Thursday, April 14, 2011

Be careful what you wish for

Scarlett, our dog, is a total nightmare.  She is a black lab and we got her a year and a half ago for Christmas, in a split second, Christmas hysteria-induced fog.  The writing was on the wall when on Christmas day, she grabbed the garland draped around this huge mirror that sits on the ground in our dining room, and pulled the entire mirror down upon her tiny paw.

Okay, to be fair, this is what was going on in my mind when we decided to get a dog.  It had been two years, since our beloved 12-year-old lab, Elaine, had died and I was missing her.  It is like when you decide you are ready to get pregnant, again, because you develop amnesia about the unsightly birthing process and the sleepless nights that follow.  You rationalize that you have "done it before" and you start subscribing to that "how bad can it be" mentality.  Well, let me tell you how bad it can be.  It can be so bad that you constantly threaten your children that you are going to take their "favorite Christmas present EVER" back to the farm about 500 times a day.  

So, Scarlett was all of about 7 pounds and she brought down a mirror that I have had for decades (prized possession from a yard sale in Dallas) that takes two adults to move from one side of the room to the other.  Her paw swelled to gigantic proportions, and not having a veterinarian yet, I was contemplating taking her to Ohio State Animal Hospital on Christmas Day - cha ching.  The money pit that we had just happily invested in, had just begun.  I decided to wait it out, when the receptionist at the hospital assured me that their holiday rates were triple their regular rates and I might as well put my house up for sale.

I cried my eyes out and was convinced that I had made a mistake because I already had three young children and what in the hell was I doing adding to my stress when Eva, my three-year-old had "just turned the corner."  This must be the feeling a person gets when he ice climbs up Mount Everest and loses an arm in the process, but then decides once he has made it, to continue on to the other side and repel down, because he needs more "excitement" in his life.

I took Scarlett to the vet, the following day, to get her next round of vaccinations and an X-ray, while the techs judged my competence and pretended to be empathetic.  This was NOTHING compared to how she would shape our lives in the coming months.

When I say that Scarlett made our lives HELL for the first year of her life, I am not exaggerating.  I would wake up each day and let her out of her crate as she terrorized my entire family by grabbing whatever was their favorite comfort mechanism and devoured it while running circles around our house.  She did this while I tried to get two children ready for school and before I could gulp down a cup of coffee every morning for six months.

We accented our wide pole fence with chicken wire, at first, to keep her in the backyard that my father-in-law was convinced should "work through the winter".  She demolished it in two weeks.  She would run into our adjacent neighbor's open garage every chance she got and steal their kids' expensive hockey gear and chew on it until I discovered her.  This was just minutes, as I had to watch her like a one-year-old who is taking his first steps.

She once got into their garage and stole my neighbor's shoes that he took off by his door to be polite to his wife, as he came home from lunch.  I had to return them covered in saliva and dirt, and when he graciously assured me that they were "old shoes anyway" by putting them back on, my middle daughter, Mills, started trying to get my attention.

"Mom....MOM!"my middle child tugged at my shirt.  I ignored her at first, as my neighbor was trying to make me feel better about ruining his shoes and I was eager for charity.  He was bending down and petting hyperactive Scarlett to demonstrate his alliance.

"Mom, come here!" she wanted me to bend over so she could tell me a secret.  "Do you think we should tell him that Scarlett's peeing on his shoes?"  I was mortified.  How much more was this guy supposed to take?  I should have named that freakin' dog "APOLOGIZE" because that is all I did for her - all day long.

Second investment - the invisible fence.  This had to be the easiest sale the woman from Invisible Fence had ever made.  No "are you running any specials" or "how do you compare yourselves with your competitors," just "I am desperate.  How much is it and what is today's date so that I can finish writing the check to you.

Now Scarlett was contained and I could let her out into the below freezing temperatures so that I could assess and repair the damage that she had done in the five minutes that she had in the house after I let her out of her crate.  It became a "what is salvageable and what is trash" scenario EVERY morning.  My kids were getting knocked down the basement stairs.  She was sharpening her razor sharp puppy teeth on my three-year-old and I was longing for the lethargic 12-year-old dog who's biggest infraction was relieving herself  in the yard and leaving dog hair all over the place.  Potty training was the least of my worries.

