Friday, August 5, 2011

Another family dog? Not so fast!

We love dogs. I’ve had a dog for most of my life and we’ve had a dog in our family our entire marriage. Our kids know nothing else than having a four-legged friend padding around the house. Years ago, before children and the business that surrounds them, we fostered dogs in our home. We would go to the local animal shelter, adopt a dog, spend the next several months training it and finding it a permanent home. Each one of those dogs is a pleasant memory.

However, we had two children. Our son is now entering school in the Fall and our daughter is an adventurous two year old, going on 15. The time we had to commit to fostering dogs was limited and therefore, over time, we narrowed our family down to a one dog family. Although, if you ask our dog, Tucker, he would probably say, “Dog? What dog? I am the oldest son.” And that sums up our love for dogs.

Recently, my son and daughter both have been clamoring for another dog. In fact, they want a “puppy”. Several thoughts crossed my mind as the chant for a puppy increased in volume and regularity.

My first thought was, “do you have any idea how much work a puppy is? They chew everything, they aren’t housebroken!” The answer of course is, no, they don’t.

The second thought I had was, “I finally have gotten the one dog we have broken it in.” It has taken nearly eight years, but he is now the perfect family dog. He sleeps when he is supposed to sleep, he eats what he supposed eat (which is NOT the furniture), he relieves himself where he is supposed to relieve himself. So I was obviously in no hurry to respond to this request, a request that would ultimately turn my world upside down.

But as if the pointed ears of a wandering puppy could hear my children’s cry, one morning as we are preparing to leave for church, we find a beautiful white coated, blue eyed female puppy sitting on our back porch, looking hungry and thirsty. You might believe my first feeling was empathy and concern, but I am going to be honest with you, I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I thought it was a joke.

You can probably guess how this story goes from this point forward. My wife, who has a huge heart for dogs, gave the puppy food and water. When we returned from church, that puppy sat at attention on our porch as if she was dutifully guarding our home in our absence, growing the fondness my family was already feeling for her. Except for Tucker, who tends to great all dogs with a level of disdain, as if he himself is not a dog. But I know better than the rest of my family on this one, I know this was all puppy manipulation.

As my wife is packing to leave to visit her parents for the week, she sends me a text, “I am worried about the puppy, he is destroying the screen on the window and chewing an electrical outlet.” Who is left to deal with this cute little menace? You guessed it. So, if you are looking for a cute puppy that needs a home, contact me soon. I am not sure how tolerant daddy will be when this puppy starts trying to eat my tractor.

Why won't this car die?!?!

My car is dying. In fairness, it isn’t my car. It is my wife’s car. Or maybe I should put that in the past tense; it was my wife’s car. In fact, to be clear, it was my wife’s college car. This 1997 Chevy Cavalier now has legendary status in our family, it can survive anything. In fact, to my dismay, it survived being picked up and tossed by the recent tornadoes. Of course, it landed wheels down and showed little damage. She just brushed herself off and kept on running.

Unfortunately for the car, she isn’t my favorite. In fact, she isn’t even close. You might ask, “Why do you drive this antique with nearly 200,000 miles on it?” Well, I made a commitment. I once said, as long as it runs, I’ll drive it to avoid a car payment. Let this serve as a word of caution - I said that five years ago.

How did I end up driving this car in the first place? Well, as in many families, our circumstances dictated the type of cars we purchased and drove. When we got married, I was driving my dream truck. It was big, manly, and a stick shift. Unfortunately for that truck, my wife couldn’t drive a stick shift. Additionally, at the time, I had a job that was quite some distance from our home and big, manly, stick shift trucks don’t generally get good gas mileage, so it had to go.

The next circumstance was that we had children. Apparently, somewhere in the marriage and family instruction book it requires previously rugged outdoorsman to purchase powder blue minivans once they have families. I must have missed that day in class and I never received the manual, but his is what I am told. So we bought the minivan and I’ve must tell you, nothing screams TOUGH like a minivan with automated side doors.

