I’ve wanted a dog for as long as I can remember.
Even as a toddler, when most children were snuggling up with a blankie or a teddy bear, my bed partner was a plush puppy.
For years, my weekly plea for a dog was answered by my mother’s firm renunciation; she was adamant that adding a dog to our family would mean subtracting a mother. Convinced that we’d remain a dog-free household, I began to scour the windows of the local pet shop for a hamster or hermit crab that I could train to fetch.
This situation changed during my freshman year in high school, when, two days before winter break, my father surprised us all and brought a dog home with him.
With big brown eyes and a spotty coat that was rubbed skin-bare in spots, our dog was adorable in the mangy-animal-you-picked-up-off-the-street-way. A week earlier, her owners had abandoned her at a humane society run by one of my father’s friends.
This dog’s days were numbered. Unless she was adopted before Christmas, she’d be put down before “It’s a Wonderful Life” was over.
These circumstances were too much for my father’s friend to handle, and, as she already had more animals than were legally allowed in her tiny apartment, she began to search for a suitable home for the dog she aptly named “Patches.”
Faced with the opportunity to whisk a furry friend from the executioner’s clutches and unwilling to have the death of a tail-wagging animal on her hands, my mother capitulated and agreed to let the dog stay before heading to the basement to “scrounge up tarps to place over the furniture.”
After a bath and some brushing, “Patches” didn’t look half as bad as she did an hour earlier. She soon took to sprawling in front of the fireplace while we watched television or wrapped Christmas gifts. With the crackling hearth beside me, a warm cup of cocoa in my hand and dog underfoot, I felt like I was posing for a Norman Rockwell painting. For a day or two, I had what I always wanted.
The novelty of the newest addition to our family grew old rather fast, and the seven daily trips into the freezing snow that she required left me thinking that a fish wouldn’t have made such a bad pet after all. A fish might not be able to fetch, but you don’t need a snow shovel to clean up its poo.
We also discovered that the dog had other, more disturbing, quirks — like snapping at anyone who approached her from behind and rubbing her butt on the tile floor when she became excited or whenever we played Christmas music. Kenny G summoned the worst response, sending the dog sliding from corner to corner of the kitchen while Kenny’s saxophone blared out an elaborate version of “Silent Night.”
(The dirty floor was disgusting, but so was the music, so I had trouble placing all the blame on the dog).
After witnessing this phenomenon and dedicating a mop specifically for cleaning up after the dog’s skidmarks, my sister proclaimed that we ought to change the dog’s name to “Scooter.”
By the time New Year’s Day rolled around, Scooter was back at the pound. We didn’t even need to really discuss getting rid of her. After she tried to bite my father, it was our only option.
The presence of what later became known as the “eight-day-dog” in our household was enough to break my mother’s spirit. Within six months, we had a new Labrador puppy that was carefully selected to ensure a mild temperament and minimize ass-dragging tendencies.
We were unsuccessful, however, in choosing a puppy that lacked a proclivity toward crotch-sniffing. This resulted in innumerable awkward moments with my grandparents, delivery people and a friend of mine who was rumored to be especially well-hung.
So my Mom may have been right to deny us the dog, but Scooter (and Mick Jagger) taught me that important life lesson: you can’t always get what you want. And when you do, it’s never what you expected. Whether it’s a good thing (like our new dog Lucky) or the spawn of hell (like Scooter), you’d better be prepared to take responsibility and clean up after it.
Kevin Osowski’s loves Kenny G, but always practices safe sax.