Everyone loves puppies! They are cute and cuddly. They’re playful and soft. Their sweet puppy breath kisses are endearing. They chase kitty cats up the tree in their puppy dreams, and watching puppies dream proves that a puppy is a gift from heaven. Everyone loves puppies! NOT ME! I’ll take an old worn out Labrador any day, and twice at Christmas. Puppies yap and yelp all the time. When you’re sleeping they chew up you’re brand new running shoes (the ones you weren’t really running in, yeah, the cute ones). They lick all over and wrestle with the kiddos until their tail gets pulled, and then they bite those kiddos, leaving sharp little teeth marks and tears in the after math. They feel the need to explore every inch of the house, and they let you know where their favorite spots are by leaving little “presents” on the freshly cleaned floors. They reek havoc all over the place, and never have I heard of a burglar being scared away by a sweet little yappy puppy.
Now an old dog is quite the opposite. An old dog has developed a growl that keeps intruders at bay even if they have never had to use it. They can lay on the floor asleep, barely open one eye, use half of that growl, and scare away a solicitor without ever getting up. Old dogs know that babies pull tails, and thereby allow a certain amount of tail-pulling to occur before simply getting up and leaving the room. An old dog won’t eat your sneakers (maybe because they have realized feet stink). An old dog doesn’t even make you take them out in the rain. They will simply hold it because they don’t feel like getting wet either! An old dog will lay quietly at the foot of your bed, and look at up you from time to time just to exchange those “I’m still here” glances. Sometimes, an old dog will nudge at your hand until you pet her, and rarely will she get upset if you tell her to go lay down instead. Yep, I’m an old dog kind of girl.
From the dawn of Old Yeller it has been well known that a boy needs a dog, and as it so happens, our little zoo crew has- well, had– four of them. I have noticed lately that they are getting, well, OLD! Despite my love for old dogs, I have managed to put my foot in my mouth a time or two recently. The other day I was complaining that our lab is shedding hair all over the house, and the terrier thinks she’s is allowed on furniture, and the ugly little mutt managed to get herself knocked up despite her not so good looks… but Max, he was top of my “bad dog” list. He recently reverted back to marking territory in the house. Our only male dog, he also kept getting into fights around the neighborhood. The same fights he used to win quite easily, he was starting to lose. Guess he didn’t realize he had become an old dog.
He came home last week looking like someone who had just been in the boxing ring with Wladimir Klitschko (heavy weight champion) and fought it out a good ten rounds. And when he decided to mark the freshly mopped hallway as his territory, I banished him to the yard while shouting “I’ll be glad when we can get rid of some of these damn dogs!” There, I said it! Open mouth, insert foot, there’s no going back now!
Fast forward two weeks and we find ourselves wrapping up last minute shopping the day before Christmas eve. The little ones are bubbling over with excitement because Santa’s sleigh is being loaded down. The naughty-nice list is soon to be double checked, and hopefully clean rooms will redeem those who had strayed to the naughty side! Daddy loaded up the truck with the oldest two boys for a quick hunting expedition, the first of such trips for our 8-year-old. I heard his truck coming home, moments later, the front door slams and an angry 12-year-old marched through to his bedroom.
Uh-oh? Father-son argument? I wish it had been that easy to resolve. But no, it was much worse. My son pulled into the driveway only to discover his beloved boxer dead in the front yard. I had just given that dog some leftovers not an hour earlier. Its possible that a car got a hold of him, but it looks more probable that he got into a fight, and this time, it got the best of him. I would bet, he got all riled up in some kind of brawl, came home, and had himself a good ole fashioned heart attack. Of course, this is merely speculation.
The average life span of a boxer is 10-12 years, and Max was right at 11 years old, so I guess all in all it was him time, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the boy who has grown up with that dog. What makes it worse, is that his mother had tried, not once, but twice to relocate this boy’s loyal canine- not because he wasn’t a beautiful specimen of man’s best friend, not because he wasn’t the sweetest dog who would likely hug you to death before he ever bit you, just because he had a tendency to mark his territory, and that just never went over well with me.
It has been announced by my son that this is hands down the worst Christmas ever. He completed his declaration with “looks like you got your wish mom, now we don’t have so many dogs”. Gggg-ULP! Swallowing that lump in my throat wasn’t easy!
I’ve already let Santa know that a replacement puppy is not only unnecessary, but also not, under any circumstance, going to be allowed. I don’t have time for puppy breath and chewed up sneakers at this point in my life. And no, a brand new dirt bike will not replace him either, so no hard feelings about the fact that this wish list item did not make the sleigh. Let’s hope the early hunting expedition alone with Daddy this morning will help to ease his troubled heart. Let’s hope that a full stocking and a heartfelt apology from the mom who complained about his cherished pet peeing on her wall will restore his Christmas spirit.
On the bright side, we have homemade fudge, sugar cookies, and lots of goodies to leave for Santa Claus this year. The festivities will begin with a family brunch in just a few hours. I am looking forward to little faces lit up with anticipation as the countdown begins. I can’t wait to bake our “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake, and crank up the Christmas carols. I can’t wait to say “You better go to sleep if you want Santa to come!” But for now, I am gonna listen to an old song and sneak in one more hour of sleep before the kiddos jump out of their beds. To steal a few words from an old Tom T. Hall song my mother used to sing… Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes; God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate!
While I am sitting here, counting my blessings I easily find there’s just nothing better than old dogs, children, and Christmas time…