I was born an apartment person. My Mom and Dad were apartment people as were their parents and their parents before them. And since most apartments in New York City don’t allow dogs, we never had any.
But my kids grew up in a big house in the North Country. A place were nearly everybody has a dog (and a gun) and my youngest daughter wanted one more than anything in the world (a dog that is, not a gun.)
I wasn’t keen on the idea because every person I knew who had a dog said they were a big responsibility, you had to walk them late at night, they peed on your new carpet, chewed up your shoes etc. So you can understand my lack of enthusiasm.
But my daughter was determined. She put up pictures of dogs in her room. Her school bag had dogs on it; her skirt had dogs on it, as did her sweatshirt and pajamas.
One day while me and the ex were out on a drive we started talking about the pros and cons of getting a dog. Her parents always had dogs so she was already fond of the idea. Somewhere along the way she convinced me to stop by the ASPCA just to look. “We won’t adopt one,” she said. “We’ll just go in and see what they have.
“All right,” I replied, “but only to look.”
And yes, apparently I am that stupid.
We’re there no more than 2 minutes when the ex sees a little corral filled with puppies of all breeds on the floor. So she goes over, sits on her heels to get a better look and as she’s putting on her glasses this little puppy sees her, dashes over, leaps over the partition into her lap and starts licking her.
The ex looks up at me. The dog looks up at me. Even the ASPCP person looks up at me. All with those big Japanese Anime eyes.
It was at that moment that I realized that regardless of how I felt, we weren’t leaving without that dog.
So I figure, ahhh, what the hell and forked over the money for the shots and adoption papers and whatever.
You see, I’m not very perceptive. During the ride home I was thinking this was an all around win-win situation. The daughter will be ecstatic, the wife will be happy and the dog will grow up to protect my home and my family. What could possibly go wrong?
So we get to the house. My ex calls my youngest to the door and when she gets there I let go of the dog and it runs right to my daughter! So she picks it up, bursts into tears, and as she’s stroking the puppy tells me and the ex that this is the happiest day of her life.
They bond immediately. She names the puppy Zoey. Then announces that we have to go to the pet shop and buy a doggie bed because the puppy will sleep in her room, this way if Zoey needs to be walked in the middle of the night, she’ll do it without having to wake me and the ex up.
I remind my daughter that she is only 6 and announce that there’s no way in hell she’s going out in the middle of the night to walk Zoey and if Zoey needs to be walked in the dark and the freezing cold, then I’ll be the one to do it!
Geez, I really am that stupid!
In the weeks that follow Zoey and my daughter become inseparable. The puppy is easily trained and quickly learns the tricks my daughter teaches her. Six weeks in, even I’m won over and begin to regret never having had a dog when I grew up.
Then Zoey undergoes a complete personality change. A few harmless accidents at first, a little piddle on the rug here and there. I remind my daughter that she needs to walk Zoey more frequently. Then Zoey starts pooping on the rug, starts whining for no apparent reason and barks at me when I come home from work.
I start having second thoughts about this dog thing.
Then Zoey starts throwing up and I suddenly realize that perhaps this change in behavior is because the puppy is sick. I take her to the vet and he says to leave her there overnight and he’ll do some tests. I explain to my daughter that it needs to be done and she agrees.
The vet calls the next day and tells me Zoey has the Parvo virus. He goes on to say Parvo is very serious condition and that Zoey needs to stay there for treatment. He says the prognosis is good as Zoey is young and strong and should make a full recovery. When I ask if I can take my daughter to see her, he advises against it saying it’s better to wait until Zoey starts recovering.
I tell my daughter that Zoey is sick and needs to stay in the doggie hospital until the doctor can make her better. My daughter is very upset but I assure her that Zoey is going to be just fine.
Two days later I arrive home from work. The ex leaves for her job and I go upstairs to my office to do some writing. The phone rings. It’s the vet, his tone is solemn.
My heart sinks.
He tells me Zoey passed away. Explained that Parvo is extremely virulent and she was just too little and too young to survive. I make the final arrangements.
My daughter is in her room, fluffing up the doggie bed my ex had just washed in anticipation of Zoey’s return.
I take a deep breath and tell her the news as gently as I can.
She pales, her eyes well up and she slumps to the floor sobbing. She is inconsolable.
It’s been 22 years since that day and it still breaks my heart every time I think of it.
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