Not only did Scarlett ruin Christmas Eve dinner when she spewed diarrhea all over the carpet next to the Christmas tree.  (I mean there is no smell more sickening than puppy diarrhea due to ingestion of rabbit feces.) But she ruined every single rug on the main floor within a month.  And I was ON HER, even with three kids, I swear.

Texts would fly from our neighbors who witnessed Scarlett chewing on our Smith Hawken bench I scored at an estate sale in Denver or some piece of recycling she had gotten out of the garage.  Our yard was constantly filled with litter, which was sometimes packages the UPS man left on our doorstep.  The piece du resistance is when she dragged my tampon box out onto the lawn in full view of the entire dog walking population.  I know, I probably shouldn't have put it in the recycling, but I figured with three kids, people had to assume I was menstruating. 

I began complaining about Scarlett to anyone who would listen.  It was always the topic of conversation whenever Brad and I would go out.  She had ruined our lives.  Things had been so great December 22nd and before.  What had we done?  What can we do now?  The kids were attached and bewildered by her.  They wanted to love her but she was always taking it too far and hurting them.  She had no boundaries and she was the one in control.  We were pawns in her game.

One of my best friends, Kim, came over one day and she is the biggest animal lover I know.  Within minutes, she looked stricken.  She had that look that I would get, (before I had kids and was still working) when I would visit my friends with small children on my lunch break.  I could not get out of there fast enough.  

Kim goes, "I had no idea.  You had described it, but I thought you were embellishing, again.  I gotta go."Peace out.  I was an island.

"I want the one with the tennis ball," I would mimic Brad on the day that we picked out Scarlett, when she would destroy some family heirloom.  "She seems feisty."  I guess "feisty" is the new synonym for "psychotic".

The BEST part about the Invisible Fence, was that Scarlett would not come in once you called her.  What dog wants to stay out in 4 degree windchill with a sleeting rain/snow mix.  I'll tell you who - Scarlett.  I would chase her around in the freezing cold at 11 0'clock at night, cursing loudly and slipping on ice.  I was past resentment.  I was bordering on hatred.

The only way that I could get her in, is if I could catch someone walking by with a dog that she was going crazy for,  ask them to grab her collar and then I would physically fight her to bring her into the house.  This was a nightly occurrence.

One day, a friend of my daughter's was walking by, and I preemptively asked her to grab Scarlett's collar to try and bring her in before sunrise.  Scarlett had obviously grown wise to my ploy and she proceeded to drag the 8-year-old girl across the yard, stopping just short of a low brick wall.  I had to call the girl's mother, who lives down the street and luckily is a minister's wife, so she HAS to be forgiving, and apologize for the knot on her leg that her daughter suffered at my request.

I know what you are thinking.  This all has to come to some sort of head and well, it did. One of my neighbors, who had tortured herself, as well, on Christmas Day, with a new Wiemereiner, would bring her puppy down to get Psycho Scarlett tired.  I was standing with her near my front door talking about how miserable I was.  I had my Upper Arlington "mom stance" goin' on - you know, where your hand is on your hip and one leg is straight and the other is slightly bent.  Her dog is faster than Scarlett and Scarlett was falling all over herself to keep up.  Her dog, who is obviously much more expensive and better bred than mine, ran straight toward me and then swerved around my leg.  Scarlett, head down, ears pinned back, slobber swinging out of her mouth, then barreled into my knee, which took an unnatural bend backward and instantly I knew she had ruined my the rest of my year.  Not in the way that she had been ruining it, but in the way that you cannot function as a fully erect human being anymore.

My recommendation to you today is to not get a puppy for Christmas for yourself or your family - EVER.  It is one of those false memories you think you are making for your children when you are really only indulging a Christmas wish that you secretly have always wanted for yourself.  And like any fantasy, it gives way to the reality that there are many moments after that memory that are so much more memorable than wrapping up a dog on Christmas Eve.  For instance, I am reminded of Scarlett every time I try to sit Indian style because I can't do it anymore.

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