Pets

The boys started asking about getting a dog right after we moved into our new house in Rancho Cucamonga. They were only about three and five years old at the time, and we wanted to wait until they were a little older. Plus, we figured the dog would be lonely most days since we both worked full time and kids were in school all day. But I actually wanted a dog too and didn’t want time to pass me by without including one in the family.

I always loved animals and even considered becoming a veterinarian until I heard they had to “put them to sleep” sometimes. I grew up with an Irish Setter until I was about seven years old. I was still pretty young but still remember falling asleep and using her as my pillow, even the smell of her fur was a sense of comfort.

About five years later, my parents let us bring home a black kitten from their friends’ litter. We picked him because he won the most fights against the others in the litter as we paired them off two at a time. Cats don’t have the personality of a dog, but he was a cool little dude. We wanted to name him Panther, but my Dad thought that was cheesy and suggested Clancy. It was such an unusual name for a cat that we all decided to roll with it.

Rob and I thought it was so fascinating that cats always landed on their feet no matter in what position you dropped them. We even flipped him up into the air, but he always struck a perfect landing and didn’t seem to mind a bit. We wanted to take it to the next level, so we started launching him off our front porch, over the evergreen bushes and about ten feet into the yard! He seemed a bit distraught at first but after a little yelp upon letting him fly, he landed perfectly onto the grass, shook his head, and then trotted away. We showed his skills off to our friends and our cousins, Dave and Mary, who were equally impressed. Naturally, we wanted to take it one step further now that we had an audience: “Let’s see if he still lands on his feet if we flip him over the bushes!” Hooking our hands under his arms, we swung him back and forth a couple times to catch his rhythm, then with a mighty heave, tossed him high in the air. As his body arced over the bushes in a graceful backward flip, he let out a long meow that sounded more like “Begooowwww!” and nailed a perfect landing! We all cheered and threw our arms in the air with joy for our champion acrobat. We ran into the yard to congratulate Clancy, but he took off and didn’t return for several hours. We were pretty sure he had fun though.

Ok, enough about my cat. By the time Kian turned five we figured he was old enough to know how to handle a dog, and we had a fairly big back yard the dog could roam around in when we were gone. We even considered getting two dogs to keep each other company, but Kian was afraid they would always play with each other and not pay enough attention to him. We decided on a Golden Retriever since we heard they make the best family dogs. We picked out his name before we even bought him—Copper—based on their typical color. When we went to pick him up, he turned out to be cream colored, not copper at all. The kids were already set on the name though, so we kept it.

Copper was an amazing dog, even for a Golden: easy to train, good temperament, and very playful. We could always tell what he wanted because his body language made it so obvious. He even seemed to learn a few words! When we called him to go out to the garage as we were leaving, he shook his head and growled “Noooo.” He always greeted us with a pleasant low grumbling sound in the mornings, but if we were gone too long and hadn’t had his walk yet, he grumbled louder and dramatically waved his head back and forth for about a minute like he was giving us a good tongue-lashing.

As a puppy, Pooneh thought he was the most adorable creature that had ever existed (aside from babies that is). She took him outside and watched him learn to climb steps and play with his toys. At one point, she looked over and noticed that one of his little toys seemed to be moving on its own. She walked closer and as soon as she realized it was a little mouse trying to scurry away, Copper scooped it up into his mouth and started chewing. She yelled out in horror and Copper looked up at her so innocently with the tail hanging out of his mouth like a wriggling worm. With a final crunch, the tail dropped down and he swallowed it in one disgustingly audible gulp. Pooneh wretched a few times and wouldn’t go near Copper for the rest of the day. She literally almost started gagging as she told me this story again today!

We had a blast playing with him outside, but even if we were playing basketball, he always had to compete for the ball and try to knock us out of the way. He used to steal the kids nerf football they were tossing to each other, then break into a sprint and flop all over the yard. He wasn’t very good at playing fetch though. I guess he thought it was more fun for me to chase him down and wrestle the toy out of his mouth. One of his toys was a rope attached to a tennis ball. He would come up to me with his playful growl to see if I could take it from him. As soon as I’d reach for it, he’d dart away until I caught him. Once I got hold of the rope, he wouldn’t let go, so I had to wrest it back and forth until it came loose, then give a quick tug just as he reset his teeth for a better grip. Well, apparently, I tugged too hard one time and broke off one of his puppy teeth. They had to surgically remove it which cost me a few hundred dollars, and we had to feed him stuff like yogurt for a while.

