Monday, February 27, 2012

the best dog in the world

Every dog owner thinks his or her dog is the best dog in the world. Well ... I have news for everyone: my dog is the best dog in the world. Yes, it is true. Victor is awesome. He’s a good boy, a cuddle bunny, and a kisser. I’d like to say he’s a lover and not a fighter, but that’s not how he rolls. He has one bad habit. He likes to eat other dogs. He has gotten into some scrapes, but c’mon, dogs are dogs. I love him nonetheless and he’s still the best dog in the world.

He is the longest relationship I have had. He’ll be ten years old in March. He stole my heart when he was four months old. My boyfriend and I had moved to Irvine, California and he worked from his Los Angeles office and "hoteled" there most weeknights to avoid the commute. This left me alone most of the week, so we decided to adopt a dog.

We adopted a German Sheppard, who was named Max. We took him back to the shelter due to major and irreversible behavioral issues. It broke my heart and I vowed never to adopt again. However, one day while running errands, my boyfriend pulled into the shelter’s parking lot and admitted that he went there the day before. He saw an adorable puppy. I didn’t want to go in. I was heartbroken over Max.

Inside the shelter walls, I stomped off to the far end of the grass and sat down. Then, I heard, “Scott! Turn around and look what’s coming!”

I turned around. He came. I saw. I was conquered.

A white puppy with a little brown ear and a little brown eye came bounding across the grass towards me. He knocked me over and kissed my face with reckless abandon. We played chase and wrestled for a little bit. My boyfriend and I had a more educated conversation with the staff about this puppy than we did about Max.

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When we asked where he came from, we were told he was found wandering the streets of Santa Ana. I turned his being found into a silly Disney-esque story in my mind. It goes like this:

He is the eldest of a litter with several brothers and sisters. A semi-heartless man abandons them in a box, instead of bundling them in a burlap sack and throwing them in the river, forcing them to fend for themselves. The puppies are hungry. They wander through back alleys and hide behind bushes, they sniff and they scratch, but they don’t find anything substantial to eat.

Then, they smell something heavenly. They pop their heads through the bushes and see a restaurant across the street. Victor, being the oldest, tells his brothers and sisters that he will cross the street to the parking lot, search the garbage cans, and bring vittles back for each of them. They just need to wait there.

At the very moment he crosses the street, the dogcatcher’s van pulls up, the net is cast, and he is tossed in the back. His brothers and sisters gasp from the bushes and start to come to his rescue.

“Stay where you are! Don’t get yourselves caught!”

The dogcatcher closes the doors. Victor looks out the window as they pull away and calls to them.

“I’ll be back. I’ll come back and find you. I’ll come back and find you…”

My friend, Mike, has pointed out that Victor never did come back for them. Pop! That bursts that bubble. But it is true, Victor did not go back. He's good with large puppies ... I wonder if that’s why. He is gentle with them, nudges them, licks them, and tries to get them to play. He doesn't try to eat them.

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When we asked his age and breed, they guessed he was a four-month-old Staffordshire Terrier-Lab mix. He was the cutest thing I ever saw. He had me at hello. They called him Brooklyn. Little did any of us know that soon he’d live a few miles from that exact borough of New York City.

On the way to the car to take him home, I held him because we had no collar or leash. The entire walk, he kissed my neck and face. He is a kisser. He kisses everyone. He’s a smoocher. This is how he earned some of his many nicknames, King Kissy-wisser and Smoocher Poocher, or just Smooch.

He nestled into blankets in the backseat and, after driving a bit, promptly got carsick. All the way home we discussed names. Brooklyn just wasn't right. Many names were brainstormed, but once we uttered “Victor,” it stuck. He resembled Nipper, the dog from the RCA Victor record albums; hence, his name is Victor.

Once home, he sniffed and explored. We played in the backyard sunshine for an hour or so. We both tuckered out and took a nap in the grass. I was awkened by the sounds of my grandfather snoring, but when I opened my eyes, I saw that it was my puppy. He was on his back snoring like an old man, a trait that continues to this day.

