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Puppy Love

Columnist Eugenia Budman talks about her family's ongoing debate over the responsibility of raising a puppy.

“I want a do-o-o-ggy,” I said to my husband in that whiny voice I use when I really want something, making sure that he fully understands my longing. 

Abe immediately got busy with his computer, closely focusing on some stock diagram on the display.

“I am going to get a dog!” I threatened, trying another tactics.

He inhaled, took off his glasses and leaned on the back on his chair, accepting the fact that there was no way out of this conversation.

“Who will take care of the dog?” he made the familiar argument.

“I even know the breed! I did all the research,” I ignored his question, “We'll get a pug, they are the sweetest! Let me show you the pictures.”

I took his cordless mouse in my palm, and navigated to the website with the dog pictures. Not even Abe could resist their cute faces, and we spent about fifteen minutes cooing at the photos.

“But who will take care of the dog?” he repeated stubbornly, “I refuse to get up any earlier than I already do,”

I know he is right, I have seen him early in the morning sitting up on our bed and rocking for a few minutes, his eyes closed, as he tries to wake up. Unlike me, who is definitely an early bird, he is an owl.

“I know how, I will,” offered Val.

“Oh ple-ease! I will come sometimes to help with your puppy!” exclaimed Michelle.

I raised my eyebrows, already aware that it will be me who will take care of the dog --- again.

When Val was about four years old, we went to a pet shop in the Hillsdale mall. As soon as we walked in, we rushed to the cage with baby beagles in it. An adorable puppy was looking straight at us with his huge black shiny eyes. His long ears looked like Val's ponytails, and his nose was covered with the light-brown freckles, just like Val's. Michelle happily squealed, "This puppy is ours! He looks exactly like Val!"

The sales girl (it was a young girl who knew her business well) immediately pulled the beagle out of his cage. The puppy ran to Val's arms and eagerly licked her hands. We fell in love. There was no way to not take him home.

My husband slowly took out his wallet, and nervously asked, his Russian accent even more prominent, "Does this dog shit?"

The girl answered quickly, "No," not letting the sale fall through.

The puppy loudly yapped, wet Val's jacket, and licked her face. My daughter was mesmerized.

"My husband meant to ask if beagles shed their fur?" I explained.

We laughed and paid for the dog and a few accessories.

That's when the trouble began. My husband wasn't accustomed to dogs in the house; he was raised in a big city in a small crammed space berely enough for the people living in it. My girls were too small, and even though Val  (an early riser like me) walked Freckles with me every morning, the main burden of raising that dog fell on me.

Besides looking like Val, our beagle wasn't a good match for our family. Active and unruly, he roamed through house day and night like a flying torpedo. He didn't want to go to sleep, barking half the night. Our neighbors even once called police asking to warn us to take care of the ear piercing sounds. We tried various collars, bought and ordered various tools, but he wouldn't stop. The training classes didn't help either.

I was always afraid that he would run away --- he totally lost his head when we went for a walk, pulling the leash and running after any moving object or thing. (Recently, Val and I went to a dog show, and saw a beagle who barked non-stop, but his voice was barely heard. I learned that you can de-bark your dog.)

Don't get me wrong, we loved Freckles. We took him for walks, kept all his vet's visits, petted and kissed him constantly. We tried to train him too. But either the time was wrong for us to truly give him the attention and training he needed, or he was just plainly wrong for us, nothing helped. Two years later we found a good home for him - a house with a big yard and another dog for a company, and sent him away. I know he had a good life, as we received pictures of him, and heard that he mellowed with time. It felt good not have him at home.

But that hollow feeling remained. I wanted a dog. An animal who'd love me unconditionally not matter what I've done, or how I looked. Someone who had a cozy body to snuggle to, a kiss every time I needed it, and someone who couldn't live without me --- especially as my girls grew up.

"I have already contacted a breeder," I continued my conversation with Abe pressing him for an agreement.

"Let's go," he sighed getting up from his chair, loudly snapping the lid of his computer. "Go put your sweater on."

