Doesn’t every family want a dog? A happy tail wagging when you come home? Someone to snuggle with when life has turned against you? Leisurely afternoons playing catch? OK, I’ll admit I was living in a fantasy world.
All around us families were bringing home puppies so we decided to take the plunge. In a brief moment of lucidity, I recognized that sleep deprivation kills me, a puppy does a lot of waking up during the night during that all important training period, so we nixed the idea of a puppy and decided to look for a two year old.
Yes, already house broken. Trained to follow basic commands. Ideal!
After several trips to our local animal shelter Humane Rescue Alliance, our family–two boys ages 7 and 9, my husband and I—we thought we had found our perfect pet. When we went for our final visit before signing the papers, one of the workers asked if we wanted to meet the sweetest dog in the shelter. Sweet sounded good, and I failed to hear the caveat in the shelter. So we visited Pettigrew (then known as Rolly) in his stall. He was adorably housed with another dog that was afraid of people and the workers were hoping that our dog, as I quickly came to think of him, would show the other dog how to behave around people.
Rolly (aka Pettigrew) came right up to the half door, flopped his chin on top, looked up, and asked us to rub behind his ears. A few minutes later and papers signed, pick up date arranged.
The first challenge was what to name the newest member of our family. Calling this scrawny fellow Rolly seemed a cruel joke.
A friend with a lifetime of experience sharing her home with dogs cautioned me that we had to find a name both children liked. If not, she warned, the dog would always belong more to the child who selected the chosen name. OK. No prob. I thought. Was I ever wrong.
We spent endless hours tossing around names. At the time we were deep into the Harry Potter series and ultimately our thoughts turned to characters from the book. Hedwig… no. Harry…no. In desperation I threw out Pettigrew, because, like the character Peter Pettigrew in the book that is missing a finger, our new dog was missing a claw. Before I had time to reflect that Peter Pettigrew is hardly an admirable fellow, in fact, he’s pretty evil, the boys had agreed. I turned the car and drove straight to the pet supply store to purchase a tag with our dog’s new name and our contact information. I was not taking the chance on anyone changing his mind.
With food and water bowls set up at home, a collar with tag, leash, and dog treat for the 20 minute ride home, we headed off to collect our new, furry friend.
Before getting into the car, I thought it prudent to take Pettigrew for a walk. After all, the boys always did a bathroom visit before we headed out. My newest child should use the facilities too.
The four of us, me, the two boys, and Pettigrew toddled across the street to a community garden to wander between the planted beds. Lovely, our first walk.
“Mommy, why is Pettigrew holding a dead mouse in his mouth,” one of my cherubs piped up. In horror I saw that indeed, Pettigrew had acquired a mouse, which he was gently carrying between his lips. The mouse was a limp, white rag dripping out either side of his jaw.
Knowing that my reaction would be closely watched to this, one of our first times together as a new family, I calmly agreed that yes, he did appear to have a mouse, and perhaps he would drop it before we needed to get into the car. Personally, I resolved that we would walk until our feet were sore if need be. I was not going to touch that dead mouse. Nor was it coming into my car. Pettigrew would have to drop it. Thank god he did.
Perhaps I should have known then that like a new child, a dog has all sorts of unexpected qualities, tastes, and personality quirks. But I was too busy patting myself on the back for not screaming and managing, quite well, the mouse challenge.