The last thing we needed was another puppy.
This whole day seems like a blur. I woke up, ate breakfast, read the sports page, took a shower. And (snap!) I have two puppies. It all happened so fast, I’ve forgotten my own name.
The puppy’s name is Otis Campbell. He is black, with white socks, and a snow-white belly. He is part Labrador.
Otis has the disposition of your classic dog. Calm. Quiet. Loyal. Big eyes. He has a sixth sense for things like human emotion, basic spirituality, and how to rip stuffing from residential sofas.
It all started when my wife and I visited a puppy adoption fair today. This was a bad idea.
There were several cars in the parking lot. And inside were people from all walks of life.
A young couple in Spandex workout attire wandered the cell blocks. They poked fingers through cages. They spoke in high-pitched voices.
A red headed little boy held a terrier mutt who looked like a malnourished Benji.
“He likes me, mom,” said the boy. “He licked me, look! He likes me.”
A young woman and her daughter sat in a kennel with a puppy so skinny you could see its skeleton. It was missing hair, and looked sick.
I asked about this dog.
“Yeah, he’s sweet,” said one volunteer. “He came to us half-starved.”
This upsets me.
There were dogs with names like “Pete,” “Sam,” “Duke,” and “Scruffy.” They watched me walk by with wide eyes and sad stares.
Many of these pups will not be adopted, the volunteers tell me. Many stay in shelters long enough to learn to prefer sleeping in concrete corners.
“Please, mom,” said the redhead again. “He’s so pretty, I promise I’ll take care of him.”
The mother shook her head. She said, “Put him down, I said we were only going to LOOK today.”
The boy’s face fell a hundred stories.
And that’s when it happened.
My wife said, “Come here, Sean.”
She saw a dog nosing a ball in his kennel. The little guy was running in circles, entertaining himself.
The volunteer let us into the pen, then read the dog’s chart from a clipboard. “He’s only three months old,” the volunteer said. “He’s got big paws, doesn’t he?
“Someone found him on the side of the road. He was just kinda walking around lost. Hungry.”
My wife got down on her haunches. The dog came to her.
“Sit,” my wife said.
She tossed a toy.
He brought it back.
We signed the paperwork.
When we got home, our house became the unadulterated worldwide nervecenter for chaos. Within our four walls is nothing but puppy breath, bags of food, water bowls, leashes hanging from lamps, bacon-flavored dog treats, and it smells like a Junior Varsity locker room.
Thelma Lou and Otis played hard today. They rolled in the dirt, chewing on each other for nearly two hours. Then they fell asleep in awkward positions.
Thelma laid on top of Otis. Otis’ tail was in her mouth. She snored. Otis had dreams that made his body jerk.
Thelma outweighs Otis by at least forty pounds, and is infinitely more bulky. But I don’t want to downplay Otis’ strengths. He might be a squirt, but he is smart, a fast learner, and he can manufacture smells capable of bringing the most hardened shrimp boat captain to his knees.
And he is a friend. For the entire day, Otis stuck beside Thelma like a shadow. A very rambunctious, bow-legged shadow. Whenever he looked at Thelma Lou, you could see admiration in his eyes.
You see, to us, Thelma Lou is seventy pounds of stink and slobber. To Otis, Thelma Lou is a Great American. When she runs, he runs. When she howls, he barks. When she rolls in poop, he waits his turn.
After a full day of play, Otis fell asleep on my wife’s lap. Otis kept his head on her arm, and a weak smile on his face. He breathed so gentle he sounded like a newborn.
Thus, there are two animals sleeping in our living room. Two loud, obnoxious, snoring animals.
The last thing we needed in our lives was another dog. Thank God we got one anyway.
Welcome to the family, Otis Campbell.