

I should have known I was in trouble when Meredith started researching dogs. I love my wife desperately, but we often aren't on the same page. Meredith will say something like, "We should buy a new house." To which I will respond, "Yeah, we could possibly do that." BOOM! The next thing I know, I'm hitting grocery stores in search of empty boxes and figuring out which moving company to use. What I often consider an idea, Meredith considers a plan. The same thing happened with the dog. The kids had been begging for one, so Meredith asked me what I thought. What I said was, "I'm open to it." What Meredith somehow heard was, "For the love of God woman, get us a dog now!!" Within twelve hours, Meredith had researched and found out that boxers are great with kids. She neglected to tell me that boxers also apparently do crystal meth. Before I knew it, Meredith had found a pet rescue center that specialized in boxers.

Something told me I was about to bite off more than I could chew when Meredith informed me that someone from the center was coming over to do a "home visit." I kid you not; we had to submit to a home visit before we could get a dog. "You've gotta be kidding me," I thought. "What, are we adopting a child or a dog?" Every ounce of me wanted to mess with the "doggie social worker" when she came over. I couldn't help but think of things I wanted to do or say to freak her out. I could just picture how fun it would be to answer the door wearing a Michael Vick football jersey, then ask her questions during the interview like: "So, which parts of these dogs are the meatiest?" and "Hypothetically speaking, how well can boxers be trained to fight?" Of course, I didn't do or say any of those things; Meredith would have killed me. So I bit my tongue, submitted to the "home visit" (I'm still shaking my head even as I write the words), and did my part to help our family attain the highly-sought-after status of "Boxer Approved."

A couple of days later, Meredith and the kids arrived home with our new family member: a thirteen-month old, somewhat lovable, yet certifiably crazy boxer named Zoe. There are moments when I really like Zoe. When I have the time to wrestle or play, I enjoy rough-housing with her in the backyard. But my life is hectic enough. I'm doing all I can to keep the plates of marriage and parenthood spinning. I can't do it with a boxer constantly nipping at my feet. To make matters even harder, my wife is overly concerned about the psychological well-being of this dog. Every time I attempt to put Zoe in the backyard alone for a while so I can get some work done or just watch a game without being jumped on, Meredith is quick to point out how much boxers don't like to be alone and how they need human contact. I'm sorry, I thought she got enough human contact when she was humping my leg. Or how about the twenty times an hour I have to wipe the snot off her face so that she doesn't get it on my new couch. I have three kids for cryin' out loud. I'm over my daily snot-wiping quota already without a dog. I don't need a dog with sinus-related issues. Certainly canine mucus removal must count for some kind of human contact.

Then there's the at least once a day that my daughter, Emerson, rushes into the house screaming, "Daddy, Zoe's attacking William! Zoe's attacking William!" I drop what I'm doing and rush outside to find my four-year-old traumatized son curled up in a ball, crying, and screaming "Daddy, Zoe's eating me!" Meanwhile the dog stands over him, nipping and licking in an attempt to play. William's not hurt, he's just scarred for life. Later, when he's older and watches the movie Cujo for the first time, he'll probably wet himself, flashback to those episodes in the backyard, and plot ways to kill the father who failed to protect him from this maniac dog. Yep, make no mistake: Zoe is the anti-Lassie. If Ole Yeller was a Jedi knight, then Zoe is Darth Spayeder. She doesn't mean to be the embodiment of canine mayhem, it's just worked out that way--at least sometimes.

So why haven't we gotten rid of Zoe? Well, don't think we haven't thought about it. In fact, don't think I haven't considered it as recently as this morning. But the fact is, Zoe is a lot like me. Just when you think she's been a big enough jerk to warrant excommunication from the family, she does something just heart-warming enough to redeem herself and make you think, "Well... maybe she's worth keeping." The kids love her. My wife wants to give her a chance (although Zoe overwhelms her at times, too). In between the mad attacks on my furniture or the "quality play times" Meredith insists that I have with the dog in the backyard, I catch glimpses of a sweet pet that could very likely grow to be one of my children's best childhood memories. Even William, God bless him, loves Zoe. And so, for now, we'll hang in there and see how things go. At the very least, Zoe will keep me supplied with material. Who knows, maybe there's a Doglosophies blog somewhere in my near future.

1 comment:

  1. The Dog Whisperer will change your life, I promise. He's on the National Geographic Channel or you can rent episodes at Blockbuster. Make Mere watch, too, and tell her I said so. By the way, there's an episode with the Grogan family!