Fourteen years ago I came home from work and my wife told me she wanted a dog.
At the time Mary Anne and I had been married a little over a year and we lived in a townhouse. We were both about 30 years old. We didn’t have any children and when we weren’t working we travelled so we were rarely home. Weekends were spent out of town visiting friends or family and whenever the opportunity presented itself we would fly off for vacation. Life was good.
So I wasn’t really looking forward to having a dog at that point. I’ve always loved dogs and there was at least one in my family’s home the whole time I was growing up. But I never had a dog after I moved out on my own even though I loved them. Being responsible for another living thing was just too much of a commitment for me when I was single and on my own.
But I wasn’t on my own anymore and Mary Anne wanted a dog. And even though I knew I’d be the one cleaning up after the little critter I gave in without a fight because in the back of my mind I thought, “Well, maybe this will buy me some time before she wants to have kids.”
Mary Anne finally settled on a little cream colored maltee-poo that we named Chipper. Chipper was a little too high strung for my tastes but he latched on to Mary Anne immediately. He followed her everywhere and when she wasn’t around Chipper tolerated other people until his Mama got home. And once she walked in the door he would go nuts. He’d run around in circles and yap until she picked him up. On road trips, as long as Chipper could sit on Mary Anne’s lap he was a happy camper, so he turned out to be a great traveler too.
Then four weeks after we got Chipper I came home from work and Mary Anne told me she was pregnant. Once the shock of the news started to wear off I can remember smiling at Mary Anne and saying, “Can we take the dog back?”
For the next few months Chipper was in heaven. He tolerated me being around and he soaked up all the affection that a pregnant woman could give. And Chipper gave it back just as good as he got.
But once our son Justin was born Chipper had to adjust to not being the complete focus of Mary Anne’s affection anymore and he didn’t like it. As a matter of fact I’m not sure Chipper ever accepted the fact that he wasn’t Mary Anne’s only child. Eventually Chipper did begrudgingly tolerate the little baby much like he did me and we watched together as Justin grew over the years.
Then when Chipper was seven years old we brought home another baby and he was once again quite annoyed. Later we brought another puppy into the family and by then it hardly seemed to faze Chipper at all.
In fact having a new pup around gave Chipper the chance to finally boss someone around and he seemed to relish the opportunity. And it was hilarious to watch a 6 pound maltee-poo intimidate the new kid on the block even after that little pup grew into a 100 pound labradoodle.
Then a few years ago I turned forty and noticed that my eyes weren’t nearly as sharp as they used to be. Aches and pains started to pop up that I had never felt before. I slipped a disc in my back. Age was starting to take its toll and I was no longer invincible.
And it started happening to Chipper too. He started having trouble jumping on to his favorite chair. He too slipped a disc in his back and his eyesight started to go. Age was taking its toll on both of us.
But time was working much more quickly in Chipper’s case and his aging served as a powerful reminder of my own mortality.
Yet even age couldn’t keep Chipper from going crazy every time Mary Anne came home. She could walk into the house after a long day at work and the kids might not take their noses out of video games or television and I might keep typing away on the computer but Chipper always ran to the door to greet Mama. You always knew when Mary Anne came home because he would be running around in circles and yapping his head off.
But no more. Chipper took his last breath today. And for the first time in fourteen years I will lay down in my bed tonight without that ornery little guy acting annoyed at my intrusion and then snuggling into the small of my back.
Fare thee well Chipper. You were like our first child.
P.S. I was just kidding about taking you back.