There comes a time in every person’s life when they make THAT decision. You know the one I’m talking about, because I’m sure you’ve made a version of it at some point in your life:
“Engineering has too much math…I’m gonna change my major to something I’m passionate about. Besides, Romance Literature will give me a good, solid base for my future.”
“I know Vanessa cheated on me those three times, but she’s changed. Once I quit my job and move out to Alaska to be with her, you’ll see…smooth sailing from now on!”
“Look Klaus, I hear what you’re saying about non-flammable helium, but dammit, I’m the Hindenburg project manager, and I say hydrogen is the way to go. Jesus, just chill out, man.”
These examples of pivotal decisions have three very important things in common:
They were made with completely good intentions.
They were made in the face of strong criticism from everyone around the decision maker.
They all led to HIDEOUSLY bad outcomes and/or death.
People tend to look only at a decision’s positive aspects, and discount (or even totally dismiss) the potential downside that everyone ELSE is shouting about. This is why I suspect that someday in the not-so-distant future, we’ll all be slaves under the thumb of alien overlords, within two weeks of their arrival. Human beings are seemingly programmed to make poor decisions.
And even though I know this with every fiber of my being, Steph and I still wanted to adopt a puppy. Within moments of making our idea public, the doubters came out in force:
My friend Brian, who got a puppy four years ago—“Dude, are you SURE?”
My parents, who’ve raised six puppies over the course of 40 years—“That is a BAD idea.”
Steph’s parents, who were less diplomatic—“Don’t do it. Seriously.”
But, falling back on the timeless maxim “Haters Gonna Hate,” we threw caution to wind when we saw this:
"I'm Farfel! I just wanna WUV you!!"
Now I know what you’re thinking, because we thought the same thing: are you KIDDING me? She looks like a goddamn cartoon character! It’s like Walt Disney ordered a legion of sorcerer-monkeys to create a living being formed of 100% pure cuteness…and they succeeded! It is simply not possible to see this puppy and say “Nah, lethal injection seems more your speed.”
The moment Farfel came around the corner and stared at us with those dark eyes, we knew she was coming home with us. She slept almost the whole way back—two hours of perfect contentment during which Steph and I could not have been happier with our decision.
Then Farfel woke up.
For those readers who’ve never adopted an eight-week-old pup, I’m happy to give you a demonstration of how it works. Just give me a call and I’ll come over to your house. Once there, I’ll ask for $300 in cash. I will put that cash in my pocket, then quietly wander around your home until I find the nicest, softest rug you own—and then I will calmly take a big ‘ole dump right in the middle of it. After that, I’ll launch into a niiiiice long pee, but it won’t be a stationary one, mind you. I’ll just run all around the house, peeing as I go, so that every single room has the sour tang of ammonia and pure desperation. Then I will stare into your eyes and say, “Now you know what it’s like to have a puppy.”
Take note of that last word, especially, because I have learned the hard way that there is a MASSIVE difference between owning a “dog” and staring down the double-barrel shotgun of excretion/destructive chewing that is a “puppy.” My 4-year old Anatolian Shepherd is a dog. I adopted her at 11 months, and she was (relatively speaking) fully formed: she knew that poop belonged on the soft green stuff out back, she knew furniture isn’t really tasty, and she had absolutely zero innate desire to lick electrical outlets. In other words, Lulu had the approximate IQ of a two-year old, right out of the box.
Farfel, on the other hand, is a poopy, chewy, mobile little death-wish. THAT’S the difference between puppies and dogs. Also, a pup has only three modes:
Doing bad things
Which means you have to watch them. All the time. To reinforce this idea, examine this timeline:
7:30PM Steph returns home, releases Farfel from prison, um, kennel.
7:31PM Steph places Farf on the floor in hallway as she grabs a tissue from bathroom.
7:31.15PM Farfel pivots, trots ten feet into Steph’s study, and happily climbs into Steph’s gymbag.
7:31.35PM Farfel opens the bomb-bay doors and dumps a payload of diarrhea directly into bag.
You didn’t read the timeline incorrectly—this all happened in LESS than two minutes. You HAVE to watch puppies.
All. The. Time.
So yesterday was a particularly bad day.
Steph was out of town, so I was on puppy duty for the full 24 hours instead of my usual 10-hour day shift. I was determined to actually make it all the way to nightfall without touching urine or feces, so “preemptive” was my word of the day. Normally, we try top-of-every-hour, but even 60-minute increments were resulting in unwanted puddles of excrement--so I decided to take Farf outside every 45 minutes, just to be sure. Unfortunately, this strategy entailed some 12-15 trips outside, which on a decent day wouldn’t be a big deal. Unless you live in Saint Louis, Missouri in June of 2015, which looks like this:
"Where's the Ark?"
And while human beings tend to avoid monsoon season, water-logged turf and driving rain is actually quite invigorating for a puppy. “OOOO! Look over there…splashy, splashy!” “Mud feels so weird, I should probably dig in it!” “I love the smell of filth in the morning. Smells like…victory. It’ll last longer if I roll around in it.” This attitude resulted in a LOT of cleaning on my part, and cleaning up a muddy puppy is like wrangling a wet, angry cat.
Also, oodles of rain and pools of standing water also breed another type of unruly beast: mosquitos. By the time darkness fell, I was mentally worn out, physically tired, and covered in mosquito bites from spending so much time in the backyard.
By midnight, all I wanted to do was collapse into bed and not think about chasing after Farf for six or seven blissful hours. So I took her outside one final time (she tromped through the mud, enjoying herself a little too much), fixed up her kennel with fresh blankets (we have to replace them daily because she pees in the kennel at night), and placed her inside with a couple of her toys. Then I went downstairs to lock the doors and turn off lights before going to bed. When I came back up and walked by her cage to say goodnight, Farf was almost zen-like, sitting quietly, staring at me. Next to a freshly laid turd in the middle of those soft clean blankets.
So help me God, I wanted to shoot that puppy, right then and there.
I managed to stifle the urge (barely) and after disposing of the poop, getting new blankets, making up the kennel AGAIN, and stowing the puppy inside for the night, I grumbled all the way to my bed and grabbed my phone to text Steph about how much I wanted to choke the life out of our adorable little puppy. When I turned on the phone, I saw this on the home screen:
Which led to me looking through other images I’d taken over the prior two weeks:
Which calmed me down and made me smile. And a funny thing happened:
I remembered how I felt when Farfel snuggled in my lap on the couch.
How hard Steph laughs when she puts a towel over Farf’s head and the pup struggles to uncover herself.
How Farf lays low in the grass, like a lion in the savannah, and “stalks” Lulu, even though she’s 10lbs compared to Lulu’s 120.
How each day brings some completely new experience, and Farf attacks it all with a ridiculous smile and the enthusiasm of a toddler.
And I thought about how she’s getting bigger and more confident every single day, and that one of those days, I’ll look down at Farfel, and she won’t be a puppy anymore.
And you know how that made me feel?
Crazy, right? Or maybe not so crazy. Human beings may be prone to making poor decisions, but caring for and raising a little bundle of cuteness? It ain’t one of ‘em.
So you wanna get a puppy. My advice? Go for it. You’ll be one cranky son-of-a-bitch, but it’s worth it.