I promised to share with you how we came to acquire Rizzo.
It's a charming story.
When Javier died last April, I said what lots of recently-bereaved dog owners say: I'll never have another dog. Never. It hurts too much when they die.
But then weeks and months go by, and the dog-longing begins with just missing so much their sweet presence beside you in the chair. Missing their little puppy ways and cute antics. Not to mention their unconditional love.
Kind of like when a sleep-deprived new mother thinks, I can never do this again! But then, in practically no time, she's struck with baby hunger.
Naturally the longing is offset -- for a while, at least -- by the freedom from responsibility.
No dog means never having to worry about whether he's inside or outside, if it's time to take him on walkies, the possibility he'll pick up fleas, giving him baths and clipping his nails, getting his shots updated, how far to go (read: how much to spend) when he needs medical care, and does he really like his new sweater or is he just enduring it?
You know. Things like that. And on and on.
At any rate, and all of the above notwithstanding, three-or-so weeks ago I became afflicted with a serious craving to obtain a new dog. It wasn't the first time, but it was by far the worst time.
I told TG. Lie down until the impulse goes away, was his sage advice.
But he said it with a twinkle and I knew if I went through with it, he would like a new dog as much as me. (I don't mean he'd like the new dog as much as he likes me; I mean he'd like the new dog as much as I would like the new dog.)
A breed we've both admired for years is the Dachshund. I know all of the problems inherent with the breed; trust me. I do. But they're adorable and besides, I was more or less fixated on getting a miniature.
So I began my online research about breeders of miniature doxies in South Carolina and Georgia.
What did I learn? Well. First I learned that a purebred miniature dachshund from a reputable breeder can cost anywhere from nine hundred to twenty-five hundred dollars.
Okay. That wasn't exactly within my budget -- you'll learn what that was, later -- but I kept looking and even put out a few inquiries and talked to one or two breeders who had puppies available from new litters.
I spent most of an entire rainy day working on it and went to bed dreaming of soft brown eyes and scritching warm little ears and practically imagining I smelled a whiff of puppy breath. The whole canine yards.
And then I woke up the next morning. It was that extremely cold Saturday we had recently. There was even a dusting of snow.
As I made my coffee I was chuckling inwardly. A DOG? Whatever had I been thinking? Silly idea. Forget it. Or at least table it.
I told TG that he could stop worrying about my having contracted dog fever. He pointed out that at any rate there was no need to rush. You can pick out a dog any time, he said.
I agreed. There are always dogs in need of loving owners. TG left to run errands. I settled in to drink coffee and look at more dogs on the Internet.
And so it was that I stumbled -- I use that word because I have no memory of how I arrived at it -- upon a website that featured dogs in dire need of rescuing. It was one of the dog services outfits in Columbia. One I'd never heard of.
The site said each dog cost seventy-three dollars. Cats were sixty-eight. Idly, while sipping, I scrolled through pictures. And I came to this:
There was a short bio. His name was Stevie. He was a Chihuahua mix, about a year old, and housebroken.
I was ninety-nine percent sure this was my dog. Forget waiting. Waiting is for sissies. I called the number.
The lady who answered was so nice. I asked how they knew Stevie was housebroken. She said the folks who had brought him in to the shelter had found him on the side of the road. They'd kept him for two weeks and reported that he was polite about asking when he needed to go outside.
After learning what time the shelter closed that day, I said thank you and hung up. We had just enough time if we left within the hour. But wait! Was there any need to rush? I mean, was it a life and death situation?
I called back. A different but no less nice lady answered. I asked if, in the event I did not come out that day and claim Stevie, there was any chance he would be euthanized (I wasn't sure they weren't the dog pound).
Oh no. No, no, no, no. Certainly not, she assured me. And they were closed the next day -- Sunday. Chances were pretty good Stevie would still be up for adoption on Monday.
But I had to see Stevie that day. And so we went. The nice ladies told me where to find him -- down a hall and to the left, open the heavy door, look for cage number thirteen.
I'm sure they're doing the best they can with what they've got, but it was awful back there. Cold, dark, cramped, and most unfortunate-smelling.
We found cage number thirteen -- a six-by-six concrete space with a chain-link gate and a steel slide-up doggy door leading outside. Stevie came through that door just as we approached. Another small dog -- Waffles, according to the sign -- also occupied the tiny cell.
I opened the gate. Waffles wandered out. TG caught him and put him back, and picked up Stevie. He handed Stevie to me and I took him in my arms and we left that terrible place and went out to the Get Acquainted Area. They had given me a lead for him and I took him outside for a two-minute walk.
I picked him up and carried him back inside. I looked at TG, who only smiled. I went to the desk where one of the nice ladies looked at me. Yes? she said.
Yes, I said.
That will be thirty-five dollars, she said.
THAT was my budget. (Turns out there was a special on Stevies that day.) I grabbed my wallet and handed her a fifty (yes; my wallet is stuffed with fifties) before she changed her mind.
Stevie -- who by the way is half Chihuahua and half Dachshund, or a Chiweenie -- came with recent neuter surgery (December 28th), all of his shots for a full year, and a microchip. He'd been tested for heart worms (negative) and they sold me a year's worth of medication to keep him that way, for only thirty-eight additional dollars.
A few technicalities later, Stevie was mine. I held him all the way home. He seemed a tiny bit scared but not enough that he cried. We stopped at the pet store to buy him some supplies, including soothing oatmeal shampoo, kibble, a crate, a leash with matching harness, food and water dishes, and a chew toy.
At home he got a bath and we settled in to snuggle. Erica came over to meet Stevie, who by that time had been renamed Rizzo. (First Baseman for the Cubs, my favorite player on my favorite team. Our previous dog, Javier "Javy," had been named by the kids after the Atlanta Braves Catcher.)
He really is housebroken. Rizzo's worst flaw -- other than, mostly he refuses to come when called -- is that he seems to think he's a squirrel. As in, he incessantly nibbles on acorns to the point that the back deck was becoming heavily littered with shells.
TG and I performed an intense acorn clean-up as they are toxic to dogs. But if there is an acorn out there, Rizzo will find it. He begs to go outside for that very reason, but mostly I watch him carefully so as to save him from himself.
Rizzo is everything I dreamed of in a new dog. He's young enough to still be cute like a puppy, but old enough to enjoy lots of cuddling and long naps and getting massaged and nibbling at my fingers while we watch TV and just in general being there to love on and play with.
He sleeps all night in his crate without complaint. He's clever about moving the baby gate so we do have to be creative with that when going out and leaving him alone, so that he's confined to the kitchen.
I have a dog. I love my adorable thirty-five-dollar dog. I wish everyone a dog as precious as my darling Chiweenie, Rizzo.
And that is all for now.