Most horror stories begin very innocently. A good-looking family moves into a charming farmhouse in a bucolic town. The kids excitedly run through the house, each claiming a bedroom. The move itself plays itself out in pure fantasy, as neatly labelled boxes are placed in the appropriate rooms and each member of the clan smiling in their clean, crisply-pressed button-down shirts, casually cuffed at the sleeve. Neighbors, armed with sweet delights and casseroles welcome them to the neighborhood. But, we all know what’s hiding in the dark attic.
I had a similar experience, though mine didn’t involve a move. Well, it sort of didn’t involve a move. Or a haunted house. It did, however, involve a good-looking family. And if you’re wondering…yes…that family was mine. (Random Sidebar: I gave up including photos in Christmas cards years ago when my twenty-seven year old son was four months old. I just never had my act together after he came. So, I would always write a little note, apologizing for the omission – as if anyone really cares about the pictures anyway – with the assurance that we were all, in fact, tall, thin and good-looking. They just had to take my word for it.) Anyway, my horror story is ongoing and has to do with an insanely impulsive decision made in haste almost fourteen years ago.
It was then that my husband and I were planning on moving. We weren’t moving far – still in the same western suburb the kids had grown up in. Just from the east side of town to the west. The move didn’t even involve a change of schools. Nothing would change except the box we used to separate ourselves from the great outdoors. But, the kids weren’t having any of it. Finally, my husband (yes, I am going to dump this on him because he usually doesn’t read my stuff) told the kids that, if we bought a house with a nice big yard, we could get a dog. Those words poured out of his mouth before I had a chance to murder him.
So, we bought a new house on an acre of property. Soon after, the kids were all over us about the promised canine. Actually, all of the kids except Mike, who had given up on the dream of puppy ownership and really didn’t care anymore. I tried to convince the rest of the brood that, gee, I just wasn’t sure if an acre was enough room for a puppy. That argument went nowhere fast. Suddenly, before I had a chance to throw myself under a bus (damn these suburbs – the bus routes are so unreliable), we were on our way to a breeder and the innocent start of my fourteen-year personal horror story. I have to admit, the golden retriever puppies were beyond cute. We picked the one who ran to us first, paid a hefty price for this hound with documented proof of his regal lineage, and headed home. That ride would be the first of many which resulted in Hoover throwing up. I’m pretty sure we got the most neurotic brother of the litter. We often wonder, now, if all of his siblings turned out as agoraphobic and smelly as he did or if we just got lucky.
We brought him home on a Sunday afternoon. The next day was my birthday, which was also a school holiday. (yaaayyyy) I was greeted that morning by my husband telling me he did the best he could to clean up the mess before heading off to work. I’d have to do the rest. Well, that didn’t sound good. What I was faced with was this: the dog crate in the back yard, with puppy poop all over it. And I mean, ALL OVER IT. And the dog, leashed to a tree in the yard, partially cleaned from said poop. And, the kids off school. Happy Birthday to me..
I decided to hire a dog trainer to train me how to live with a dog. She was amazing. She was actually kind of amazingly scary. I really think she had some kind of a sixth sense with dogs. During her first visit to our house, she made a couple of hand gestures to him to which he immediately responded by sitting or lying down. She told me that dogs instinctively understand these commands. Then, at one point, as we were talking, she gasped and said, “Did you see what he just did?” Of course my first thought was, “Oh great, another mess to clean up.” But that wasn’t it at all. She said that in the course of our conversation, I said something (don’t ask what) and he immediately stood at attention. She then, very seriously pondered, “I wonder if he was a show dog in a previous life.” Suddenly, I realized that I was alone in the house with a deranged dog whisperer. My husband later told me that I should have responded, “No, but I was.”
Anyway, fast-forward fourteen, long years and Hoover is still around. He smells pretty disgusting all the time. In fact, one time, when I was picking him up from the groomer after a nice bath and haircut, the groomer apologized, saying, “I’m sorry. He still stinks.” Yeah, I know, I thought, he ALWAYS stinks. How much do I owe you? And, before you start to tell me about all the possible health issues that may be the cause of his stench, I know. This dog has been on meds for allergies, including administering daily shots with our home supply of syringes and biohazard box for sharps (his allergies are beyond normal for dogs), thyroid meds, antibiotics and special dog food diets galore. We’ve come to accept that this is just who he is – gross. And, besides, my husband very clearly asserted to me once that if Hoover is ever diagnosed with something, we won’t try to cure it. I know he was just trying to raise my spirits.
There is absolutely no chance of Hoover ever succumbing to a tragic accident, either, since he doesn’t venture anywhere even remotely dangerous. When nature calls, he cautiously leaves the safety of the house, walks about ten feet, relieves himself and runs for his life back to the house. He NEVER would dare to go into the front yard. NEVER. When we were having our sliding door replaced in our kitchen, I asked my daughter to take Hoovie outside. She took one look at the new, but temporarily unusable slider and asked, “How?” I told her to just take him out front and around the house to the back yard. Twenty minutes later, they came back in the house. “He won’t leave the front porch, Mom.” Seriously, this dog is disturbed.
About a year ago, he started a habit of scratching at the carpet before he’d lie down. My husband, apparently trying to stave off my growing depression, said that behavior was called “nesting” and it meant that he was getting ready to die. Now, before you start getting all over me about being cruel and mean and heartless, let me defend myself by saying that as far as dogs go, there’s no dog that can top Hoover’s gentle demeanor. I mean, you can sit on him and he wouldn’t care. He has never been a barker, even when the doorbell rings. Thunderstorms have never posed a problem for him. He does nothing all day except sleep, occasionally getting up to move to another spot to sleep. He is an amazingly trained dog (thanks to weird Denise). I mean, if you must have a dog, he’s a great guy. I don’t wish him harm. I just don’t want to live with him anymore. I want him to go to sleep and not wake up. That’s not a bad way to go, you know. So, anyway, armed with my keywords “nesting habits in dogs”, I googled away, only to find that it refers to dogs who are preparing for birth, not death. I think that was kind of a mean trick he played on me.
So, this summer, we will celebrate Hoover’s fourteenth birthday with “Wow, really God???” And I’ve come to accept that he will never die. That way, if it does happen in my lifetime, it will be a pleasant little surprise. And, NO, I actually am a nice person. Really.