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Ernie's House of Whoopass! January 24, 2017
January 24, 2017

Just A Boy And His Dog.

My decision to get a dog was a long time coming and to be honest, almost didn't happen. This was circa, eh, 1998 maybe 1999 or so; I was still working at FCP Technologies in Waltham so 1998 is probably the better guess. I was casually talking to a co-worker about how I've had dogs all my life growing up and I'd like to adopt a dog some time, but right now my schedule just didn't allow for it. I worked the 10a-7p shift, so I'd sleep late, work, then go out and party a bit, go home and go to bed... lather, rinse, repeat. Besides even if I did stay home more often after getting a dog, 9 hours in the office plus a 45 minute commute each way means I'd be out of the hours for 10-11 hours each workday. It just wouldn't be fair to the dog. Another co-worker -- her name was Nancy Letourneau -- jumped into the conversation and asked, "even if that were true, which it's not, where do you think a shelter dog would rather spend those hours waiting? In the comfort of your condo, sleeping on their own bed, or in a shelter in a cage with dozens of other homeless animals?" I considered Nancy's contribution and immediately knew she was right. But I didn't do anything about it. I didn't act on that new information. I just kind of filed it away for a later date, I guess.

Spin the clock forward to early spring of 2002. My mother had just passed away. My girlfriend and I had split up; she took her dog with her. So I once again found myself feeling very alone. I am neither proud nor ashamed to admit I was no stranger to a stiff drink in those days. And one of the things I would do is make myself a nice martini and browse through Petfinder.org which has just come out and starting to gain popularity. I guess I was mostly just window shopping, as I still clung to the idea that I worked too much to be able to get a dog. And I can't tell you how many times I went through that ritualistic torture. This one's cute. That one's too fufu. That one's too big. That one's a good size, but too young. That's a cool dog but way on the other coast. Done for the night, go to bed, wake up, go to work, come home and do it all over again. Day after day, one week bleeding into the next. I knew I wanted a dog, I just didn't think I'd be able to care for one the way I wanted to... because I didn't think I could be the perfect dog owner.

But one day -- I distinctly remember it was a Wednesday -- I came across a small black dog that was listed in New Jersey. He was small enough for condo life, seventeen pounds or so, but still kind of tough and masculine looking. He looked like someone had taken a black lab and thrown him into the clothes dryer for an hour or so. And I don't know what possessed me to, but I clicked the contact link and fired off somewhat of a half hearted inquiry. I don't think I wrote any more than, "is this dog still available" along with my name and phone number. Maybe I browsed more ads, maybe, I didn't. I don't remember.

And I really didn't remember the next day, until I got home from work and checked the voice mail on my home phone -- home phone, remember those? -- and there was a single message waiting for me. I pressed play and held the receiver to my ear. It was a woman with a heavy accent. German I think. And started out, "Yes, I am calling about the 'nasty little dog'..." and I remember this almost made me laugh a little because she said 'nasty' in the exact same pitch and exact same speed as Janet Jackson did in her song. "Nas-tee dog." The woman with the German accent was going on about he the little black dog was still available -- oh that's right, I guess I did send an email about a dog last night? -- and he was good with people but really aggressive towards other animals, and, and, and, and she talked more but I had kind of tuned her out. 'Nas-tee dog', I kept saying in my head. But then she ended her voice mail with something that caught my attention and snapped me back into the moment.

She said, "He is scheduled to be euthanized tomorrow, so if you are interested in this dog, you need to contact me as soon as possible."

I wasn't thinking about Janet Jackson after that. You can read all the stats you want about homeless animals being euthanized, but this wasn't that. This was something else. This was intimate. This was just one dog. And the only thing standing between this one dog and the end of the line, was me. Right that second, I knew I'm on the hook bnecause I'd never be able to forgive myself if I didn't step in and do something. So over the next half an hour or so, I pulled the dog's ad back up, looked at his photos again, zooming and scrolling, reading and rereading every word of his ad. And then I began to rationalize things in my head. My unit was towards the end of the hall, so I could take the back stairs outside to the back parking lot to walk him. That new vet just opened shop in town; I drove past it every day so it wasn't out of my way. The ex-girlfriend's dog was about the same size so he wasn't too big for my condo. The ad said he didn't bark at all and was house and crate trained. There were several fire doors on my floor, so if he did bolt out of a door, he wouldn't get far. Then I realized, I could do this after all.

So I called the German woman back and told her that yes I was interested, so do NOT put the dog to sleep as I was coming all the way from Boston to see him tomorrow. She seemed both apprehensive and relieved all at the same time. Then I called my boss and told him I wasn't going to make it into work the next day. He asked why. I told him I was driving to New Jersey to adopt a dog. And that's what I did. And it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Usually when people lose their pets, they post a short eulogy to social media and urge other pet owners to 'give their pets an extra scratch behind the ears', but that's just not me. If you're my friend and you have pets, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you when to give them some extra attention.

So instead of speaking to my friends who are pet owners, I would like to speak to my friends who are NOT pet owners, but have thought about it. Take Nancy's advice. Don't fall into the same trap that I did for those four years because here's a newsflash: you can be the perfect pet owner because the perfect pet owner is anyone willing to open up their home and rescue a homeless animal. It doesn't matter that you work, or go out. A dog would much rather spend his days lounging on your couch, maybe even listing to the radio, than languishing in some piss stained county run animal shelter, wondering if today was the day they are going to be led into the room that no dog ever walks out of alive. Yes, you're out of the house for fifty or sixty hours a week. And guess what, that's okay. It's good in fact, because it means you are home the remainder of the time. And it's good because it's not the alterative: death.

I read once -- and as a pet owner all my life, I'll agree with it wholeheartedly -- that you only need to spend 15 minutes of quality time per day interacting with your pet in order for them to be happy. That's 15 minutes per day throwing a ball, or playing tug of war, or giving them a bath, or a walk around the block, or moving a laser pointer, or just rubbing their belly. Because all the other time we people do people stuff -- walking to the bathroom, folding clothes, lounging on the couch -- and our dogs are under our feet? That is quality time to them. Laying on your feet while you watch television? Heaven to a dog. Laying at the foot of your bed while you sleep? Pure euphoria. And, not death, because each year, 2.7 million home animals are euthanized because they don't have home; 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats.

So please. If any of you have kicked around the idea of adopting a dog or a cat, then do yourself a favor and give it some serious thought. Have a drink, browse petfinder, run the what-if's through your head, visit a shelter, scratch a few ears and see what happens. Because you just might save a life in doing so. And trust me dear friend, they'll save yours right back.

Yes, Ike's passing has ripped my guts out. I honestly don't know what the hell to do with myself. I walk around the house aimlessly, casting glances at all the places he used to like to lay. I cry. Hell, I am crying right now. But the days, weeks, or even months of this anguish won't ever come close to outweighing the years of pure love, joy and companionship he gave me. So will I adopt another dog again? You bet your rosey red American ass I will. Because as someone said, they're worth every tear in the end.

So this was your eulogy, Ike. A little longer than most, but you deserve it. Rest in peace, little peckerhead.

https://www.petfinder.com/

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