Last spring, we had to put our 13-year-old dog to sleep. (Hilarious column, Ez! Tell us more!) I never wrote about that, because I’d rather not revisit that experience, except to point out that it’s really weird that they give you a mold of your dog’s paw print afterward. So someone’s job on that day included smooshing a dead dog’s paw in some clay. Then they’re like, “Here, take this incredibly morbid trinket that you can look at if you ever want to wallow in this horrible experience!” I think it’s supposed to prompt memories from before that actual day, but I’m quite literal.
We spent the summer as a one-dog household with our dimwitted lab-basset mix, Dino, who seemed to barely register his new status as sole canine. We expected him to be sad, but if anything his reaction seemed to be, “Hey, wasn’t there another dog around here? I feel like there was.” After a few months of single-dog life, I started to notice my wife, Heather, furtively looking at Petfinder listings. Not long after that, we were bringing home a 9-week-old mutt who was dropped off with his three siblings at a kill shelter. Now, I’m not pointing that out to say that I’m a better person than someone who buys a purebred dog. I would never say that. I’m writing it.
Out of the four-puppy litter, three of the dogs had blue eyes, and blue-eyed dogs kind of freak me out. I understand that if I died alone with a dog in the room, eventually the dog would eat me, but I feel like a blue-eyed dog would do it sooner. So we chose Bing, the one puppy with brown eyes. He’s extremely lovable, and I can just tell from his cute little nose and his floppy ears and his sweet brown eyes that he’d wait a respectable amount of time to plunge his bloody jaws into my corpse.
Our first priority was to change his name. As with any important decision, I asked myself, “What would Gwyneth Paltrow do?” so I could do the opposite. Since I’m pretty sure Gwyneth would name her dog Quinoa, we went with Gary, which is the opposite of Quinoa.
The name decision wasn’t easy. I was also partial to Fred or Frank, but Gary is what stuck. It is, at least, the kind of name that takes some of the sting out of bad behavior. Like when one of the kids walked into the kitchen and announced, “Gary pooped in the playroom!” that was empirically funnier than if he’d said, “Mittens pooped in the playroom.” Frickin’ Gary. Come on, man.
We’re not sure what breed Gary is, but he looks like a border collie. Border collies are reputedly smart, so Gary could be a good counterpoint to Dino. I tend to anthropomorphize dogs, but Dino stubbornly resists the projection of human qualities. When you’re walking him through a field and you start thinking that maybe he’s feeling optimistic or grateful or displaying some semblance of emotional intelligence, he’ll abruptly stop to lick his wiener and then eat a pile of deer poop. Gary has already learned to ring a bell on the door when he wants to go out. Dino once ate an entire bottle of Advil, and we had to make him drink hydrogen peroxide to throw it up.
Whatever Gary is, he’s at a stage where he’s 100-percent cute. Going out in public with a puppy is probably the closest most of us will get to the experience of mega-celebrity. You can’t walk a block without stopping multiple times to indulge autograph requests, by which I mean puppy-petting requests. Gary is fine with this for a while, but eventually he gets tired of the petting and starts casually biting whatever hand reaches his way, exercising his razor sharp puppy teeth. You know what they say: Don’t meet your heroes.
As you’d expect, there are some challenges—particularly at about 3 am, when Gary wants to party, ripping mournful little ear-piercing howls and pawing at the door to his crate. My strategy is to pull a pillow over my head and ignore him. But one night he persisted long enough that Heather abruptly leapt across the bed and yelled, “Gary! Enough!” with such conviction that he shut up. I give him credit: He knew he stepped over the line and he backed off. Still, Heather’s sudden rage-pounce caused me to have a nice little fight-or-flight adrenaline rush that stayed with me until the alarm went off at 6:15 am. And one thing nobody wants to hear about is how you’re tired because the super-adorable puppy that you consciously decided to acquire woke you up too early. It’s like complaining about how expensive it is to heat the infinity pool at your beach house. There’s not a lot of sympathy.
And I don’t expect any. Like my tattoo says, no regerts. Except maybe on the name. I’m not sure he’s a Gary. He already knows how to sit, he rings the bell to go out and he’s basically housebroken. I picture a Gary being a more rambunctious. This guy is really sensible. I hate to admit it, but he’s acting like a Quinoa. ◆
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