I bought Bradford at the beginning of the summer between my junior and senior years of college. I had intended to wait until August to make the purchase, but a lady with the church I was interning at offered me a good deal on the dog I wanted, and so I couldn’t say no.
If there’s anything cuter than a six week old chocolate lab puppy, I’ve yet to see it. With all apologies to my children, based on first appearances alone Bradford still stands as the cutest member of my family, at least upon initial viewing. *2* Bradford was a big ball of chocolate colored energetic cuddly puppy love, and I was as excited as I could be to bring him home as my own. Over the summer, I would take him every place I could, often to realize only too late that puppies will pee on your lap, even if you’re on the interstate and sans a change of clothes. *3* When I moved back to school, my roommates were *pretty* excited to have a dog, and Bradford quickly became a dog with four owners, not just one. I would often come home to find Sam or Dennis curled up with him on the couch, or dressed in his Gator shirt as we prepared to take on Tennessee. *4*
Over his first few years, Bradford would prove to be an indestructible eating machine, and the list of all he consumed without choking himself to death is staggering. *5* His destruction of property would probably not have been tolerated had he not also been a pretty effective means for meeting girls, a fact confirmed by my wife who tells me that he helped tip the scales in my favor when we were first dating. *6*
Bradford moved with me to North Carolina, traveled with me wherever I went, was a groomsman in my wedding *7*, moved into our first house with us, etc. Shortly after we were married, he got sick and we spent a fortune trying to figure out what was wrong with him. The solution ended up being a cheap medicine, though it’s side affects meant that he was never quite the same again.
Because he was her adopted “son,” Donnette tried to love Bradford as best she could, but in all fairness to her, he didn’t make this an easy task. He refused to come in when she let him out, feigning deafness until she was close enough to give him a good swat. There was also the matter of his shedding, and the near constant sweeping Donnette and I were forced to do over the six years we lived with him. It was visions of fishing dog hair out of Avonlea’s mouth that would eventually lead to Bradford’s demise, but more on that in a minute.
During our first year of marriage, Donnette decided that she wanted to get a dachshund puppy, a move I was strongly opposed to. *8* We compromised by agreeing that if we could adopt, or “rescue” one that we would do that, otherwise we would stick with the one dog. I thought for sure this would take months, if it ever happened at all, because who puts up dachshund puppies for rescue?
It took four days.
And so we brought home an undersized, frightened little dachshund puppy we named “Mac”, because of his strong resemblance to a popular kids pasta noodle. While Mac adored Donnette, he was pretty loathe of all men, an attitude that led to him flinging himself down our steep staircase, head-first, in an attempt to get away from me. He didn’t warm up to me until he was hit by a car and lost his right back leg, and could no longer scratch his right ear on his own. *9* Bradford and Mac were good buddies, and the two of them (and our cat as well) lived happily in our house until the arrival of our firstborn.
I love that in the Disney movie “The Lady and the Tramp,” the movie transitiions from John Dear and Darling asking how anyone could possibly replace Lady in their lives, immediately to the very thing that supplants every pet in a couple’s life, the baby. It just seems so obvious; it doesn’t matter how much you love your dog(s), they are going to move way down the list of importance once the kid arrives.
Bradford was nearly 10 when Avonlea came on the scene, and by that point he wasn’t in great shape, health-wise. He was still as sweet as he could be, and I can’t imagine that he’d ever have done anything to hurt her, but that didn’t stop him from shedding all over the house and emitting smells that clearly indicated the end of life was near. Other than missing his right hind leg, Mac was a picture of health, but because he’d snapped at small children in the past, we knew that Avonlea’s arrival would mean his near departure. By October, we had a plan for dealing with our pets. Mac was going to live with a newly retired woman who was looking for a little lap dog to spend her days loving on. Our cat was going to live with Donnette’s grandparents, who had just lost their own cat and wanted another one, but weren’t in the mood to start over from scratch. Donnette and my mom took Bradford to live on a nice, quiet farm, and while I’ve never been allowed to visit they assure me that it is quite nice there and I needn’t worry about him. In less than 10 days we went from three pets to zero, and have remained at that number ever since.
It’s funny, because we loved our pets, we really did, but neither one of us has, for a second, regretted getting rid of them, or wanted to bring one back into our lives. Personally, I’m done dealing with them. The fur, the barking, the poop. *10* As the title suggests, our dog days are over, done, at least until all of the kids are out of the house and we are done traveling.
So, you know, never.
