Monday, October 4, 2010

The "Brat Pack"

I'm a dog-lover - I've had one or (usually) more dogs since I was a little boy. I still remember the night my dad came home with our very first dog, a light-tan colored German Shepherd puppy. My mother must not have known beforehand that a dog was coming into the family because a big argument ensued, but once a little boy has been given a puppy it's very hard to take it away from him and so the dog stayed. I promptly named him "Sandy Beach" for the color of his fur, and of course that was instantly shortened to just "Sandy". He was truly a great dog - loyal, protective, and totally devoted to his family. He lived a full life and I had gone off to college when the time for his final ride to the vet came. I still miss him.

So of course the first thing I did when I got out of the Army and moved back to Maine was to get a dog - a German Shepherd, of course. And because I didn't want him to be lonely while I was at work (my office didn't allow dogs) I went to the Shelter and got him a pal, a small poodle, the most pathetic looking dog I had ever seen. They became fast friends, and they lived to be "old" by dog standards, but of course their times came, too. A dog's time always comes.

The next 30 years or so brought a succession of dogs (and wives) into my life, and I loved them all dearly. So when my Cocker Spaniel "Oliver" and Dalmatian "Darcy" left within a few weeks on each other about six years ago, I thought my dog days were over. I was approaching 60 years of age and married for the fourth time, and it seemed like a good time to go dogless. Fate, of course, intervened.

Fate in the person of my wife, who had always wanted to raise Labrador Retrievers, so she arranged to pick a female yellow lab from a friend's litter. I wasn't consulted and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have mattered if I had objected (like I ever would!) so another dog was in the offing for the Mainer household. But fate is fickle, and as luck would have it the litter included just one black lab, a male and don't you know he was just too irresistable to pass up, so we got TWO puppies, the yellow female to breed ("Ellie"), and "Lance". And it was made abundantly clear that these dogs were not MY dogs, they were HER dogs, which was fine with me.

Until I opened the local paper one day and there, in the full page ad for the local animal shelter, was the picture of the cutest, most adorable Cocker Spaniel I had ever seen. And I thought, "what the heck, if we're going to have two dogs around the house we might as well have three." And so "Buddy" came to join the pack; he was just a few months older than the labs and since I never told him he was "adopted" he still doesn't know he's not one of them.

So for a couple of years three dogs romped and played at the Mainer household, and life was good. I fenced in the whole back yard so the pack (when you have 3 dogs they're a pack) didn't have to be "walked" constantly, we all shared in their care and upbringing, and everything seemed idyllic. "Seemed" being the operative word, because then a funny thing happened.

She left - I mean here one day, gone the next. Moved out, vamoosed, adios daddy-o. And guess what - she left the dogs! ALL OF THEM! So not only was I newly and unexpectedly single, but I had 3 dogs to take care of. This was almost four years ago so at least by now they have grown out the "teenage" stage where they felt like they had to chew everything (they ate my couch - literally!) and break out of the yard to go on adventures on a regular basis (now they just do it occasionally.) And I've grown quite fond of them - I even call the labs "my" dogs now since it doesn't appear that she is ever coming back to claim them.

Three dogs are a lot of company - not so good at conversation, but a lot of company and quite entertaining. We've worked out a routine that works pretty well for all of us; and it's always exciting when company comes.

So that's the saga of how the "Brat Pack" (because they really are spoiled brats) came to be- Lance, the alpha(minus) male (90 pounds of sinew and muscle, controlled by a single brain cell that may or may not be engaged at any given moment); Ellie, the pack bitch (her motto: If it moves, makes a noise or smells funny, it needs to be barked at); and Buddy, the lap lab (and the best "mouser" a dog ever was). Oh, and Thor the cat, the pack mascot (he and Buddy have a very strange and unnatural relationship.)

I do love them all dearly but my deepest, darkest fear is that, at 51/2 years old, they could outlive me! I suppose from a practical point of view I should make provisions for them in case that should happen (I wonder how my 2 sons will feel about sharing their inheritance with 3 dogs?) But whatever happens, one thing is for certain: NO MORE DOGS FOR ME!


  1. Hey Diri....Great write-up....I couldn't imagine ever waking up and not having a pet to greet me in the morn.. Our kids have instructions that they are to follow should we leave before the pups time and if they don't follow it to a T they get no inheritance!!!!!

    1. Gill I.P. It's great to hear from you - I've missed chatting with you from time to time! I wrote this post over 3 years ago and not much has changed since then. Hmm, threatening to cut my sons out of the will if they don't provide for the pets - that might work if I hadn't already spent most of their inheritance on vet bills. Nope, I think I just have to resolve to out-live all the critters.

  2. Diri, thanks for linking your dog-blog. I'm thinking that they're 3/4 of your avatar! Love the stories. I once had two dogs (Mom and Son) that ate a couch, a fence and a dozen rose bushes, thorns and all.

    1. Ginger, thanks for visiting! They are indeed the inspiration for my avatar - I don't have a Chocloate Lab but otherwise it's almost perfect. And yeah, they'll eat anything they can get in their mouths - Lance recently required a visit to the pet emergency clinic for that very reason and I'm $1500 poorer for the experience. I really have to look into pet health insurance or I'm going to wind up in the poor house.