The New Baby

January 29, 2018

I’ve never wanted children.There was never any kind of uncertainty for me. It’s lucky that I fell in love with a woman who felt the same way, or it probably would have proven problematic at some point. I guess that if Megan had really, really wanted kids, then I might have acquiesced. I don’t know…it’s hard to say, and luckily, since we feel the same way about it, it’s never going to be an issue. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a parental streak, and that’s why we’ve had cats for more than ten years now, and why we got the dog, Jimmy Bagels, back in September.

The name Jimmy Bagels was given to the animal by Megan. It was her turn to name the next pet; we take turns, and at one point, while we were living in Brooklyn, there was a big mob bust that netted over a hundred members of organized crime families. They all had nicknames like Jimmy Bagels and Tony Pizza, and I guess she thought it would be cute to have a dog with one of those as his actual name. We originally thought the name Jimmy Bagels would be good for a bulldog, but we weren’t looking for any specific breed. We were looking more for a medium-sized dog who wasn’t a purebred, since purebred dogs tend to have more health problems than mutts.

We’d wanted a dog for more than a decade. We didn’t think it was right for us to have one in Brooklyn, living in a small apartment. It was hard enough with the two cats who don’t get along. But once we got out of the city, once we bought the house with the back yard, and once we put in the new deck last year with the gate, it was finally time to get the dog we’d wanted for so very long. We went to an adoption event that was about a twenty-five minute drive away, and on the way there, we talked about how we would only get the dog we were going to see if we felt like he was a good fit. Privately, I knew that the chances of us not getting the puppy, who was five months old at the time, were remote. Unless it had three eyes, or had some other visible deformity, that animal was going home with us. We had waited for so long, how could it have been otherwise?

To see the animal in the flesh, a stumbling, bumbling, brown-and-white creature of indeterminate breeding, didn’t seem like an emotional event to me at the time. He seemed nice enough, happy to meet us, but also happy to meet everybody else around. What I’m getting at is that it wasn’t like he went right up to us and claimed us as his owners, as you sometimes hear about dogs doing. But we were there, and he was there, so we went ahead and signed the papers and took him home. It was only when we had driven back to the house, and we had taken the little guy into the back yard, so he could sniff around and start to learn his territory, that I unexpectedly found myself tearing up. I think it was just that we had talked about that moment for so very, very long: having the house, two cars in the driveway, the back yard, with the puppy running around in it. We had been talking about it, literally, for many years, and usually in the context of how, while we were living in New York and busting our asses to get by, we wouldn’t ever be able to have those things. But life is funny, sometimes. It giveth and taketh away, as they say, and when I put my arm around Megan and watched the dog frolicking in the back yard we had done so much work on over the spring and summer, it really felt like a special moment. It felt like a time to count my blessings, if there ever was one.

That was four months ago, and since then, the dog has basically destroyed that same yard. He chewed up the rosebushes, despite their having thorns. It didn’t seem to bother him one bit. He’s shit everywhere back there, and they’re usually these liquid puppy shits that are impossible to clean up, so going back there, you have to expect to step on a fecal landmine at any moment, and then, of course, you’re going to track it back into the house. He chases the one cat around, the more passive one. The older, more aggressive cat, chases Jimmy around…and sinks her claws into him any chance she gets. I try to get between them, and usually it’s me that winds up getting scratched. Even as I write this, there’s a nice new gash on my thumb from this morning. Jimmy farts any time he feels like it, his breath stinks, and he refuses to chew the Dent-a-bones we got him to improve it. He barks at the neighbors. He understands the commands we give him, but he’ll only obey if he knows we have treats for him. He rings the bells that we hung on the doorknob for him incessantly, and usually it’s not because he needs to use the bathroom, he’s just bored. He’s chewed strips out of the carpet in the guest bedroom, he’s chewed patches out of the carpet on the landing of the stairs. He tries to eat the cats’ food, he tries to eat the human food that more than likely would just make him sick, and he usually needs to go outside to use the bathroom at least once or twice during the night. That’s just the stuff I can think  of off the top of my head.

Of course, we got him young. He’s still less than a year old, and he’s going to calm down a little bit eventually. But it’s going to take a couple of years, probably, for there to be anything resembling the equilibrium we had in the house when it was just the two humans and two cats. The house feels very full, now, with the addition of this new canine personality. He’s only getting bigger, too…he’s probably approaching fifty pounds, and he could get up between sixty and seventy. Do I regret getting him? No, I don’t. This is what we wanted. And when he’s sleepy in the mornings, and he looks up at me with those big, trusting eyes, I do understand all the “man’s best friend” stuff. When I say the magic word “walk” to him, and he gets all excited and starts jumping around like a fool, it makes me smile. Yeah, like I said, I do have a little bit of a parental streak in me, and the responsibility of having a dog is the perfect amount. Having a human child would have been way too much. As for destroying the house and yard, yeah, it irks me a little, but I don’t care that much. It’s just stuff. It’s nice to have, but it doesn’t matter that it’s in pristine condition. This was part of our dream, and our lives feel very complete, now, but in a good way. It took a long time to get here, but I’m glad we finally did. A big thank you, once again, to my mom, Kathy, for the financial boost that helped get us here. And as for our dog, Jimmy Bagels, for whom we waited for so long, I’m glad you’re a part of our lives, even though you’re a holy terror. Welcome to the family, little buddy. Here’s hoping you don’t get fleas again.

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