I knew where we were heading. Our conversations always ended up like that. We walked to the on Foster City Boulevard.

I pressed my face to the chained fence, and watched the dogs as long as I wanted -  little chihuahuas with big personalities, boistrous terriers, adorable papillions, ligh-eyed huskies, slim labs, smiling golden retrievers, and my favorite (although I must confess that I change my opinion daily) pugs. I talked to the owners, asking them simple questions like "What is your dog like?" and got interesting answers "He likes to watch TV a lot, just lays on my sofa," or “He is usually very sweet until he sees those rabbits on levee.”

And then we go home.

On the way I agree with Abe that taking care of a dog is a great responsiblity my family is not ready to take on. We travel a lot, and we don't like to be bound by someone who is so dependent on us.

Abe takes off his jacket and sits at his computer, content that I am not going to bother him again with my dog conversations...

...until the next time when I get that hollow feeling that I need a dog.

Phyllis McArthur March 01, 2011 at 08:22 PM
My little doggie rules our home, she owns it, she must sleep in my armpit, she gets two sponge baths a day, with baby wipes, and MUST go to the dog park for at least 15 minutes a day rain or shine.
Troy March 01, 2011 at 08:30 PM
You're a great writer. You might try a Havanese. They have almost no health problems, love kids and don't bark a lot. We have one that just turned two. It is a hassle when you need to travel (I have to drive all the way to WA to see my dad because I don't want to take him on a plane) but there is the possibility that you could leave your dog with my family if you need to go out of town. Should you get that hollow feeling again.
Sarah Yokubaitis March 01, 2011 at 09:52 PM
I grew up with a Cavalier, but my boyfriend is thinking of getting a Golden Retriever. Anyone have experience with the breed?
Troy March 01, 2011 at 09:56 PM
Golden Retrievers are very loving and docile, and great with kids. If you get one you will be very happy indeed.
Phyllis McArthur March 02, 2011 at 01:02 AM
Please consider "Pets in Need" in Redwood City. It's where we got our "Betty" we love her so and she is a jewel, ummm.... except when she eats my shoes......or the door to the laundry room, or the new belt I just bought, or my laptop case...........
Eugenia Budman March 02, 2011 at 01:30 AM
Hi Phyllis, thank you for y our comment. It looks like you have quite a few dog stories of your own :-) See you at the Dog Park!
Eugenia Budman March 02, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Hi Zack, Just googled the Havanese dogs. Oh - they are adorable! Thank you for the recommendation and your offer. If Abe agrees - I will be calling you. :-) Warm regards, E
Jessica March 02, 2011 at 03:09 AM
I love Beagles :) I have never met a calm Beagle in my life! I hope to own one sooner rather than later.
alice March 04, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Can't wait for your next story. Is it Tuesday yet? Everyone in my office is reading your column. Thanks.
Southern Fried Pugs March 05, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Pugs are very high maintenance dogs. I have three and volunteer with a pug rescue. They can have any number of health issues. They are the most stubborn dogs on the planet and are notoriously hard to potty train. Even with optimal nutrition, they can shed a lot. They overheat in the summer and freeze in the winter. Their personalities are bigger than they are. They are obsessed with food and prone to obesity. It's near impossible to resist their sad little faces when they beg for food. Pugs are people dogs. They would rather be with people than other dogs. I would never consider leaving my dogs when I travel (thus I don't except to visit family). They need their people. Young pugs take up all of your attention. Many people will say that pugs are couch potatoes. That can certainly be true of some, especially the older ones. But the younger ones can be as bad as your beagle. My two younger girls will be 4 in June and just now starting to calm down. My senior is 11 and has spurts of energy, but is not nearly as crazy. Let's put it this way, my two pugs can keep up with much taller dogs in a race. They need frequent exercise as well as attention If you are interested in getting a pug, contact your local pug rescue to get the truth on being owned by a pug. It's not for the faint of heart. Good luck in your search for a dog. Dogs are a wonderful addition to the family, IF everyone is on board and everyone is willing to help out.

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