As parents, we met December 2004, with the usual question: “What do you think Santa will bring you for Christmas?” I don’t know what we were thinking, but mi espouso and I were a little shocked when the Myrtles (aged 8 and 6 at the time) unanimously announced that the only thing they wanted was a—you guessed it—a puppy.
Now, mi espouso and I love dogs. We each had one or more growing up. Our only issue was that we were raising two children, finances weren’t the greatest, and we thought we were too busy for a dog. Considering our options, we decided it might be better to try a guinea pig or something caged as a starter animal for the Myrtles to see if they could take care of an animal.
In steps the Mimi.
My family has firm roots in Santa, going back to my brother’s pronouncement that he didn’t believe anymore. Nope, nada, no-how did Santa exist. That is until Christmas Eve. We were at my great-grandmother’s house, and he decided that he was going to sleep in front of the Christmas tree to be a tripping hazard for the Bearded One. Poor Mimi hadn’t planned on Santa gifts because of my brother’s assurances that there was no Santa. Needless to say, after the kids went to bed, there was a late night scramble to put some kind of Santa appearance under the tree.
Fast forward twenty-odd years, and Mimi was a devout Santa’s elf. If the Myrtles demanded a puppy, then a puppy they would get.
The weekend before Christmas loomed, and the Mimi arrived on our doorstep to drive me all over God’s green earth in search of the Perfect Puppy. Now, let us say right now, the Mimi and I have VERY different views on what constitutes a dog. She likes dogs that sit in your lap or prance around like tiny ballerinas. (She prefers girl dogs because boy dogs hike their leg. THE HORROR.) As we went to pet store to pet store to SPCA, she kept picking out teacup-sized puppies that wouldn’t stop yapping, while I handled puppies that had paws the size of dinner plates and were asleep.
Guess who won.
I called mi espouse on our way home, with a lap full of quiet puppy, to let him know that he was no longer the token male in the household (although the newest male was neutered). Thus began the Great Santa Puppy Exchange. With a week to go, we couldn’t let the Myrtles in on the secret before Christmas, so the Myrtles exited the front to go to the Mimi’s while the puppy (and all things puppy) entered from the back. Mi espouse and I spent a childless week acclimating one black lab-mix to the household until Christmas Eve when we reversed the process: dog (and all things dog) out the back door, girls in the front. The puppy reappeared for the scheduled Santa appearance at 5am when mi espouso arrived back with said puppy (and all things puppy) for set-up. The Mimi managed to keep the dog quiet for 2 hours, then kept the Myrtles at bay for another 30 minutes until show time.
It was an engineering feat, I tell you.
And well worth the effort. After multiple name options were considered, the puppy finally chose his own name—Chewie—when he agreed that he did indeed like to chew, giving a high-pitched whining yelp reminiscent of a certain infamous Wookie, thereby making his full title Chewbacca, Sir Chews-a-lot, Prince Mutley, the CHEW-MEISTER (with booming voice-over).
And he’s MY boy.
Fast forward 15 and a half years.
They say labs stay in puppy-hood for most of their life. That’s certainly true in Chewie’s case. His eyes, ears, legs, and bowels don’t work as well as they used to, but this morning he managed to spot a squirrel and chased it for about twenty feet. I don’t think the squirrel was too concerned to have a teetering old man-dog after him. Last week, we discovered a hole in the fence (thanks to some idiot who didn’t realize the alley was closed for destruction and decided to turn around through our fence). Mi espouso put garbage cans around the hole the keep the dogs in, but we didn’t think Chewie would even find the hole, much less escape. He did. Without delay.
Despite the evidence that he can still enjoy an outing, he’s not comfortable. He doesn’t complain, but we know it’s time. He’s given us over 15 years of love, which is several years more than a lab is supposed to give. I’m thankful we’ve had the privilege to love him back.
He’ll always be MY boy.