Sunday, August 27, 2006

Shack-Fu

It was only 32 hours ago that I sidled up to a bean dip-constructing Sandra Bullock and quietly said, "You're right. The Jawa could use a dog," but it seems like it happened years ago. And it was only this morning that mother and son were mulling over dog-securing strategies, most of which had lead times of at least a month. "It will take that long to get on a breeder list," explained S. Bullock.

Which was comforting. I was dragged, if not kicking and screaming, then at least anxious and suspicious, into this project. Sparky is not even cold in her (disturbingly shallow) grave, but something about the way S. Bullock sadly summed up the Jawa's situation Friday night, after a quick yet intense confrontation with him, spoke volumes. I went in there after he'd calmed down -- the conflict was based on his refusal to brush his teeth, or something along those lines -- and he was frustrated, not in tears, but close. "I can't sleep," he said. "Usually I watch Sparky, but now I'm all alone. I can't wait until we get that fish tank."

A fish tank. I left the room feeling like the worst dad in the world. What kind of father denies his son a puppy, leaving the kid looking at fish to be his pet salvation? A mean, lowdown, selfish dad, that's what kind; hence my turnaround the next day.

I let them talk about hamsters and fish for awhile, then dropped my bombshell sotto voce, like a fool not expecting them to spring into action immediately, which they naturally did. In a flash they were downstairs on my laptop, searching out breeders of Pembroke Welsh Corgies, the breed they claim to love and I may have suggested would make the entire experience a little less awful for me.

Purebred Corgies come from breeders, who require at least a month to get you on their list, at which point, I guess, the little dogs spit out a litter and you get one.

Unless you see an ad in the Chronicle, and unless you just happen to see an ad from a family who are sort of breeders but sort of not, and have one puppy left, and it is male so you can name it Shack, which is the name the Jawa gave to his Nintendogs Corgi after Shaquille O'Neal, which cracks me up so much that it again makes the entire process a little less painless, and unless you all agree to ditch the plans you made for today, which included looking at cars, so you can drive out to Lodi to look at the dog.

In other words, unless you are us. If you are us, and all of this happens, you may find yourself dog owners within 32 hours.

Sandra Bullock and the Jawa were too excited to eat. I saw my easy, kennel-free life flash before my eyes. We took the maximum out of the ATM, because we don't really need that money for things like food and gasoline, and set off for Lodi, 100 miles and 27 degrees of heat away.

Halfway there, with the outside temp right at 90, my mother called. It was her birthday, and I'd spilled the news earlier on the phone. Rightly enjoying her 66th with a casual lunch at Bud and/or Marsi's house, she was looking forward to a Cosante (sp?) event in which, they told me, a little old man with white hair named Paolo Soleri will stand up and tell everyone why the world would be better if only we'd all listened to him in the first place. He's a famed artist -- and social critic -- and the last time they went to a Soleri-themed event people danced around in ways very reminiscent of my mother's own circa-1960 Hofstra University dance class.

But before attending an event which would surely bring forth images of kneeling and holding one arm out toward a totem pole in unison with seven other leotard-clad women, she decided to call me to tell me that my little sister, who is a dog groomer and lifelong canine enthusiast, wanted me to know that a Corgi was a bad decision, because its very short legs plus the 32 steps leading to our front door would lead to certain disaster. "They jump really high," said the Jawa, which was good enough for me, so I spurned her advice.

Because when you're on a spontaneous roll, you've got to go with it. We wondered aloud, as we entered Stockton, how regular people manage to ignore their spontaneous urges. After all, wouldn't it have been smarter to sign up with a breeder, then save money until one was ready? Maybe to do some more research so we wouldn't show up in Lodi with an airline blanket and good intentions? That way would could have driven straight home, instead of stopping at a Pet Co in Tracy with our new, sad and terrified dog.

Meanwhile, outside of Lodi, our dog had no idea that today would be the most traumatic of his life. He knew nothing of the ad in the Chronicle, though he may have had a vague sense that his brothers and sisters were disappearing one by one. When we drove up, he joined his mother, father, grandmother and remaining brother as they swarmed our car, then ran off across the vast acreage of his birthplace. Yes, we took a ranch dog, one with extremely short legs, and brought him to San Francisco. Nice.

Ten minutes later it was done. We left with a 12-week-old Corgi, a half bag of Iams dog food, a stack of papers and wide open future. We got home and Shack walked around, slept, threw up, and tried to eat my laptop power cord. Eventually he figured out that the bowl full of familiar-looking brown cubes in the kitchen was his food dish, so he ate some of that. He stood on the back porch with his front legs on the step, forlornly realizing that he could not get back in the house without our help.

And at 10:30, with the Jawa sleeping nearby the family complete and Sparky breathing a sigh of relief from rodent heaven, we placed him in his brand-new blue bed with his now-familiar blue airline blanket, ready to put the cap on our Norman Rockwell day. Which lasted 30 seconds, until he got out and walked back into the living room. I followed him out there. He liked the other pillow better, so probably breaking all rules of sensible pet training, I carried him with his pillow into the Jawa's bedroom, then laid next to him until he fell asleep. I mean, come on, the guy's probably pretty freaked out, right?

I figured I could be like the man with the yellow hat. What he did to George was truly awful, but George still liked and trusted him. So we took Shack off of the farm and away from his family to be a city dog. There'll be an upside for him, I'm sure.

And as for me, well, today I am a good dad.

8 Comments:

Anonymous anotherlefty said...

Congratulations on your new family member. I'm sure you will all enjoy each other and the Jawa will sleep better. How did you like Lodi? Is it still pretty?

8:32 AM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

Oh my god. The visions this enterprise conjures up are almost too much to bear. Besides the stair issue (dumbwaiter, anyone?) What about the first time he soils the Pottery barn rug or couch? Or the first time the entire family sans Shackalicious go on vacation? (Christmas?) No, the whole delayed gratification/researching method has never been your thing - why start now? So I expect next week to read that you are living in Mill Valley. At least then the stairs won't be an issue.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous the hammer said...

Congratulations on the new addition. As much as S. Bullock and Jawa were the instigators, you'll probably end up being Shack's biggest fan and companion because you're a great dad, to boys and dogs alike. Can't wait to meet the little fella. Shaman is hoping you'll ask him to dog sit one of these days. He'd also like to change his blog name to Ewok, but that's another story.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Noodles said...

I want a puppy, I'd name it Sir Barks Alot and he would compete in Agility trials and win me money.

5:21 PM  
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