Monday, February 16, 2009

Mack's Daddy

This past weekend my husband and I not only celebrated Hallmark’s Valentine’s Day, but also the 15th anniversary of our engagement (we were both 14 when he gave me the ring) (obviously, because we are not very old).

Dave opened his card from me, in which I had written something to the effect of, “This wonderful life we have together is exactly what I had hoped for 15 years ago.”

Sweet, huh?

After reading silently, Dave looked up at me and said, “exactly?”

“Yes,” I replied. Four kids? A great life in the best college town ever? What’s not to be happy about?

Exactly???” he asked again, this time pointing to our dog.

“Well,” I hesitated…

Growing up, I had always wanted a dog. But my (very wise) mother had insisted that there was a city ordinance prohibiting pet ownership for families of six or more, so instead of training a dog, my sister and I grew up teaching our twin brothers how to sit, stay, and roll over. Eventually they got pretty darn good at it too.

As I became an adult, a wife, and then a mother with people to raise and carpets to clean, my desire for a dog waned to nearly nothing. “Owning a dog” ranked somewhere on my to-do list between “learning how to change my own oil” and “amputation.”

Dave, however, did not share that philosophy. Growing up with cats, Dave had always longed for a dog. His fraternity had a house dog, a giant, drooling, mess-making Lab named Boss. What Dave failed to comprehend was that owning a 75-pound Labrador in a family home was far different than sharing a frat house with 80 dudes and dog. A dog he, himself, had never once washed, fed, or cleaned up after.

I thought I was in the clear a few years ago when new neighbors moved in with a giant Lab that Dave could play with anytime he wanted and that I would never have to care for. But his need was deeply rooted and beginning to spread to our children until finally, after many years of being shot down by his wife, Dave made one last heart-wrenching plea.

I had given him the book, Chasing Daylight, by Eugene “Gene” O’Kelly. Gene, the late CEO of KPMG, wrote this book in the last 100 days of his life, from the time he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer until he died. In his writings, Gene illustrates beautifully the importance of spending each day on earth living out your dreams.

After reading the book, Dave came to me with tears in his eyes. Expecting him to tell me how much he had always longed to vacation in Fiji or take the family to Italy, I started mentally packing my bags for the trip of a lifetime. He was ready to start in on his bucket list, and I couldn’t wait to see where we would go.

“This book really hit home with me,” he started, holding back tears, “and the one thing I really want to experience before I die…" a month in Hawaii? cruising the Mediterranean? buying a beach house? “… is owning a dog.”

WHAT? I don’t remember the part about “go buy a dog” in that book! What about attending the Oscars? Going on tour with Cher? Volunteering in an African village with Oprah and Brangelina?

Clearly our bucket lists were very different.

But as the kids circled around me begging and pleading, it slowly sank in that I was severely outnumbered.

As fate would have it, our kids’ school had an auction two weeks later, and a breeder had donated a Labradoodle to the cause. We walked into that auction a family of humans, and (after downing a significant number of chocolate martinis, which made the little white furball suddenly appealing) (kind of like the beer goggles from days gone by, I suppose), we walked out of that auction a family of six humans plus one dog.

Dave’s dream had become my reality.

But I am still standing. In fact, we recently celebrated Mack's second birthday (or what I called, "2 down, 12 to go") (I don’t think I have a heart). And, for those next 12 years, if any child or husband of mine questions whether or not I love them, I will need only to point to the dog living in our home for proof that indeed, I do.


Morgan the Muse said...

Aww... I have a labrador that we got on my dad's birthday, to make up for having our old dog put down the summer before. He... uhm... well, he takes care of Ziggy, but does not care for him much. Zig is definitely my favorite dog we have. :DD Probably because I do not have to see him, ever.

la_vie_en_shoes said...

Jules, your stories just keep getting better and better. I'm officially addicted!

Sassy Britches said...

The ultimate declaration of your love! It can never be denied! (You're a trooper. And a saint).

Anonymous said...

Julie, you crack me up! I love your comment about 2 down......I think I'm using that same countdown for our husky...ugh, what a mistake that birthday surprise was 3 years ago!! Way to go to support Dave's dream!! :-)

Kathy O

Bella@That damn expat said...

Hilarious post!
That really is love, Jules.

Julie said...

Julie, I had to laugh at this week's blog. It totally hits home with me. My eight year old daughter has been begging for a dog since she was old enough to talk. I have used every possible excuse I can think of and she seems to always be one step ahead of me with an answer for everything. This week she came to me with tears in her eyes,claiming she would do ANYTHING, including paying for food, supplies, etc. I think I will soon be a new dog owner! Lord, help me!
Julie M.

Jules said...

I've been a bad blog host this week, I'm so sorry!! I'm glad Mack could add a bright spot to the week :)

I figured he would be good for something someday...

Cathy C. Hall said...

Jules, I think Mack could make you a few bucks. I just posted a dog contest that Chico's is sponsoring, and I know that Chicken Soup is looking for "What I Learned from the Dog." I mean, isn't it about time Mack paid off? :-)

P.S. Sally the Crazy Dog has earned her keep (more than once). I guess as long as Sally keeps doing the crazy stuff, I'll keep writing about it. (Do submit a Mack story-you have a great voice and a terrific tail, er, tale!)