We were pretty good about taking him for walks at least once a day around the horse trails in our neighborhood. He got really pissed if we didn’t—after groaning and waving his head all around for a while, he would eventually turn his back to us to show just how upset he really was. Once he grew out of the puppy stage, I brought him out with me for a run. I figured dogs could run all day and be happy so went my usual route of four miles. He did really well until the final mile when he kept slowing down and wanting to rest. He usually jumped out of the back of my car when I opened the hatch, but this time he just sat there until I lifted him out, then he limped gingerly inside and layed down the rest of the evening. Pooneh even noticed him walking funny and laying around for the next two days after that. “What did you do to our poor doggy?”

         Unfortunately, about five years after we adopted him, we decided to sell our house and move to Irvine. We had to live in an apartment until our new house was built. That meant we couldn’t keep Copper with us. Pooneh’s parents kept him for a few months, but when we realized we wouldn’t be able to move into our new house for another year, it was just too much to ask. To be honest, we both thought it was pretty nice not having to take him for a walk every day. We also didn’t want to have a dog scratching up our new hardwood floors, shedding around the house, and pooping all over our yard. We ultimately made the tough decision to sell him. The last day before giving him away, Pooneh brought the kids and their two cousins over to her parents where they all cried and hugged him at the same time, even Pooneh and her mom were crying.

         We had long talks with them leading up to it, and they seemed to understand the reasons that we gave them. We figured they would forgive us and eventually get over having to give him away, but this just didn’t happen. They kept asking if we could go visit him and hoping there was still a chance that we could take him back once we moved into our new house.

While we were in the apartment, I bought them a Betta fish, as though that could possibly make up for a dog. The biggest thrill they got was putting a mirror in front of him and watch him flare up with fury, otherwise he just floated with no purpose or hid in his little house. Somehow, this insignificant little creature managed to live in perpetual monotony for about two years until one fateful day. I forgot to add conditioner to the water when I changed it and probably didn’t let the tap water sit long enough before plopping him back in, rendering him completely dead by morning. Kaveh and Kian actually laughed as we flushed him down his watery grave.

One day, I came home from work to see Kian looking at all of the pictures of Copper that we had saved on our computer. He would laugh excitedly as he recalled his memories of when a picture was taken and then turn to sadness with others. Then it happened. He came across this picture of him hugging big fluffy Copper and broke down in tears. I felt so bad for him and didn’t know what to say except how sorry I was and just gave him a hug.

         I myself was starting to have dreams almost every night about Copper. Pooneh remained adamant that she wanted to enjoy her clean, new home without the smells and scratches and fur that comes with a dog, but the kids eventually wore her down over time. We told them that since they were older now, they would have to take the dog for walks, clean up the poop, and play with her which they said they would do without hesitation. We figured we would milk this for all it was worth and told them they had to make their beds every morning and get good grades too.

         Then came a series of misfortunes and bad luck. They said they wanted a dog that was big and fluffy that they could put their arms around. I did some research and the biggest, fluffiest dog I could find was a Great Pyrenees. They are said to be extremely loyal and protective and make excellent guard dogs. I found a rescue shelter nearby specifically for Pyrenees about forty-five minutes away. We spotted the most beautiful pure white dog we’d ever seen, not as large as the other Pyrenees we saw, and appeared much more graceful and athletic than the others when she ran. The lady at the rescue said she was extremely smart and confident and acted like the alpha towards all the other dogs. The only catch was that she was quite willful and strong and confrontational around other dogs, so she recommended that we hire a trainer.

