I love dogs. Except during that period in my life when I lived in a seemingly endless series of shoebox apartments that did not allow pets larger or furrier than goldfish, I have always had at least one dog, and usually two. I have seen a good many dogs come and go in my life, but I have never, ever actually bought a dog. With so many dogs in shelters, it is simply against my principles. All of my dogs have been either shelter dogs or strays I found out roaming around.
But I’ll tell you something I’ve learned: There are principles, and then there is marriage. If you are not married, then you may not know this — I didn’t — but marriage has its own principles that may not always snuggle up cozily to your own. If you do not grasp this basic truth, you will one day wind up in the doghouse with your shelter dog and your precious principles for company.
Now my wife is not an acquisitive person and not really an animal person either — let’s just say she is more tolerant of our pets than doting and leave it be — but for years, she has fancied dachshunds, especially miniature dachshunds. If we are driving down the street and she sees one in a neighbor’s yard or on a leash, she falls into paroxysms of pure schoolgirl joy, the way schoolgirls used to get over catching an unexpected glimpse at David Cassidy in Tiger Beat. If my wife were still a schoolgirl, I guess she would go crazy over the Jonas Brothers, but since she is married with kids, a job, a mortgage, and a minivan with a window that will roll down but not back up, her passions have shifted. Teen idols are out, miniature dachshunds are in.
So I did the right thing and got her a miniature dachshund calendar for Christmas. I thought it was the perfect compromise for someone who loved the breed, but already had one dog, one cat, two gerbils, two children, and one husband on her hands. She could look at dachshunds every day of the week, every month of the year, and never have to feed one, clean up after it, take it to the vet, or complain that it had been gnawing on her best work shoes. She would have her daily quota of dachshund cuteness, without any poop or barking. Pretty good deal, I thought.
But there are the things you think, and then there is marriage, and these things do not always sit comfortably together in the same carriage on the Ferris Wheel. In other words, she did like the calendar — it hangs in our kitchen now, where every single day one of 12 adorable dachshund puppies will supervise one of us making breakfast or washing the dishes until the year is up. If I thought this would cure her puppy fever, however, it didn’t take long to see that it had just the opposite effect. With a cute dachshund staring her in the face every day — Mr. February was especially adorable, I must admit — my wife suddenly could no longer contain herself.
All I’ve heard for two solid months is “dachshund this” and “dachshund that.” She manages to work dachshunds into every conversation, regardless of how ill fitting it may seem to anyone not quite so dachshund-centric. Yes, it is true that we may be able to get another 50,000 miles out of the minivan, but how many miles would we get out of a brand new miniature dachshund puppy? Sure, she has seen the brochures that came from Florida, and maybe we should go there for vacation this summer, but have I imagined how great it would be to see a dachshund puppy encountering the ocean for the first time?
After several weeks of this, I knew what had to be done, so on Monday, we just did it. We found an adorable miniature dachshund puppy for sale online, and made arrangements to meet the owners in Asheville to “look him over.”
“We can just look,” my wife said. “We don’t have to buy him.”
Well, there are the things you don’t have to do, and then there is marriage. Needless to say, these things don’t always drink out of the same water dish. I grabbed the checkbook and we were off.
We met the owners at Alan’s Pawn and Jewelry, and within two minutes after we pulled into the parking lot, my wife had the puppy in her hands. He was six weeks old, the runt of the litter. He was unbelievably tiny, a cigarette lighter with short legs and floppy ears, a Pez dispenser with puppy breath and needle teeth.
He also looked exactly like Mr. February.
You know how this story ends. It ends with a new puppy in your house, chewing on anything he can get his tiny mouth around. It ends with you out in the yard at 4 a.m., watching a shivering puppy do his business in the yard with the moon as the only witness. It ends with your children excited, even delirious, over the arrival of the new “mincer dot son,” as your son calls him.
It ends with your wife doting on the puppy, smiling and happy. When she’s not doting on him, she’s doting on YOU. And why shouldn’t she? You’re a genius. It only took you about three years to figure this out. You congratulate yourself and think about grabbing a quick nap.
You’d better hurry, before Mr. February wakes up from his.