Going to the Dogs

Growing up, we never really had a dog. Yeah, for a very brief time I had Poochy and Amelia. But my parents sent them to the pound well before either dog’s first birthday.  When I got an apartment, I wanted a dog. But I lived in a third floor apartment in a complex that prohibited pets. So I got my first cat. I tell the tragic story of all these pets in Glass Houses.

When my partner and I got together nearly ten years ago, I had two middle-aged cats. Because my first three cats died tragically (two hit by cars), Damien and Sadie were inside-only cats. They were with me when my twelve-year relationship with my first partner ended, throughout five years of hell with my second partner, and moved with me from Lexington to DC and from DC to Athens.

Keeping cats inside all the time does little to enhance the pet-ownership experience.  Damien peed all over the house and had a strong preference for rugs.  Sadie barfed everywhere.  Fun.  After much deliberation and debate, I finally took them to the local cat shelter. Call me a bad person if you want, but I just couldn’t handle the ongoing destruction and the idea that they could live another ten years.

I liked my pet-free existence. No more kitty litter tracked all over the house. No more coming home to pee- and barf-soaked carpets. No more finding someone to come in and check on them when we went out of town. I was footloose and fancy free.

My partner, however, missed having a dog around. He’s always had dogs and really, really wanted us to get one.  No thanks.

I read our horoscopes in the paper every morning. I’m Pisces, he’s Virgo–according to most astrology guides, we’re a perfect match.  Nearly three years ago, his said something about ignoring naysayers and getting something he has always wanted. He asked me if that meant he could get a dog, and I said yes.

Within a few hours, he’d found someone selling long-hair chihuahua pups. He’d never had a chihuahua before, but because I often spoke of Fuzzy, my godmother’s black long-haired chihuahua and how cute he was, he figured getting one would increase the odds I’d accept the varmint’s presence in our house.

We drove to Atlanta to meet the guy with the chihuahuas. He only had one–a nearly solid black little boy. The deal went down in a Waffle House parking lot.

I fell in love with little Tico right away. He was so tiny, very affectionate, and lots of fun.  We studied dog books and applied everything we learned to making him a good little dog. Other than a tendency to ignore us when he’s outside and we want him to come in, he is a very good little dog with the personality of a Golden Retriever. He loves everyone on sight.

Tico is clearly my partner’s dog. For the first few months, this was more or less okay with me. By the time Tico’s preference for him started getting to me (i.e., hurting my feelings), it was too late for all but one option. We had to get another one.

Because Tico was such an excellent dog, I wanted another chihuahua.  Since it would be my dog, I decided I wanted a little girl and that we would call her Toodles, after my favorite aunt. Unfortunately, there were no chihuahuas to be had. We kept looking. My partner suggested other breeds that would be acceptable to him. I’d research his suggestions and find reasons why a Pomeranian, a Pekinese, a Westie, or a Miniature Pincher wouldn’t work.

Then one day an ad appeared on Craig’s List. Someone had a litter of long-haired chihuahuas for sale. I called the number and found out it was the same guy we got Tico from. He remembered us and said we could have first choice of the puppies.

We hopped in the car and headed to Atlanta. Again, we met him in the Waffle House parking lot. He slid open the door to his van to show us a cardboard box with four puppies. One was black, like Tico. Two were brown and black. We picked the fourth one–almost solid white, with big black circles over her eyes like a panda.

Toodles is a true chihuahua. In other words, she really doesn’t like anyone much but me. She licks my face to wake me up every morning and stays by my side all day. If I’m not home, she mopes around the house with seemingly no will to live. We know it’s time to go to bed when she walks around with her squirrelly in her mouth. I sleep on my side, with Toodles curled up under my neck and my chin on her flank.

I can’t imagine life without my little dog. Because he’s so friendly and outgoing, most people prefer Tico over Toodles.  I don’t care. That she’s so selective just endears her to me, here in…

My Glass House