Thursday, December 4, 2008

Our family Pet and Protector

The decision to have a pet is a tough one. It's pretty permanent, involves lots of work and housekeeping, and it effects almost every aspect of your family's life. That said, there are tons of advantages to having the hairy beasts around, if you're set up to take care of them.

My wife and I had been living together for nine months or so when my parents' dog had puppies. She's a white German Shepard and had a full litter of white pups. And we swore, swore to all we held dear, that we wouldn't get one.

We were living in an apartment upstairs. If we were going to have a dog, we'd have to move to a downstairs unit. My wife had just started taking classes at the college where I had just started teaching my very first professor gig. We already had one grumpy cat that my wife got before she met me. There was no room in our lives for the complication, the trouble, the training. We just couldn't get a dog.

You've already guessed, I'm sure, that we got one. We visited my folks and one little puppy won us over. My parents were calling him Tiny Tim. He was the smallest of the male pups and the friendliest. We caved in and accepted him as a Christmas present from my folks. We changed his name to Blitzen and he's been in the family ever since then.

Raising a dog is hard work. Really! It was three years before we had kids and the most time-consuming activity we had ever had. He understood the whole potty training thing right from the start, but his energy level was outrageous. He chewed things, got into things, and even tore apart our couch one night while we were out to eat. At times, we almost felt prisoner to this little puppy.

Years later, we'd laugh at ourselves when we looked back at how busy we thought we were with him. Yes, it was time consuming, and yes, he was energetic, but no, he was nothing near as all-encompassing as having a baby around. By the time a puppy is ready to leave his mom, he's already more self-sufficient.

Blitzen is in love with our daughters. From the minute we brought Solstice home, he has been preoccupied with them. He plays with them well, does his tricks for them, and even sleeps outside their bedroom door to watch them while they sleep at night. In every way, he is a member of our family.

Blitzen, as already states, is a German Shepard. I can't recommend this breed enough. His hair rests in gentle snow-drifts around the house when we don't sweep, so that's a pain. But he is kind and gentle with the kids and very protective of his home and family.

We didn't know he was protective, not really. He was always nice to everyone he ever met. But we discovered just how protective he was one day about two years ago.

My wife had left with the kids to go to a baby shower. I was just coming home. We talked on the phone for about 20 minutes before I got to the empty house. I opened the door to an unimaginable mess in our living room: the blinds were ripped off the windows, the coat rack toppled to the ground, the walls scratched up, and most of all, blood was everywhere.

Standing in the middle of the living room, wagging his tail, was Blitzen. His face and paws were covered with blood and he had meat stuck under his nails.

We pieced together what had happened: someone saw my wife leave and broke into the house. There, he met our dog. He scrambled to get out the windows and finally escaped out the door, which was chewed up to the point of needing replacing. The guy had already cleaned out three other houses on our street before getting into our house. You can read the newspaper article about the incident here.

Technically, no one in my family had their life in danger that day. Well, I could have come home in the middle of the burglary, but at least my wife and kids weren't there. But it easily could have been otherwise! Just a few weeks earlier, a series of home-invasions had struck the community--women and children were tied up while the house was ransacked in two houses in our neighborhood.

We've loved Blitzen very much as a pet, but it was then that we realized we had something more; we had a protector that would stop at nothing to make sure his family is alright. While he's scared of thunder, he didn't balk for a second when an intruder came in the door. I am always grateful to know that he is there at home when I'm off at work.

We have another dog now, too. We adopted a mutt (who looked like a shepard) last January. Little Vixen is some kind of beagle mix, very goofy, and much more skiddish than her big brother. And even though she's still doing those puppy things that can get old real fast, we're glad to be a family of people and pets.

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