That evening, he was very sluggish and sleepy. We put him in his crate and tucked ourselves into bed. Much later, we woke up to a horrible stench and bloody sickness that was coming from both of his ends. We called the vet first thing in the morning and they asked us to come in immediately. We bundled him up, drove quickly, and walked through the vet hospital door.

It was like a slow motion Hazmat scene. Owners with dogs were asked to clear the area, we were told not to touch anything, and blue scrubs grabbed Victor and whisked him to the back. We waited in a side room until the vet came in to tell told us he had Parvo, a virus that attacks puppies. It shuts the digestive system down from both ends and most puppies die from it. There was a chance he might not live. I was horribly sad and near heartbreak again. I could not fathom that I opened my heart to another dog that I was about to lose. He stayed several days, but pulled through, and we were told he was lucky to live.

He started to thrive and grow. He went to puppy kindergarten to learn to walk on a leash, sit, lie down, stay, come, and give his paw. He rode in the car without getting carsick. He went to the beach and bit at the waves. He went to dog parks and played with most of the dogs. He went to doggy daycare. He was a hearty and robust dog and he was happy.

We moved to New York, and drove across country to get there. In Texas, we stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream cones. At the drive through window, we were handed three cones. Victor’s eyes almost popped out of his head while he licked his very first ice cream cone.

First Walk in NYC
Beating the Heat with a Cold Compress
Yay! Winter and Snow!
He quickly acclimated to city life. He rode in a cab for the first time. He managed through summer’s heat and humidity and he loved winter’s snow. He made out with Kelly Ripa, walked along the Hudson River, and picnicked in Central Park. He lived in a new luxury building in Chelsea, a purchased apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, a rental in a Hell’s Kitchen high-rise and a fifth floor walk up, and now resides in a pre-war Upper West Side charmer near Riverside Park.
As practically perfect as Victor is, he just doesn’t get along well with most dogs. He has toy envy, snaps when he doesn’t want to play, bites for no apparent reason, and is very particular about what dog will be his friend. He’s a “people dog” more than a “dog dog.” He earned his nickname, Budget, because he breaks my bidget by having to pick up vet bills for wounds he inflicts. He once even got a $250 ticket for stalking a squirrel in Central Park!

He no longer goes to dog parks and he is rarely off leash unless I know the dogs that are also off leash. Sometimes that means he can be off leash and other times it means no way in hell. The one constant in his life is daycare. He has always gone to daycare, every Wednesday and Friday.

Waiting for Pick Up
Pets at Play, a doggie daycare in Hell's Kitchen, had figured out Victor’s playing quirks and his personality. He had no issues there. When we moved to the Upper West Side, we said goodbye to Pets at Play. Two weeks later, they called saying they missed him and offered to pick him up and drop him off so they could have him back. He would wait at the door until they arrived. He was part of their family for eight years. They loved him and Victor loved them. They recently closed and I had to find him an alternative place to go. They suggested Pawsitively Love in the Upper West Side.

Just like New York's human school system, a dog must go through an assessment process before being admitted. Having a dog with questionable tendencies makes it stressful when applying for a new "school."

Victor went in for his assessment. He met their “greeter dog,” Dante, whose responsibility it is to meet the new dog and give clues about how the new dog might behave. It's like pairing a kid with a buddy at a new school and then reporting to the principal whether they will fit in with the cool kids. Apparently, Dante doesn’t play, but instead supervises. I was told that Victor got Dante to play! And he played well with all the other dogs. He passed with flying colors.

One Tired Monkey
After two weeks without daycare he was back to his routine of social time and playtime. He comes home completely exhausted which gives me a little more free time. More importantly, it allows him to be a dog. He chews, licks, growls, barks, wrestles, eats treats, goes for walks, plays, and plays, and plays. But, so far, at daycare, he doesn’t bite.

With all his foibles and idiosyncrasies, with all the vet bills that I have paid, with all the bags of poop I have scooped, with all the cuddles, snores, and kisses I have received or given, I can honestly say that I am proud of him. He is a good dog. He is my poodle. He is my cuddle bunny. He is my monkey. He is my handsome wee beastie.

He is the best dog in the world.