When Jimmy was two he announced to his dad and I that he wanted a dog. Since I was pregnant with his brother and in no hurry to have a third critter peeing all over my house, we told Jimmy he’d have to wait until he was five.
Drawing by Miranda Gargasz
So it came to be that nine years ago my husband and I made good on the promise we made our then toddler.
Jim and I can’t stand the thought of euthanizing a healthy pet just because it has the unfortunate luck to be housed the longest at a too-full pound. We had decided years before that our pets would be rescued from said establishment, so off we went.
Jim let it be known far and wide that we were going to be getting a male dog who would guard and protect his family. (Insert muy macho gorilla grunt here, a la Tim Allen.) Girl dogs were too timid, my canine chauvinist shared. I just rolled my eyes. I had a female dog growing up and she was more protective than either of the male dogs we’d had.
Walking into the pound for Jimmy was like Christmas morning, eyeballing kennel after kennel of desperate critters wanting to be freed. He visited every cage as I stood in the corner scratching my arms like a crack addict in need of a fix. The place was crawling with brown eyes–my personal kryptonite. I began hatching a plan to free them all. We’d just buy a farm with all the money we didn’t have and start our own animal sanctuary.
“We can only have ONE,” Jim said, his face about two inches from my own, a weak attempt at breaking my line of sight.
He was right, though. I’d eventually have become the Crazy Dog Lady who was eaten by a pack of her own furry children. Not the headline I’m looking for.
There was one dog that had my attention. It looked like an overgrown beagle. It was the only one not adding to the cacophony of barking going on. My heart instantly reached out to that dog because it was the flesh and blood representation of the stuffed Pound Puppy I’d had as a girl, right down to the brown patch of fur over the eye. Imagine my delight when that was the dog Jimmy picked.
The kids and I stayed inside to fill out paperwork while Jim took our new dog for a walk before stuffing us into our too-small Tempo. While he was gone Jimmy picked out the name “Rosie,” a thinly veiled shout out to Caillou, the annoying cartoon I was sure was going to make my brain melt out of my ears someday.
“We can’t name a boy Rosie,” Jim said when he came back in.
“Well, unless HE is missing something vital, HE is a SHE,” I said.
“Miranda,” he whispered, “when boy dogs get fixed they snip their nuts.”
“I know,” I whispered back. “This one is missing a penis.”
Jim grumbles even now about how he was tricked into buying a female dog. But he also admits that she has shattered his dog chauvinist ideals, too. Jehovah’s Witnesses give our yard a wide berth and the mail carrier wears diapers meant for astronauts, such is the ferocity of Rosie’s attack at the front door. She is kind to most visitors unless they smell like a cat. The unlucky feline owners are greeted with a throaty growl of disapproval. She is not fond of other dogs unless they clearly accept her as the alpha. She’s been known to draw blood to get that point across. She is very territorial when it comes to her bed and her crate, going so far as to bark, growl or give the evil eye to anyone who should come too close to her two favored nests.
Jim laughs at me, often remarking that we bought a dog for Jimmy that became mine the minute we came home. I vehemently deny that I’m her preferred human, even in the face of absolute proof. I will admit to loving her every bit as much as my children. She’s my daughter who happens to wear a fur coat.
It’s been a rough year for Rosie. She’s had three surgeries in the last ten months to battle abscesses she had on her back and neck, the most recent being this past week. The vet told us that this is it. If this doesn’t work, there isn’t anything more he can do.
When Jim brought our ten-year-old, seventy-five pound hound home from this latest surgery, I sobbed harder than the last two times. The first two surgeries involved shaving and stitches and drains. This last one: staples. She looks like they cut her in half and stapled her back together. She’s wearing a brace on her neck that makes her look like a whiplash victim. She laid on her bed and moaned even though she’s on two pain meds.
Rosie is tough, though. Two days after surgery she was back to her spunky self, escaping her brace twice now and growling and barking at the mail carrier, though with markedly less zeal. She sleeps a lot more than usual and looks so very pitiful.
For now, I wake every morning at 5 a.m., wrap a pain pill in a slice of cheese, and give it to my snack crazy, pound found hound. I look into those sad, brown eyes and whisper, “That’s my girl.”