A touch of spice

Free dog drives family to poor house


I wanted a dog. One that would run and play and keep my feet warm on cold winter nights.

My husband wanted a dog. One that was either stuffed or battery operated my choice.

My husband thought he would win the debate because two obstacles stood between me and a furry companion: We were not allowed pets of any kind in our rental, and the cat was not particularly friendly to intruders.

I was open to suggestions, and a walking target. My dad saw me coming, and was armed and ready.

Dogs have always lived on our family's ranch dogs that are either very promiscuous or incredibly slow. Whichever affliction they suffer from, the end result is that we get a new litter of puppies almost every year (sometimes twice).

Distributing the products of these affairs falls to our family (the father denies responsibility and is usually in another county by the time the results of his work are discovered). My father does his part in searching for good homes. He's a salesman at heart, and he had my number.

"I can see the intelligence in her eyes," he boasted about the only puppy remaining.

"How big will she get?" I asked. I was already sold. I had seen the adorable fur balls teetering around the ranch, searching for affection from a mother who felt too restricted by motherhood. The questions were for the benefit of my husband.

"Not too big," dad said, no hint of a smile on his face. "Probably not as big as her mother."

Her mother, an average-sized border collie, was affectionate and beautiful, and had been impregnated by a Great Pyrenees.

I wasn't sure what a Great Pyrenees was.

So I bought the story, and found out later something I should have known all along. My father wasn't to be trusted.

We drove out to the ranch the next day, I excited and my husband resigned.

We loaded the puppy into a box and started the trip home. We called the black and white ball of fur Panda.

As we were pulling away, dad said, in an aside, that every one of those puppies had been sick on its way to Craig.

This one shouldn't be sick, though, he said.

A mile from the ranch, I took the puppy out of the box to cuddle and comfort on the way to her new home.

She threw up.

Dad didn't tell me she ate remnants of an antelope shot during hunting season.

That cost a car detail.

I purchased necessities collar, leash, toys, specially formulated shampoo, high-nutrient dog food and a brush about $45 worth.

Over the next few months, Panda grew to amazing proportions and wreaked havoc in our minuscule back yard. She was affectionate, but not too smart. She refused to be potty trained (we had to buy a carpet shampooer) and chewed on any clothes that weren't sealed into the hamper (replacements cost about $100).

We decided we needed a house (that was a hefty investment), because the dog needed a yard ($175 for a second-hand 6-foot fence).

Of course, a 6-foot fence couldn't keep the dog contained. She inherited her mother's loose morals, and was continually on the prowl.

We chained her up. She broke the chain.

We used a bigger chain. She pulled out the stake.

We chained her to a cinder block. She aroused the sympathy of a neighbor who sent an anonymous postcard berating us for torturing the poor creature.

Dad offered us a solution. He would trade us his dog (as close to stuffed as my husband could get) for ours, and he would take Panda to be a permanent resident at the ranch, but only if she was spayed ($200, a great idea, but about four litters past its time).

She is now happy and free to roam, limited only by her energy.

It was a great deal, one in which we were sure we got the better end. Dad said his dog was the best dog in the world.

I fell for it again.

We now have a dog who pees on the floor when she gets in trouble, has digestive problems, fakes senility, has selective hearing, eats roadkill and throws up in the living room, refuses to ride anywhere but in the front of a vehicle, jumps out when forced to ride in the back (at about 45 mph on the pavement) is neurotic and needs therapy.

The next dog we get will be battery operated, if we don't stuff this one first.

We're still plotting our revenge on dad. Ideas and co-conspirators welcome.

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