Nancy and I held firm on our “no pets” policy for 15 years. What made us decide to break it? I’m not sure but for some reason I felt the kids should have a pet and I wanted to get a dog. Nancy was definitely not on board with my idea of getting a dog but once I floated the idea to the kids as even a mere possibility the crack was in the dike and they wouldn’t let up on their pestering and begging. “Will you be responsible?” I asked. “Yes, we will be”, they replied. “Will you walk it and feed it and brush it and clean up its poops every day?” “Yes, yes we will. We’ll do it Dad. Puuhhleeease let’s get a dog!”
Thus we started looking for a dog. I wasn’t interested in training a puppy. No time and no desire to go around cleaning poops up in the house – outside on the lawn is bad enough. I developed a set of criteria for finding the right dog:
- House-trained – thus no young puppies
- Fun personality and good with kids
- A medium to big sized dog. No yap yappers for me
- No shedding
- No breeds with a history of defects (e.g. bulldogs – sorry Aunt Melissa)
I asked my buddy at work what breed of dog fit all these characteristics. His answer: none. Every dog sheds. He recommended a standard poodle as they had all the characteristics I was looking for with lesser shedding. He also suggested either labradoodles or goldendoodles (breeds not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club). Can you guess what goldendoodles and labradoodles are crosses of? I never knew such dogs existed. My problem with all three dogs is I just couldn’t bring myself to get a dog with curly hair and the word “poodle” conjured up the images of a sissy in my mind. I know, they’re great dogs and all – but they just weren’t for me. Thus, I finally settled on either a golden retriever or a labrador retriever. Nancy would have preferred a collie or sheltie but I liked goldens and labs best.
I started looking in the KSL.com classifieds for dogs. We had thought about going to the pound or animal shelter to adopt a dog but the guys at work said KSL.com had tons of dogs listed. I had good success selling my car their before so I figured we would give it a try. After a day or two of searching we found a golden retriever dog online in American Fork. We went to check her out but by the time we got there, somebody had already purchased her. I quickly came to find out that golden retrievers last about 1 day or less when they’re listed on KSL.com. As long as they’re not an “outdoor dog”, meaning they aren’t potty trained, they’re a hot commodity. Oh, there are plenty of golden retriever puppies available; however, that violated my first, and most important, criteria – already house trained. After seeing golden retrievers come and go so quickly I was a bit discouraged and figured that we didn’t need a dog after all. Nancy seemed relieved. Then one afternoon I saw an ad for a yellow labrador retriever. The lady in the ad was giving him away for free but it sounded from the ad like it was a good dog and the lady wanted him to go to a good home because she was moving. I decided to give her a call and see if we could come and meet her dog.
I told Nancy to round up the kids and meet me after work to go look at the dog. Nancy wasn’t really thrilled but she wasn’t in open revolt either so I figured I could keep pressing onward with my dog plans. When we met the dog we all liked him – he is a really good boy. He doesn’t bark too much, he’s perfectly potty trained, he can sit, lie down, and roll over on command. He loves to chase and run and loves kids. His only drawback is he eats like a horse and he sheds like, well, like a big hairy shedding dog. The meeting with the dog was not only a chance for us to see if we liked him but for his owner to see if she liked us. She was getting married and couldn’t have a dog in her new apartment so she really wanted him to go to a good home where he would get lots of love and attention. When we trooped our five kids in their door and they all played with the dog I think the lady was sold on us. Now we just had to be sold on the dog. Buddy kept saying out loud “I think we should buy this dog right now” because he had been with us to look at the other dog that was bought before we got there. I told him to be patient and that we weren’t going to buy a dog that night – that we were just looking. We took the kids back home but their pestering only grew more intense. Nancy and I decided later that night that we would get the dog but I wasn’t going to let a good opportunity pass by to make the kids work for something. I told Buddy that if he could prove he was responsible by doing his chores, cleaning his room, etc. then we might consider possibly getting a dog. He immediately set to work being as “responsible” as he knew how to be. Every day he would ask me “Dad, am I being responsible enough?” I kept telling him “Yes – but you’ve got to keep it up. You can’t just be responsible for one day or one week – you’ve got to be responsible your entire life.”. I considered just dangling that carrot forever but after a week I decided he had been responsible enough and we went to pick up the dog.
I felt a bad for the dog when we picked him up. Here he was, enjoying his life and he hops into a car in the hopes of getting a doggie treat and then all of a sudden he is gone from his old master and life forever. He was a good boy but pretty mopey around the house for the first few days. After about three or four days of love, petting, and playing he seems to have perked up a bit. I notice more tail-wagging and “smiling” (yes, a dog can smile – I know it’s weird but they can) now that he’s getting used to us. His old name was Pharaoh but the kids decided to name him Rex. I think partly because his previous owner was a female and partly because Nancy is home all day, and partly because everyone likes to be around Nancy, Rex quickly developed the habit of following Nancy around the house at all times. If she’s upstairs ironing then Rex is waiting outside her door. If she’s downstairs doing laundry then Rex is “helping” her. If she’s in the kitchen making dinner then Rex is under foot. I think it both annoys and delights Nancy but the dog is definitely her buddy. So far Rex has been a very good dog. The first two times he went into the dining or piano room we kicked him out and after that I haven’t seen him go in there at all. He likes to go on walks and is learning how to walk with his owner around the block as opposed to tugging his owner around the block. Sam and Diana would like to take him walking but they’re just not big and strong enough to keep Rex in line. He likes to play chase for a little while but one of Rex’s problems is that he is fat. Labradors should be sleek and hourglass shaped. Rex has a pudgy middle. The first night we fed him two cups of dog food and he snarfed it in about 10 seconds. We decided to limit him to 3 cups a day and try and exercise him and hopefully he can shed a few pounds.
Of course, our biggest issue to date is the shedding. Labradors shed – a ton. We have the kids brush him daily and they’re also supposed to vacuum daily to keep the hair down. It hasn’t been too bad so far but I have a fleece coat that just seems to attract dog hair like crazy. I’m definitely not looking forward to spring when he will “blow” his entire coat. The kids have been reasonably good about doing the pooper scooper thing but we’ll see how long they last before the novelty wears of and it becomes just another chore. Rex has developed the habit of sleeping in the hallway at the top of the stairs. I think it’s ideal for him – he’s right outside everybody’s door and he can see outside through the big window and he can bark if people come up to the door at night. Rex does like to bark when people come over but beyond that he is about as pleasant and well-behaved as a dog can be. Come and visit him sometime.