Much to the chagrin of my wife, in 2004, my father purchased a puppy for my son and daughter. Angie always said (not very seriously) that she hated dogs, and really never wanted one, but it was kind of hard for her to say no after Dad gifted it to the kids. The puppy was a lab-something-mix from one of the local pet-rescue centers. They had been calling her Holly, which was also the name of a friend, so we renamed her Hally.
The minute we brought her home, my six-year-old daughter, Joanne, flipped-shit and dubbed the lab “Vampire Dog”. Hally had a lot of energy; she was a puppy, so jumping and nipping was a part of it. Joanne wanted nothing to do with the vampire and stayed in her room that afternoon and through the night, cautious even to take dinner behind closed doors. Needless to say, I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t work out.
It was as if our daughter had been replaced by aliens overnight, because by the next morning, she was cuddling and sharing food with Hally. My son, James, loved the dog as long as he remembered to keep anything edible off the floor, like comic books or gaming guides. Angie was tolerant of the hairy toddler, petting Hally almost as often as Joanne. (Not that she’d admit it.) And Hally quickly became family.
Hally fit in right away. She would lick caps off the booze bottles in the wine rack so they would spill all over the floor and she could clean it up. Every morning she would guard us from squirrels, going so far as to eat the head off of one when I was out of town on business. As proof of her hunting prowess, Hally left the carcass for Angie to clean up. (Yet another reason my wife hates dogs.) As Hally became older, she also became quite the connoisseur of bugs. Most summer nights were spent eating every one she could find, including licking ants off of trees. Dogs are gross.
Dogs should come with some sort of damage insurance. Hally would revenge-shit throughout the house if we went on vacation and left her in a kennel. Maybe it’s a lab thing, because the black lab I had growing up did the same thing. Of course, that wasn’t everything the dog ruined. When she was a puppy, she ate the corner off every drawer of my son’s dresser, and the corner of our new family room table. Ate it. And that wasn’t all she ate. It’s a long list. Sometimes I hate dogs too (but not really.)
Then there are the other moments. Any time Hally would get a new rawhide bone, she would prance around the family room as we praised her, saying, “what a pretty bone.” We fondly referred to it as a bone fashion show. Like most dogs, she loved being pet. But Hally, being an exhibitionist, loved it best when someone watched her get pet. She also had best friends. My mother-in-law, my father, and my daughter’s boyfriend got all of the attention they could handle when visiting. She spent most of her time with Joanne, especially after James went to college, but greeted Angie with the most enthusiasm at the end of the day. She loved my wife. Every morning, Hally would come into our room and place her chin on the mattress for my wife to pet her. (Since my wife hates dogs.)
We did a poor job training Hally. She never played fetch, she’d play chase – picking up a soccer ball and running around with it until we were exhausted or she got bored. Taking her for a walk was always an exciting adventure, or a fierce battle, depending on which end of the leash you were on. One day my dad was at my house, waiting for my son’s to get home from school. Hally got out, bolted straight to the school bus and boarded to say hi to all of the kids. Dad could hear the children’s screams (I’m sure out of excitement and not fear) as the giant, black beast ran up and down the aisle, and then peed before departing. Another time Hally got out, James ran after her – she thought it was a game and took off. Who knew that the laziest dog ever could move so fast? I grabbed my car keys and drove until I found them several blocks down the road. Hally was giddy, and my son said he felt like throwing up. Then there was the time the neighbor dog dug under the fence they they both wrestled in the mud before coming inside. Dogs.
It wasn’t always fun times of table eating and bus peeing. Hally had three separate cancer surgeries. The first one left a scar along her ribs. (Thus the name of the black lab in my Angst books, Scar. But, really, my books aren’t autobiographical.) Those surgeries made her hate the vet. I know I would. The recovery from her third surgery last year was rough, too rough. She was old enough that we had debated on whether or not to do it, but being family we went ahead, knowing it would be the last one.
Another tumor appeared this summer, and we knew what was coming. We had hoped that we could wait until my son got home from college this Christmas. But then Hally’s back legs began to fail, and then she stopped eating, and then drinking, and then her legs did stop working. It was crushing to watch. She never cried out in pain, but was very confused and agitated. I’m grateful that the worst of it happened quickly. It wasn’t a surprise, she was fourteen. As my wife said, it’s a part of the deal. Sometimes the deal sucks. The second week of October we had the vet put her to rest.
Hally was a great dog, and I’m really glad she was a part of my family. The house still feels empty and quiet without her. Dogs are the best pain-in-the-ass ever. All they know is food, love, shedding, and more food. I miss her, and I hope she’s eating all the squirrel heads she wants. Don’t let the secret out, but from my wife’s tears, I really know how much she hates dogs. About as much as I do.