Sunday, May 30, 2010


My parents will be the first to complain that my sister and I are doing very little in the way of providing them with grandchildren. My sister and I will be first to confirm the truth of that statement. (Although my sister is admittedly several steps further down the road than I - she at least has a boyfriend. The only thing showing an interest in me at the moment is our fifteen-year old cockatiel, who, upon being left alone with me for an extended period of time last winter, laid her first egg.)

And while this is a crime to some nth degree, we have at least attempted to plug that gap by providing a granddog.

My sister took the lead in this when she welcomed home a puppy that grew into a gentle giant named Cooper. Unfortunately, we lost Cooper at Labor Day last year, but several months prior we’d absorbed a foster dog named Wrangler. Wrangler, a miniature-pony sized Labradoodle with mad-scientist eyebrows, takes his role as constant companion and best friend very seriously.

Wrangler’s first and most obvious dislike is to be left alone. His devotion knows no bounds - neither window screens nor fences nor the presence of other animals will prevent him from searching out his family. More times than we’d care to count we’ve had to go track him down after he’s escaped in an attempt to find us. In fact, the very first weekend we had him was during my sister’s master’s degree hooding and graduation. We left the three dogs (Cooper, Wrangler, and my sister’s housemate’s Golden Lab, Cyrus) in their second story apartment. We returned several hours later to find a lady standing at the end of the driveway, Wrangler in tow. She said she had caught him wandering the fields of the neighboring high school, near where his former owners lived. She thought she’d seen him around my sister’s place, so she brought him back.

I ran to the house to check on the other dogs, who were still very much there. Wrangler had attempted to break out of the bathroom window, which, for a little bit of luck, was only open a crack. He eventually broke out a screen and jumped onto the porch. If he’d managed the bathroom window, it would have been a 30 foot fall to the pavement below.

Even now, earshot, and preferably eyeshot, is as much distance as he allows between us.

My new job has caused a bit of a problem for all this. Normally I leave home at 7:30 AM, and the earliest I return is 5:30 PM, but usually my schedule keeps me away until 9 or 10 at night. For a dog that needs near constant companionship, this just doesn’t work.

Enter my father. My father’s business as a seasonal plumber, especially in the spring season before Memorial Day, involves a lot of driving to a variety of northwoods cabins and time in the outdoors. Wrangler has fully absorbed his role as apprentice. He relishes “going to work.” He accompanies my father to each place, has learned to wait for instruction on what he can or can’t do at each house, and spends his time either following my father into crawl spaces or splashing in the many lakes and chasing chipmunks in the woods. He observes carefully as my father does repairs - and if it weren’t for the lack of opposable thumbs, probably would have applied for his journeyman plumber’s license by now.

This as become so much his normal gig that when I do come home to stay for weekends, more often than not I find myself chasing back through the woods to my parents’ house to find the dog. But that’s normal - grandma and grandpa’s house is always more fun that your real home.

While a granddog might not be the little human my parents are anticipating, at least my big puppy can offer many of the same benefits: entertainment without the need for the providing maintenance. And the best benefit of all: when you get tired of him, they can just send him home.

As my father said as he dropped off the dog this evening, "He's the son I never had. Thank goodness!"

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