Then one day while searching online yet again, I found a family with a litter of eight-week-old boxer pups. I called her and she said we could come pick one up. Unlike the others, she didn't need references or a downpayment or a formal contract. She didn't expect me to wait six months for a dog. I called Andrew and we rushed to her house.
When we got there, the pups were hanging out in the front yard. Most of them were dozing on the steps or stumbling around aimlessly...except for one. That little rascal was gnawing on his mama's lip, pouncing on her head, batting at her tail. He was barking the toughest bark he could muster and was racing around in dizzying circles. Yep, that was our dog.
The family called him Hook and when the dad told his two daughters that we were taking him, they cried and cried, "Not Hook!" I wondered if I should see this as a sign and back out, but Andrew was already in love, so we scooped him up, took him home and changed his name from Hook to Murphy. He was adorable and snuggly and clumsy in that perfect puppy way. We picked up the essential supplies and did our best to puppy-proof the house.
That's when everything fell apart.
The next year...maybe two years...were rough. That crazy dog refused to be caged. We tried one of those big metal crates but he broke free...twice. Just collapsed the entire thing and somehow got out alive. So we tried barricading him in the kitchen with a baby gate while we were gone. (Now let me clarify, I'm talking about times when we were gone for maybe an hour or two. When we went to work or were away from home for any length of time, we brought him to my parents' house. He was spoiled from the get go.) The baby gate proved no match for him. He just climbed over it. So we got another baby gate and put it on top of the first one, creating a five-foot barrier. He scaled that one too...like a tree frog.
That's when we gave up.
Every time we left home, we just shut the bedroom and bathroom doors and prayed that everything else would be safe from this little devious creature.
That's when he destroyed everything.
He wrecked two couches. Several pillows. Probably ten pairs of shoes (including my wedding shoes). He crushed a few pomegranates on our carpet. And a few avocados. And a potted plant. He chewed a hole in our wall. He ate countless loaves of bread and countless bags of tortillas. He chewed up the cases to over half of our DVDs. He ate books, books and more books, including my Bible. He turned our Christmas tree into a Charlie Brown-esque mess. I could go on and on...endlessly.
Also, dogs are gross. As in, beyond disgusting. In his first week with us, he killed a baby mouse, a snake and about ten frogs. And okay, those of you who are runners - I get the fact that sometimes when you go for out for a run, especially a long one, your bowels can catch you off guard. And I realize that sometimes you have to take care of business in the bushes. But if you do that, my dog will find it. And he will eat it. Every time.
And then there was that one time when I was pregnant with Harriet and walking him on a frozen lake...sounds dumb, I know, but I was staying very close to the shore where I knew the water would only reach mid-thigh if I fell through...well, that was until he found the head of a northern pike and pranced around me with it for twenty whole minutes, refusing to let go of his prize until I chased him into the middle of the lake and distracted him with some other gross object. He's done the same things with random deer legs and other unrecognizable animal parts. He just loves that kind of stuff.
Having a puppy is not easy. Some people will tell you that it's like having a kid, and I think there's some truth to that. They turn your world upside-down. They swallow all of your free time. They completely defeat the purpose of cleaning. The week after we got Murph, I fell into a post-puppy depression. I'm not kidding. I was so incredibly bummed out and regretful about getting this dog. I honestly remember hoping that he would become ill or get hit by a car or that someone on the street would ask if they could have him. I fantasized about our life before Murphy and would have given anything to get it back. It was a seriously hard time for me.
But then, when he was almost one, he really did get sick - pancreatitis. He nearly died. If you have a dog, you know that stuff like this only happens on weekends when you have no choice but to take your dog to the emergency vet...where they charge about three times the regular price and treat you like crap...at least that was my experience. Andrew was asleep after working the night shift and I couldn't get ahold of him, so I literally dropped thousands (as in several) of dollars to save this animal's life. Whenever I tell this story, the person hearing it says that they would have put him down. But you can't know what you would do until you're standing there in that echoing, cement room with your dying dog who could have a full life ahead of him if you'd just hand over your American Express. We had lost Ethan a few months before and my grandma a few months before that...we couldn't handle another loss, so I swiped my card and didn't look back. Well, I tried not to.
Murphy is needy. He has really great life, but if you spent an afternoon with him, you'd never know it. He constantly sighs, whines, cries and makes all sorts of mournful sounds. He doesn't tolerate rain, leather couches, or wind. If there's a heated seat in your car, that's the seat he needs. And he insists on being on top of us as often as possible. If we lie down on the floor, he will sit on us, most often right on our heads. He plants himself on my lap any chance he gets. Or he'll just get as close as possible and stare me down with his nose mere millimeters from mine. This canine barnacle issue is much, much worse when I'm pregnant. It feels as though he never leaves my side. He just follows me from room to room and adheres himself to me whenever possible. He loves to rest his chin on my belly, and of course, I kinda love this. Andrew thinks Murphy is worried about me and is trying to protect me and the babies. I have to wonder if he's just trying to squeeze every last bit of attention out of me before the babies are born. But either way, he's there...right there...all the time. After Harriet was born, this continued. He had to be there, right in the middle of whatever we were doing with her.
But here's the thing - Harriet loves him. They're true siblings in the sense that she doesn't always feel love for him though. Sometimes she wants him to leave her alone, get out of her way, that sort of thing. But most of the time, she calls him "my gog" and says "I love my Murph." When we ask who is in her family, he often gets top billing.
And it works the other way around too. Murphy has sacrificed so much for our kids...the born and yet-to-be-born. When we were thinking about getting a dog, we promised ourselves that we wouldn't do it unless we could be good dog owners. And for the most part, we've done that. Until Harriet was born, he got at least one, usually two or three walks per day, even in ugly weather. Now that Harriet's here, that's sometimes harder, but he still gets to come with us almost any time we're outside. Harriet knows that if the weather is nice enough, the first thing we do in the morning is take Murph for a run. And she also knows that when he needs something - food, water, a potty break - we stop what we're doing and make it happen. I'm glad that she's learned how important it is to be respectful and caring towards animals, to put her needs and wants aside for a moment in order to do something for somebody else.
But this pregnancy...and this freezing, endless winter - has been rough on Murph. He has made lots of sacrifices in the name of letting me rest or letting Andrew work an extra shift in preparation for the babies' arrival. We're so grateful for my parents who often take him to the dog park for us or keep him overnight for a couple days in a row (even though he insists on sleeping in their bed and pees on their deck because he's too much of a diva to go in the snow). But a lot of the time, he's just chilling in the house with us, listening to us read a book or watching us eat our meals with the most pathetic, hungry look on his face. His patience amazes me and challenges me every day. I want that kind of patience. I want to be able to handle disappointment with such grace.
This post was supposed to be titled "Why Kids Should Have Dogs." And I really believe that they should. But the more words I type on this screen, the more I realize that the true title of post should be "Why I Need Murph." Because I do. I need him every day...to remind me what true patience and selflessness looks like. To remind me the importance of slowing down and snuggling with the people you love. To show me how important it is to ask for exactly what you need rather than expecting others to read my mind. To show me true, unconditional love even when I look like crap, or just stepped on his toe, or haven't showered in a day and a half. To remind me that stuff - even expensive stuff that I was really hoping to hold onto for at least a few more years - is just stuff. And to show me what it's like to find deep, deep joy in the little things - running fast, soaking up the sun...eating poop.
He is a good dog...a great dog...the best dog.
And in about ten minutes, I'll probably be trying to sell him on Craig's List.