As always, thanks for your votes. I SO want to win this thing! Remember, you can vote once per day through 5PM on May 2 at:
To those who have asked, yes, I do plan to keep blogging once I survive the contest, whatever the outcome. Whatever happens, that is one positive I’ll be carrying forward. We’ll see if I keep up a post a day without the goading nervous energy that hope dumps upon me. (Hope is one of my least favorite emotions, because it is so closely tied to disappointment.) Another positive is that all the support you’re giving me feels REALLY good. I’ll still be mega-bummed if I don’t make the top twenty, but wow, I can’t believe how many people are willing to go to the trouble of voting on my behalf. It means more than I can say to this nerdy fangirl.
I’m still wrangling through how to write about Scott without crossing any boundaries (or even, quite frankly, brushing up against them), but that’s OK, because I have another family member to introduce to you today.
Everyone, please meet Fudge, our Chocolate Lab. The vet says he’s a purebred, but we got him from the Lexington Humane Society in 2004, by which time he was already three years old and beyond the obnoxious puppy phase. This was when I was working at the Job From Hell, which I will discuss in some future post. I had a colleague named Julene who had fostered some kittens for the humane society. While returning the kittens, she saw this big, gorgeous sweet dog. She fell in love. But she and husband Tim lived in a tiny house and already had two dogs and a cat.
So Julene came into work that morning talking about the dog. “Oh, you should see him,” she said. “He has the biggest eyes, and he’s not like the other dogs in there. He’s so quiet and sweet.”
Scott and I had been talking about getting a dog. Or rather, I had been talking about getting one, and Scott had been trying to talk me out of it. And he was absolutely right. This was a terrible time for us to get a pet. I was working forty to fifty hours a week, bringing work home and trying to maintain my sanity. Caroline was only thirteen months old, and she showed no signs of walking. We didn’t have a fenced yard, so the animal would have to be walked for every bathroom trip, rain or shine. We needed to wait.
So I picked up the phone, “Scott,” I said, “I want to go see this dog down at the pound. Julene says he’s really wonderful.”
Silence on the other end of the line. In the whole statement I had just made, there were two words that might have an impact: “Julene says”. Scott liked Julene and Tim, and I had hopes that this would influence him.
Oops. I’d caught him off guard. He was answering ‘yes’ because I hadn’t given him time to think. “Well, I’m just going to see, right. I’ll give you a call later and let you know what I think. Then we can all visit him to be sure he’ll be alright with Caroline…”
Double oops. “He’ll”. As in “He will.” Not “if it would”.
I was already starting to think of this dog as ours, and I hadn’t even met him. Not a good sign that I would be able to maintain so much as a shred of objectivity.
I left work early to go to the pound, another bad sign, and panicked when the volunteer running the desk had no idea if there was a chocolate lab in there or not. But she let me walk see if I could find one. As soon as we went back, I could hear the barking. Pound dogs have one aim: rescue. They compete for the humans’ attention, bouncing and yapping, “pick me, pick me, pick me!”. And I wanted to pick them all.
He wasn’t in the first room of kennels, and I worried that I wouldn’t recognize him. What if I’d passed him right by? Each kennel had several dogs in it. I wondered if I should go back and double check. But by then, we were headed into the second room, which was even louder than the first, and I realized I wouldn’t be able to take much more. The dogs were breaking my heart, and I knew I couldn’t save them all.
And then I found him. He was impossible to miss, in a cage all by himself, telegraphing his pick me in complete silence while the rest of the animals in the room gave forth a riotous cacaphony. Julene was right about those enormous brown eyes. They were beautiful. The staff let me leash him so he could pull me around the building at a steady Marmaduke drag. I was enchanted by his strength. My dog.
I called Scott and reassured him I was just looking, but asked him to bring Caroline over to see as soon as he could collect her from the sitter’s. While I waited, I ran over to Target and bought a collar, a leash, a bed, bowls, and food. I can always take it back. If this doesn’t work, all of it can be returned. Or I can donate it to the pound so he’ll have it. Very, very bad signs for my objectivity.
Scott and Caroline came, and, because the staff had left his paperwork out for me, nobody could find him again. This time I knew exactly where he was, though, and he, Scott, Caroline, and I crowded together in one of the visiting rooms.
He didn’t jump. Good dog. Still no barking. Even better dog. He sat on command and leaned into our legs to absorb our pats. Caroline wasn’t sure what to make of him. She stared endlessly at his tail, which whipped back and forth on the ground. For his part, Fudge snuffled the baby but made no move towards her. Caroline got zoned out on the repetitive tail movement and dropped her pacifier. As it fell, the dog went for it, and Scott and I simultaneously exclaimed, “No!”
Instantly, he pulled back and sat down again. No problem guys. Just checking it out, you know, right? Pick me?
An hour and a hundred fifty dollars later, we left the humane society. I had Caroline on one hip, and the dog dragged Scott down the hill towards our cars. Our compact cars. He had looked big in the pound. But in the context of our vehicles, he looked huge.
“He’s a moose!” Scott told me.
Caroline was still a rear-facing passenger, and I buckled her my car, then opened the back door of Scott’s car for the dog.
He bolted inside and leaped into the middle, wedging himself into Caroline’s other carseat. Hunched over and awkwardly balanced, he stared at us through the rear windshield. Please, don’t take me back. See? I can be small. I can fit right here.
“Oh the big GOOF,” I said. “Scott, shove him over to the other side.”
But the dog was so thoroughly convinced that we were already trying to return him that it took me pushing and Scott pulling to dislodge him into the seat proper, where he somehow curled up into a ball for the ride home.
It took a couple of weeks to name him. I lobbied for Bosco, but Scott was ultimately the one who hit upon Fudge. Actually, the full name is Cornelius Fudge, after the Minister of Magic in the first several Harry Potter books. Of course, we call him Fudge for the color, but the Cornelius fits him perfectly too. He carries the air of a fusty overworked politician, and it would be quite easy to imagine him in a green bowler hat with a pinstriped suit.
With the baby, he behaved like a perfect gentleman. When we had dinner, he lay in the dining room, waiting for us to finish in the kitchen. He seemed to know instinctively what high chairs were, and as soon as Caroline finished eating, he jumped up to clean the floor while we turned her loose and put the chair away. The first night he was home, Scott and I got distracted for just a moment and looked over at one point to find that our non-walking daughter had somehow used the dog’s ears to leverage herself over his head. By the time we noticed, she was laughing while she slid down the other side. Fudge didn’t bark. He certainly didn’t bite. He just got up and moved with the long suffering sigh that we’ve grown to recognize as his only real sign of displeasure.
My dog. Our dog.
Now, he has not only Caroline’s overly affectionate attentions to deal with, but also Sam’s antics, which include tail pulling and collar yanking, among other things. But he never complains. I’ve only heard him bark four or five times in the last six years, and I’ve never seen him so much as snarl at one of the children, no matter how obnoxious they become. He endures everything except efforts to turn him into a pony with that same patient sigh, sometimes accompanied by a look that says Mom, can’t you make them leave me alone? When they try to ride him, he will eventually bark, but only after walking away several times hasn’t gotten the point across. He’s the best dog ever, and we wouldn’t have him if Julene hadn’t fostered those kittens.