We’ve actually agreed that should one of us cave in to our kids requests and push to get a dog, that that person will be labeled the “weak” spouse, a moniker that will remain with them (her) for the rest of their (her) life. You might currently be wondering about what this says about our marriage, but at least our position on pets has been clarified. *11*
I write all of this because I honestly believe that, for us, this is a grace. MTW had us read a book on preparing for the mission field, and one of the pieces of advice it gave was for us to not get a dog. *12* There are many, many things that we are going to have to figure out how to take with us when we move to France. There are people we’re going to have to say goodbye to, and the thought of doing that is, somedays, completely overwhelming. But of all the things we’re going to have to figure out how to ship, at least a dog won’t be one of them. Or, of all the goodbyes that will need to be made, there won’t be any tearful eyes given to our faithful family companion who has no idea what’s happening. Our attitude towards pets is a grace, I firmly believe that, because this move is going to be tough enough, and a dog (or cat or, even a turtle *13*) would make it that much more complicated.
Once again, thank you all for your prayers and your support. We can feel them, every day.
Also, know that should you ever see a picture of us in France and we seem to have our own dog, it was Donnette’s doing….
*1* I must confess to having spent way too much time thinking about the title of this post. I also considered going with “No puppies for young missionaries”, “There will be (no) puppies” (for you Josh Hurst) and simply “No puppy love,” before ultimately deciding on this one.
*2* This isn’t to say that I wasn’t excited to see Avonlea or Oliver, or that I didn’t find them beautiful right from the get-go. It is simply to say that, objectively, puppies come into their own more quickly than babies, that’s all.
*3* Which, really, was pretty good training for having children.
*4* The guys actually adorned Bradford in any number of different ways, some of which aren’t really appropriate to mention here. Still, he took it all in stride, just happy to receive some attention.
*5* The list includes: At least three pairs of tennis shoes, four pairs of flip-flops, an entire pair of Mandy Patton’s Doc Matin Sandals, minus one buckle (in less than 20 minutes too), a pair of Oakley sunglasses, a portion of the Old Testament, and while we can’t prove it, I’m pretty sure this list includes Christian’s credit cards and drivers license. And that was just off the top of my head.
*6* In Donnette’s case, it wasn’t so much his cuteness that drew her in as it was my ability to provide and care for another living thing. Of course, she didn’t really know that I didn’t so much keep Bradford alive, but rather that he was indestructible.
*7* This is a joke. He was the percussionist.
*8* I don’t have anything against dachshunds, it was just that I could still remember how much work housebreaking Bradford was, and didn’t really want to go through that again.
*9* I won’t go into all the details of how Mac lost his leg, except to tell you about the conversation that led to it’s removal. We’d taken Mac back to the vet to have his leg reevaluated, and upon examining the x-rays they’d called Donnette to tell her that they wanted to take his leg. She called me stammering “They *sob sob sob* want *sob* to take *sob* his leg!!!” So I called the vet to weigh out our options. He gave me two choices: 1. Because his leg was fractured in numerous places, they would need to use a “ring-pin” to hold his leg in place. This is the type of device that fits around an appendage, and is held in place by numerous pins while the leg heals. He couldn’t guarantee me that it would work, and even with all of this they might end up needing to take the leg off anyways. He could guarantee me that Mac would be in pain for the rest of his life and would need to lie pretty much still for nearly six weeks. Oh, and it would cost $3,000. Or 2. They could take the leg off, Mac would never notice, he wouldn’t be in any pain, and would be able to live a normal, happy life. The cost for option 2? $199. My only words to him…”take the leg off.” The Dr. was right too, the effects on Mac were negligible. He looked like Frankenstein’s monsters dog when we brought him home, but the very next day he was running up and down the stairs with no problem. The only real noticeable difference was he couldn’t itch his ear anymore, and that when he would run fast and try to plant with his phantom foot, he would barrel roll across the yard. Which was, in my humble opinion, hilarious.
*10* I mean, having kids means dealing with enough poop as it is. In the time it’s taken me to write this post, I’ve had to deal with poop on three separate occasions. And it isn’t even 4:00 pm yet!
*11* Because some of the people who read this may not get my sense of humor, let me clarify. We have a great marriage, we get along fine and agree on most everything, especially when it comes to parenting. It’s just that we’re both stubborn and hardheaded, and both of us would hate to wear the label of being the parent who caved.
*12* Actually, it said this. “Don’t get a dog. Just kidding. But no, really, don’t get a dog.”
*13* I don’t remember all of the details, but one of our teammates told us about the hassle another missionary had trying to get rid of their turtle when they needed to come home on HMA. A French family was all set to take the reptile, until they realized that this was not an official, French turtle, but was instead some sort of foreign invader, and was therefore, no good. To me, this speaks volumes about both the French mindset, and about how much we do not need a pet.