Human Condition: Finding the perfect canine companion _lowres


Now in our 60-somethings, my husband and I had “the empty-nest syndrome” until almost a year ago. Our grown daughters in their 30s had “doggedly” encouraged us to take in a friend to keep us company. We are still in the pre-grandkids era. We had often talked about it and knew what a loving animal can bring to a relationship.

But did we really want the fuss, the mess, the ease of travel without a pet or the expense of caring for it when we ourselves are aging? We didn’t want to face frequent visits to the veterinarian, especially because we try to avoid trips to our own health care professionals.

Two years ago, one of our Christmas gifts from the girls was a book they found on the Internet, “The 50+ Dog Owner.” The book is subtitled “Complete Dog Parenting for Baby Boomers and Beyond.”

Parenting? Haven’t we already done that? I didn’t like the sound of that! We liked the gift but casually tossed it among other books on the shelves.

Every few weeks, the topic would surface again, or we would see one in the neighborhood and think that we really should consider the possibility. I had even picked a name — Baxter. It just seemed like a happy, relaxed, contented companion title.

Baxter was beginning to emerge. Or at least an idea of what kind of a dog we might want in our life.

One day last spring, I received a text from my daughter, who lives in Texas, with a photo of a little 6-month-old mixed-breed stray curled up on a little doggie bed. Could this be Baxter?

I was in the middle of planning a wedding in California, and my husband was changing jobs. It just wasn’t convenient at the moment. Or was it?

I set the idea aside, but every now and then for the next day, I would pull up the photo. It’s like he was looking at me saying, “I’m waiting for you!”

Fortunately, the dog was in Covington at a veterinarian’s clinic. Our daughter’s college roommate was the doctor, so I felt relatively sure of its good health. It had shots, had been neutered and was the office sweetheart. His office companion, Jenna, took him home every night and had him housebroken. What else could I expect?

Without much thought, soon we were off to Covington. In the car, with book in hand, towels, blankets and a leash, we frantically made notes what to ask.

How often do we get his teeth cleaned? How many times a day does he eat? What are the healthiest kinds of treats? Does he sleep through the night? How do we clip his nails? All the questions new parents ask about a newborn baby.

When we arrived at the vet’s office, there he was. Waiting. We knew we had found our companion. And yes, the name Baxter did fit his looks and disposition — comfortable, adorable and cozy.

We knew we would never let him sleep on the furniture or in the bed. He would never be fed from the table and only eat dog food and healthy dog treats. We knew all the things he wasn’t going to do.

Just like a newborn, we’ve grown accustomed to one another and abandoned all the things he wasn’t going to do. We broke all the rules for new dog owners.

We did get the name right. Baxter is for keeps.

The name of the book, “The 50+ Dog Owner” is written by Mary Jane Checchi and published by T.E.H. Publications.

— Trick lives in Baton Rouge

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