We were so impressed it was almost love at first sight. We talked about it for the next few days and unanimously decided to bring her home to our family and name her Crystal. I’ll never forget the look on Pooneh’s face when Crystal shook herself for the first time on our patio. So much fur billowed off of her that it looked like it was snowing. Pooneh held her arms out as it drifted downward onto her palms and half whimpered, half laughed at the absurd amount of fur that would soon be covering our floors and furniture.

         We managed to arrange for the trainer to come on that first day. They charged about $800 and gave us some decent advice—most of which I already knew from training Copper. The shelter lady recommended that we get a dog cage for her to sleep in at night since that is what she was used to doing at the shelter and supposedly gives them a sense of comfort. She ended up barking really loudly all night long (another trait of Great Pyrenees), so I had to keep getting up to try to calm her down for the next few nights and even took her out for a walks in the middle of the night.

I had to work twelve hour shifts that first week and wouldn’t be around to train her much. I told Kaveh that he was in charge of her since she was definitely too big and strong for Kian to manage at his age. He invited his friend, Joey, over to play with her. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, so Pooneh went out for a couple hours. We gave them clear instructions not to allow Crystal upstairs so that at least our bedrooms would stay fur-free. Well, after they tired of playing with her, Kaveh and Joey started playing PS4 upstairs. Naturally, Crystal didn’t want to be left alone and followed them up. They both picked her up and carried her back down, but she kept following them back up. Finally, they let her out in the yard while they went back upstairs to play PS4 uninterrupted. Now on this of all days, someone had left the side gate wide open, leaving her free to roam around our neighborhood. I got a call from Pooneh who was worried she might attack other dogs who were out on walks, or God forbid, any children. I couldn’t believe they could be so careless and that PS4 was more important than our new dog that they had been begging to have for months. On top of that, I didn’t really want them to take her for walks because even I had trouble holding onto the leash. We quickly realized that Crystal was too big and strong for our kids to manage on their own, and she just wasn’t a good fit for our new house and relatively small yard. It was another painful decision but ended up bringing her back to the shelter after only three days. The owner was understandably upset and reminded me of the no refund policy on the $400 we paid.

Kaveh and Kian immediately started pleading for another dog. They said they really just wanted another Golden Retriever like Copper in the first place. We found a cute little white puppy from a breeder but had to wait a couple more weeks until he had all his shots. Unfortunately, he became really sick from a virus and admitted to the vet hospital. They said the only way we could still have the puppy is if we paid all of the hospital bills which amounted to over $2000, which I promptly declined.  

They were getting really disappointed after all this, and I wanted to make it up to them so kept searching. I wanted to get them a puppy for their birthdays which were only a month apart. I finally found one for a reasonable price but was the last of the litter. When we brought her home, Pooneh immediately recognized she didn’t look like a typical Golden Retriever puppy; in fact, she said she looked kind of ugly. We thought she looked cute enough, but over the next few weeks we noticed that she was really hyper and never really calmed down unless she was sleeping. She even growled at me for no reason when I was petting her on my lap! We have a video of her jumping wildly from one kid to another when Kaveh and Kian had their friends over. It reminded me of the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the feral rabbit killed and beheaded about a dozen knights in one bloody minute until they shouted, “Run away, Run away!” All you could hear on the video was loud screaming and yelling as she jumped onto their necks and bit their hair and nipped their ankles.

We forked out another $800 on a trainer and I don’t even remember why. I just remember we were desperate, and the trainer we hired for Crystal said we had to pay full price again since it’s a different dog. I only went to a puppy training class with Copper and never had any problems at all with him.

Besides her anxiety and wild behavior, she had to be the dumbest dog I’d ever met. As I was driving home with her in the back seat, I left the window open so she could “eat the wind” like I see all dogs do with so much enthusiasm. Instead of just sticking her head out the window, I noticed she was trying to climb out! I reached back to grab her, but she lurched out as I was driving about 40 miles an hour! I watched her flip and skid across the pavement in utter disbelief before she limped safely off the road. Fortunately, no cars were behind me and she survived with only a few scrapes on her face and paws.

