Let's play ball!

Let’s play ball!

It took me quite some time (ten years to be exact) to convince my hubby that a dog would be a lovely addition to our family. Each time I broached the subject ever so subtly…like when in the grocery store perusing through the pet food aisle…hubby would politely say “No” (OK…sometimes it was a bit more forceful as in “hell no.”).  I had tried to have a dog for my kids just after my divorce…..got that one from a pound out in the country.    I actually spent several visits at that pound getting to know the scraggly Benji-looking dog that I thought my daughter and son would like….something to soothe the pains of the divorce for them.   I thought the dog would work out (turns out, nothing would!).  We had Brandy-Such-A-Fine-Girl for all of three months.  After peeing one too many times in the house (peeing in my daughter’s bed was the final straw) I took the dog back to the pound.  Let me tell you, I arrived at the pound sobbing like a baby.   Fresh from feeling like a complete failure from a broken marriage, I also felt my kids hated me and now I was taking their pathetic-looking scraggly dog back to the kennel because I just couldn’t deal with the constant peeing in the house.  I couldn’t seem to get that dog house-broken; I couldn’t even get that right.  That time in my life couldn’t have been any more stressful and I suppose adding a dog to the mix wasn’t necessarily the right thing to do but my intentions were noble…I was trying to make my children happy.

I digress….Back to my hubby…

Hubby had been a bachelor for a number of years after his first marriage ended in divorce.  He had married young, while he was still in the early years of his undergraduate education and that marriage remained childless (and pet-less) by choice.  Years later, both of us just shy of 40, I happened upon his scene.  Poor fellow….he never had a chance….or, maybe it’s the other way around?!  Anyhow, after a two-year courtship sealed by marriage in 2000 I think he realized that he was in for quite a rude awakening, to put it mildly.  First there were my teenage children…a boy and a girl to consider. I probably need not elaborate any further, right?!  It’s hard enough parenting little ones, but with teenagers, parenting may as well be on an entirely different stratosphere.  And, not only did he marry little Ole me complete with children and enough baggage, emotional and otherwise, to make life truly …um…interesting (what an understatement), but he also inherited a cat. Yikes, eh?  In hindsight, I could argue that it wasn’t the difficult teenagers but rather the cat that was the tipping point for stress during our first year together.  Hubby had been a bachelor for over ten years; surly kids who didn’t put their shoes away in a proper fashion was difficult enough but a cat that regularly threw up hairballs was almost more than he had bargained for.  Then there was the whole litter box thing….gag.

With some patience….a lot of whining (and yes, a lot of wine too)…some tears thrown into the mix, not to mention a visit to a counselor once or twice, we got through it all,  though some of us still bear some scars.  I figured that this man just was too stuck in his ways to ever be a father let alone allow the pitter-patter of puppy feet in the house.

I could not have been more wrong…..

OK….so we don’t have babies; we’re obviously well past that possibility.  But, finally after ten years of nagging (yikes…did I admit to that?!) hubby finally, in a moment of literally orgasmic euphoria as his favorite football team scored the winning touchdown to capture the Super Bowl title, said “yes” to a puppy.    I had him on a flight to Oregon before he could blink to check out a breeder of medium standard poodles (Moyens).  It’s a long story but the outcome of our Oregon weekend visit was a bundle of black fur who chose ME!  This puppy ran to ME sitting himself down right on top of my feet as I was standing to survey all the puppies running around in the yard.  My life changed in an instant; the spell of complete defeat broken at last!  So…we welcomed our poodle puppy (four months old to be exact) into our Southern California home in February of 2009.

Naming our “baby” was a family affair.  As hubby and I sat with our new baby in the car driving back to airport to bring him home there was a flurry of text messages between my sis and I.  “How about (fill in the blank) for a name?”

We texted back and forth for a half-hour or more until sis came up with THE name.  It was Hollywood’s Oscar weekend and what better way to commemorate Oscar night than the name “Brando.”  So Brando it was!

Our poodle has changed my husband in ways that I would never had imagined. I may have opened his heart and soul just a wee bit, but with our poodle,  the floodgates of warmth and affection have poured out of this intensely private and introspective man.  I couldn’t be happier.  He routinely gets on the floor and rough-house plays with Brando. He picks up dog poop without nary a complaint (this from the man who once proudly announced that “these hands have never touched a baby diaper.”) and his concern about Brando’s diet and exercise regimen goes above and beyond the call of duty.  It blows me away sometimes.  Here is a man who once didn’t want pets in his life…and now…I think he would fight me tooth and nail for our baby Brando if our relationship ever went south.  I just love it!  It makes my heart sing.

The only thing that is difficult about having a dog in our lives is that it obviously limits our ability to pick up and go somewhere, anywhere.  We must tailor our travels pretty much with our poodle in mind;  It’s not easy finding someone to love and care for our dog and the thought of our baby in a boarding environment, at least in our new locale, makes me nervous.

Master Alexandre and best buddy Brando

Master Alexandre and best buddy Brando

That is NOT the case however when I travel to see my sis and her family.  I’ve had to leave Brando in their care twice now because of family events in hubby’s home town in Pennsylvania.  I might add that sis has two cats so adding a 4 1/2 year-old poodle who is knee height and weighs 34 pounds to the mix is not without some amount of work and trouble.  Understandably, her cats aren’t thrilled in the least that their home turf is invaded by an energetic monster of an animal and one that isn’t quiet to boot!  Brando has quite the voice.  Let’s put it this way, there is a whole Lotta hissing, running around, and fur-flying going on not to mention that Brando’s loud barking gets mighty annoying for the rest of us after a mere 20 seconds.  And, despite trying to teach my boy good manners, he often eats the cat food and ignores his own, infuriating sis’ cats (rightfully so) further.

Still sis and her hubby continue to say “Yes…we’ll take care of Brando….no problem.”  They have been, in a word, terrific!  Hubby and I are mighty grateful; we know it’s not the easiest of arrangements and I feel bad that the cats lives are thrown into such turmoil whenever Brando hits the scene.  In fact, on this occasion, I made a mental note to get the cats some extra treats at Christmas with a bow attached saying “Love Brando”…it can’t hurt, right?

Too precious for words!

Too precious for words!

But, really….I have to say that the most wonderful part of having this dog in our lives isn’t that he provides ME unconditional love and companionship or that he has opened my husband’s heart.  The best part is watching Brando with my five year-old nephew.  Just a year or two ago the prospect of a good relationship between the two of them seemed iffy at best;  Brando’s need to be alpha dog with my nephew was quite annoying (yes…that would be that humping thing); we were always yelling “NO BRANDO” and my nephew often didn’t understand what the fuss was all about, he just wanted to play with Brando.  This year, nephew is a year older and wow….what a difference.  He gets Brando to sit; he loves playing ball with him; he is now able to take Brando for a walk without being dragged to the ground in the process.   But what melted my heart more than anything in years was a text message with a photo that I received from my sis while we were away….it was a photo of Brando and my nephew conked out together on the bed….both sleeping like babies after a day filled with fun and play.   Brando….man’s best friend….a little boy’s best friend….and then my sister who is so much better at accepting a little more chaos in the house than I am….

Wow…I am mighty lucky.

total bliss.