Notice the subtle difference to this blog: The Reluctant RoVer is now Reluctant Rover—Dog Tales.
Why the change? Because life changes, and instead of roving (as in RVing), I now find myself with a rover--a dog. And that story actually starts more than 40 years ago, in 1979.
My kids and I were then living in a rental townhouse on the west side of Indianapolis. The kids (Jennifer, then 10, and Rob, then 8) wanted to have a dog, but they had to settle for pet hamsters. I don’t think dogs were allowed in the apartment complex, but even if they were, I wasn’t ready for the responsibility of a canine friend. We had no yard; our apartment was no place to have a pet. I told the kids, though, that once we bought a house we could think about a dog.
Despite sky-high mortgage rates averaging more than 12% and a seller’s market, during the summer of 1979 I decided it was time to settle down in our own home. I found a post-war (World War II, that is) ranch house in an established subdivision on the north side of Indianapolis, in an excellent school district, not far from where my brother had settled. A few days before moving, one of the hamsters needed some medication, and the three of us went to a nearby pet store.
Near the cash registers was an enclosed pen, holding very small, blondish-colored puppy. Rob and I bent down to say hello, and the puppy did what puppies do: It made us fall in love with it.
|Rob and Jennifer with Poochi. In this photo Poochi is about 4 or 5 years old.|
“What kind of dog is this?” I asked the clerk.
“Poodle and Chihuahua,” he answered, as the puppy licked my hand. Rob was already asking, “Can we have him?”
“How much is he?” I asked. When the clerk said, “$15,” I told Rob to get his sister, who was waiting in the car.
One look and one lick of her hand later and I was writing a check for the hamster medication as well as the puppy. We picked him up the next day.
Only recently weaned and about eight weeks old, Poochi (what else would you name and poodle-Chihuahua hybrid) was tiny, so tiny he could hide under the living room couch. Full grown, he was only about 15 pounds. He had a poodle face, and when his hair was cut short, some it was also poodle-like. But he also had some fine fur like a Chihuahua. He was ugly-cute, kind of a Benji-dog. We quickly learned to love him dearly.
I can’t say that Poochi was the smartest dog in the world. Initially, while I was at work and the kids were in school, I left him outside with food and water near his dog house (left behind by the previous owners of my house). He never learned to go into the dog house. In fact, one day, he stayed out in the rain rather than go into the shelter. Ah, well. He never learned to sit on command, nor fetch or play ball. But we loved him anyway.
Poochi, of course, moved with us as we relocated due to my work. He was born in Indiana, but he moved to Louisiana, then to Texas, back to Indiana, and finally up to Michigan. He always easily adjusted to his new home, wherever that was. He even traveled with us.
When we were living in Texas, Rob and I decided to drive to Tucson, Ariz., for Thanksgiving with my parents. Periodically we stopped for gas and to use the rest facilities. West Texas does not have much grass; poor Poochi searched and searched for a patch on which he could do his business. The best he could find was a few weeds growing in a clump. It wasn’t much, but it had to do. When we got to my parents’ house in Arizona, the situation wasn’t any better. Their “lawn” was gravel. He decided that their green carpet would have to suffice. Fortunately, my parents were understanding.
The kids grew up, as kids do. By the time I moved to Michigan, Rob was in college. Poochi and I were on our own. He loved sleeping in my warm waterbed with me.
Time marched on, though, and finally, old age caught up to my little guy. He could no longer jump up on the bed, and when he fell asleep, he would cry out in pain during the night.
Saying good-bye to him was hard; I still tear up when I think about it. But it was the right thing to do.
About a year after losing Poochi, I accepted a job in Chicago. After renting for about a year, I bought a co-op apartment. No pets allowed. Finally, in 1998, I moved to Florida. My son started nagging me, “Mom, it’s time for you to get a dog.”
“No, no dog,” I said. “I don’t want to be tied down. Maybe a cat.” I actually adopted two cats, who were fiercely independent. I didn’t have to walk them, and if I went out of town, I just left them a big bowl of food and a couple bowls of water. All was fine.
Until they, too, got too old.
We have been petless for a few years now. A few months ago, I began to feel like it was time…
Your Reluctant Rover,