Then the diarrhea began. Almost every night she woke up barking in the middle of the night from her cage for me to let her out. She immediately darted for the back door, did her business, and came back in. The vet said puppies often have soft stools and should firm up over time. We tried changing her food and getting the highest quality but seemed to keep getting worse. All of the tests came back unremarkable so they kept telling us she would outgrow it. Over six months, her size remained fairly small for a Golden and her fur never really grew out either.

I can’t even count the number of mornings where I came down for work to find a soft lump of poop or puddle of diarrhea in her cage. Sometimes it seemed like it would go away for a while but eventually came back within days or weeks. I tried leashing her in the garage with the door open, but she just shit on the floor instead of outside and then somehow rubbed it into her fur and all over the leash! One time she made a mess on the garage floor as I was late for an appointment. I cleaned up the worst of it with paper towels and tossed them into the garbage. When I got back home, I was horrified to see that she actually got into the trash and started eating the crap-ridden paper towels! This was right after her spading and had to wear that plastic ring around her neck. I remember how enraged I became when I saw her stupid face looking at me with diarrhea smeared all over her and the plastic ring. What kind of a dog eats their own crap? I spent over an hour giving her a bath, cleaning all the little tabs and tiny holes in her plastic ring, and then cleaning and disinfecting the floor.

I just couldn’t take it anymore. I told Kaveh and Kian that if they want to keep Waffles then they have to clean up her diarrhea from now on. Kaveh had enough already and didn’t even care about having a dog anymore, but Kian wasn’t ready to let her go and agreed to help. After about two more weeks of this complete nonsense, Kian finally agreed to give her away. He became so disgusted by her and the smell she always generated that he didn’t even want to go to the shelter and say his goodbye. The lady who accepted Waffles at the shelter said she looked like she was probably the runt of the litter since they tend to be anxious and smaller than other dogs.  

After this, everyone we knew looked us straight in the eyes and told us to never get a dog again. We figured we were cursed since Copper was the best dog in the world and we let him go. I came up with the idea of getting a cat since they don’t require much of a time commitment and don’t demand so much of your attention. We agreed on this little guy named Pashmak, which means cotton candy in Farsi.

Pooneh loved him so much that she bought another one for her parents, but they became tired of all the shedding, so we ended up taking her in; now we have two. As much as they love their cats, Kaveh and Kian never stopped asking if we can try our luck with another Golden.  

Published by swojtowich

I am a physician, story writer, husband and proud father of two sons. I enjoy travel, exercise, and reading/writing books.

13 thoughts on “Pets

  1. Hi Scott – it’s your Aunt Rosemary. I’ve been reading your memoirs here and there and I really enjoy them. I also read the European vacation one and laughed and laughed about the way you were sweating and carrying your dirty clothes around looking for a laundromat. Sounds like something that would happen to me. However, what I’m really excited about is your book! As soon as your dad told me, I ordered it on Amazon and I started reading it. Your description is amazing – your imagery beautiful – and the story very intriguing. I’m so impressed and proud of you. I had no idea you could write like that. I wish Grandma and Grandpa were alive to read it. Well at least Grandma would’ve read it lol. Keep up the good work! Love, Aunt Rosemary

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    1. Thank you so much Rosemary! It really means a lot that you take the time to read my posts and my book, and I really appreciate the feedback. I just started writing about 4 or 5 years ago and invested a lot of time into it. That book came a long way after I first wrote it. As an English teacher, you’ll be proud to know that I didn’t even use an editor for the grammer but had to learn it again on the fly. 😁 I can’t wait to talk to you about it after you’re done, it gets better as it goes along!

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  2. Forgot one part about Crystal when me and Joey were playing PS4; we wanted her to come upstairs with us but didn’t want the fur everywhere and for her to move around, so we thought it was a genius idea to bring her crate up with us and just keep her in there. Not only was the crate huge and caused a bunch of scratches on the walls during the journey up the staircase, but Crystal didn’t even end up getting in the crate once we managed to get it up! She pounced on the couch and took our spots then refused to move, rendering us seatless to play while she got hair everywhere. We kept trying to move her but she was stronger than us and even when we got her off the couch and sat down, she would jump right back on (on top of us) and we’d have to wrestle again!

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