Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Decision to Get Abby

The decision to get Abby was not mine but my mom’s. I had a say and not a vote, and not much of a say at that. My cousin, Nikki’s owner, had been pressing my mom to not only get a dog but a Labrador at that. My mom was having a rough go of it at the time. Her mom had recently died, and she was in the middle of a divorce after 33 years of marriage to my dad who was having a host of legal, personal and financial problems. On top of that, I would be leaving Raleigh in a year or two after I finished graduate school. My cousin thought my mom could use the company as well as a diversion from her problems. My mom had liked Nikki a whole lot, and my cousin thought that a smart, playful dog would be a good fit for my mom who has a big house, big yard and a pool. A dog that likes being outside like a lab and yet would be a good house pet, would complement my mom who likes to spend quite a bit of time in her backyard and in the pool in warmer weather.

My mom blurted out to me one day, “I want to get a dog.” I was fierce and adamant in my opposition to getting a dog. We already had Father. Getting a puppy is time consuming and hard work. Being in graduate school and in the heart of my research, I didn’t have time to dedicate to a puppy, and I knew I’d be expected to help with the care of the dog. Of course, I still wasn’t thrilled about dogs in general at the time, especially big ones. I don’t want a dog that can kick my ass.

My mom said that Labs are sweet and good natured, much like Nikki. “That is a crock of shit”, I thought. My cousin (not Nikki’s owner) had labs that were mean and crazy as hell. My cousin lived just outside a small town in eastern Wake County, Wendell. The town is named after the late Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and even has a sign at the city limits honoring the late justice. Despite the fact that the town is named after Justice Holmes, the locals pronounce it “win-dale’ and not ‘win-del’, but I digress.

One day when I went to see my cousin, Al, his dogs were going berserk. After getting out of the car, Al tells me to cover my eyes with my hands before approaching the dogs. I questioned why, and he said it will calm them down. Sure enough, once we covered our eyes while walking over to them, the dogs calmed down and let us pet them. These are also the same dogs that had flattened car tires after biting them. Labs are not always sweetie-pies that they are made out to be.

Then there is the issue of my mom’s cleaning obsession. As I have mentioned before, she would vacuum at least once a day but usually more than that. And when I was a kid, I didn’t know what a hamper was. Our dirty clothes were to be immediately brought to the washing machine where my mom would do at least one load of laundry a day but usually more than that. So, having a big, sloppy lab gallivanting around the house would be a real strain for a neat freak like my mom.

(I also alluded to my parent’s poor track record with raising dogs. It wasn’t good.)

Without going into much detail about my mom’s personal history, her doctor had prescribed medicine for her recent depression. Not only did it effectively treat what it was prescribed for, it also tempered her cleaning obsession, which would later have a huge and beneficial impact on her interactions with her dogs, but at the time she bought Abby, I didn’t know about this.

This isn’t a mystery novel, and one would have to be dead from the neck up to guess what my mom’s final decision was; she got the dog.

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