So, getting rid of my truck that only I could drive and trading it in for a minivan, which was for my wife to drive, left me with the car.

Just so you understand, I am a big guy and the Cavalier is not. So getting in and out of this car is somewhat like watching the clowns pile out of the compact car at the circus. Let’s just say it is not the most comfortable car. But after a couple of years, I made it my own. Unfortunately, this story gets worse. About two summers ago the air conditioning went out. I took it into a mechanic to see how much it would cost to get it fixed, “$1000” the big, greasy, tough guy behind the counter said in a tone that suggested he wondered why a big guy like me would be driving a girly little circus car. It seemed a little high, so I took it somewhere else to get a second opinion, “$1200”, the woman behind the next counter said with a look in her eyes that suggested she thought I was less of man because I wanted AC in my little toy car.

The price clearly wasn’t going to get any better so I pondered my options, do I put a $1000 air conditioner in a car that was only blue book valued at $600 or do I simply sweat through the summer? Being the cheap guy I am, I decided to sweat it out, I could use to lose a few pounds anyways.

Well, that was two summers ago and I am midway through my third summer in my little antique girly car with no air conditioning and despite all the pounds I sweated off and despite of the judgmental glances I receive at the stop lights, I’ve grown fond of my little car. I own it now, it is no longer my wife’s college car, it’s mine. But she is fading, she creaks when she turns, she starts slower, and little warning lights are coming on all the time. Maybe it is in this year that I turn 40 that my own aging has given me sympathy on all things aging and loyal over time. When she goes, she will be missed. At least until I get back in my dream truck!

Tucker, the Family . . . Hummingbird?!?!

I am fascinated by hummingbirds. You may question the depth of my manhood when you read that statement, but in fairness, have you ever looked closely at one of those crazy birds? They seem to be more closely related to a bug than a bird. My wife recently put out hummingbird feeders (ultimately they are plastic containers that look like apples filled with sugar water) and to my astonishment, the hummingbirds came. But they didn’t just come for a quick sip of the sweet sugar juice, they came to chug it! One hummingbird in particular seems to visit all day every day, not sure how that little guy holds all that juice, but I assume he has to make many trips to the hummingbird men’s room.

My son has grown attached to this little guy and decided to give him a name. Now, for those of you who don’t realize, an animal takes on a whole new meaning in a family when a child is able to name them. Since I had never heard of anyone naming a hummingbird, I anxiously asked my son what title he had in mind for this thirsty little bird.

“Tucker,” he answered excitedly.

“Tucker?” I asked.

“Yes, the hummingbird’s name is Tucker,” he responded, full on confidence.

“But the dogs name is Tucker,” I told him in an effort to point out what seemed to be a painfully obvious duplication and a possible point of confusion for our canine family member.

“Yes, I know.” Okay, deal done, the hummingbird is now Tucker, so much for my son’s creative genes. I guess we can catalog that name in with other originals he has come up with like, “dog” for his stuffed dog, “horse” for his stuffed horse, or my favorite, “lion” for his . . . you guessed it, sock lion.

Despite my son’s lack of imagination in the name creation category, my fascination with this little bug . . . or bird, continues. So, why am I so fascinated with Tucker the hummingbird? Well, it’s not the name, although I am fascinated with what my son thinks will happen the next time he yells, “Tucker, come here!” I am fascinated with this little bird because he is simultaneously moving faster than my eye can see and sitting perfectly still, hovering next to the feeder as if it was an ornament hanging from a invisible string.

As I attempt to dissect this fascination, and simultaneously watch as my son attempts to call the bird to light on his finger, “Here Tucker, Tucker. Land on my finger, Tucker,” while the dog looks on in total confusion (I can only imagine what is going through his mind, “On your finger? Really?”), my mind wanders to the fact that this bird is like most of our lives. The world around us is moving, changing, and evolving at a speed that we cannot even see and yet our lives sometimes seem to be firmly planted at a standstill. Or maybe it is just the simple idea that we have a hummingbird and a dog both named Tucker. I wonder which will try and get on his finger first . . . this could be fun.