Saturday, April 10, 2010
Sometime in June of 1998, my mom decided to get another dog. I agreed with her, and we found a litter of puppies for sale advertised in the Raleigh News & Observer. The breeder was in Greenville, NC, a college town around 85mi east of Raleigh. My mom wanted a yellow lab but left it to my discretion to choose the individual puppy as well as which gender.
I took a signed check from my mom, put a dog cage in the back of my Eclipse and drove alone down to Greenville. I had bought the cage months earlier for transporting Father to the vet. I was tired of him peeing and puking in my car and having to clean it up. The cage didn’t help his car sickness, but it did make cleaning much easier. A quick hose down, job done. This cage would come in handy in bringing back this yet to be chosen puppy.
The trip to Greenville was uneventful and boring. I had made it many times before when I was a student at ECU, which is located in Greenville. The terrain in eastern NC is flat, and if you have seen one pine tree there, you have seen them all. Pine trees, farms, more pine trees and more farms. This would be my first time back there in almost 10 years. The road to Greenville, US-264, had been widened in many places so that now most of the trip was on 4 lane highways. When I was in ECU, most of the trip past Raleigh was 2 lanes and believe me, you don’t want to get stuck behind a native eastern North Carolinian on a 2 lane highway. They obey the speed limits like those things were part of the 10 Commandments. It was maddening being stuck behind some hick that would not only obey the speed limit but would drive under the damned speed limit! Thankfully, the widened roads made this trip more bearable.
Upon arriving to Greenville, I noticed that the city had grown. Colleges can be good business and a boon to the local economy. I did take a wrong turn and was side-tracked a couple of mile but I eventually found the place.
The dog breeder’s house was in an older neighborhood (a house built in the 60’s is old by Greenville’s standards). The houses were in a style typical in NC built at the time. The bottom half of the house was brick while the top half was built of wood. The backyard was enclosed by a chain link fence, also typical in NC at the time. Nowadays, home owners associations would shriek in horror at someone placing such an eyesore in his backyard. Thank God for covenants so the busy-body do-gooders can tell other people what they can and can’t do with their own property.
I rang the bell and the owner, Howard Vainright, opened the door and greeted me. We had called ahead of time so he was expecting me. We went around back, and there was a kennel where the puppies were. I saw a raised patio deck by the house where a tired looking lab with long, lanky, bowed-legs was standing; she was Andy’s mom. (Andy got his legs from his mom.)
Howard showed me to the kennel and pointed out which puppies were his and which were not. The ones that were not belonged to his brother. Howard was doing his brother a favor by taking care of the puppies while the brother was out on vacation.
Howard opened the gate to the kennel and out came two white little beauties, a boy and a girl, followed by the rest of the litter. My command of the language and power of words are not strong enough to convey how damned cute those first two puppies were that came out of the gate. For a split second, I thought about buying both of them because they were so pretty. Actually, I silently thought about it for a couple of minutes while I watched the puppies play and frolic in the yard. I decided against it because there is a critical number of dogs in a house that once reached, the group of dogs become a pack beholden to themselves and will ignore the people in the house. I’ll describe in a later entry why I thought four dogs would be too many and how it would change the group dynamic for the worse.
As noted in this entry, I decided to get a boy. Pandy was playing fetch with Howard and a tennis ball. The ball was almost as big as Pandy’s head. Though I didn’t think that it was possible for Andy to be cuter, Andy did so when he lugged that ball across the yard back to Howard.
A boy it would be.
Howard was doing his due diligence to make sure we were upright and decent folk by asking about our home and pets. He wanted to know if we would use Andy primarily as a pet or if we would use him as a hunting dog. Howard was a duck hunter (I think); I could tell he was serious about breeding good hunting dogs. We brought Andy in the house where we would exchange information, and I would hand over the check for $300. Howard asked if I needed a box to crate Andy for the drive back, but I said that wouldn’t be necessary since I had brought a cage.
I put Andy in the cage and headed back home. It took about 10 min until we made it outside of Greenville. Andy cried the whole time. It was driving me nuts. Finally, just as we were about to enter the next county, Andy settled down, went to sleep and remained sleeping for the rest of the trip back.
As I pulled into the driveway, Andy was still sleeping. I reached into the cage, picked up his limp body, walked to the backyard and handed him over to my mom who was sitting on the steps of the pool. She thought he was beautiful and instantly fell in love with him. She would never have any second doubts about getting him. She said “Oh isn’t he pretty! His name is Andy Pandy.” She had already picked out a name for him. Andy Panda was a popular cartoon character in the mid 20th century, and my mom also had a dog named Andy Pandy when she was a kid. This is how Andy’s name originated.
Father and Abby, both in the backyard, immediately ran up to my mom curious about this new addition to the home. I can still see Abby’s furrowed brow as she was sniffing Andy. I can also see Father’s posturing. This portended the future of their relationship, Andy and Father.
Andy, understandably scared, clung tightly to my mom for protection. This moment set the tone of their relationship. Pandy immediately grew attached to my mom. It was as if there was imprinting with Andy, the way he was so close to my mom. Andy liked me, but he loved my mom, which was fine with me. I was leaving NC soon and didn’t need two dogs pining over my departure
Whatever happened to that female puppy that I came so close to buying? I hope she ended up in a happy home. She come so close to living in a big house with a pool and a big yard, or as I like to call it—doggy heaven. This house has been a magnet for dogs. Strays and neighborhood dogs that had escaped from their yards seemingly always found their way to our yard. This puppy would have most certainly loved this place. I hope this girl had a happy home and a happy life. If she hadn’t, I would feel awful not making a choice that would have made her life full of joy.