Saturday, April 14, 2007

 

Can We Keep Her?

It was 1994. I had just gone through a divorce after several painful and tumultuous years that had resulted in my becoming distanced from my children...or them from me.

I had met and married a lady with two children...twin teenage daughters. She, and they, had been through their own trying period as mommy and daddy's marriage fell apart, and their father dealt them all blow after painful blow.

My new wife and I had agreed that I was not to even try to raise her children. She saw that as an unfair task to place on me considering my experiences, their experiences, and their ages...they were thirteen. We did agree that I was the adult male in the house and, with her, was a co-head of the house and would act as father in all such events.

That's how we got Diamond.

We had just moved into our first real home together after a few months in a small apartment. We found a house for rent just around the corner from the girls' grandmother. It was great because they had visited there many times, and had even lived with her for a while, so they had grown up with many of the kids in the neighborhood and knew many of the families.

One of the families had a dog, and this dog had a litter of puppies. As my wife puts it, they were part Australian Shepherd and part fence-jumper. Some would say "Heinz 57".

I am sure that you have guessed what happened next! In marched the two of them carrying this little black bundle of fur. They went straight to their mom and asked the inevitable question, followed up by the inevitable selling point, "Can we keep her? They said we could have her. We'll take care of her. You won't have to do anything."

Shhh. I have to be careful how I handle this. Diamond's laying on the floor outside my office door looking at me.

My wife did what I guess was the right thing. She knew that the girls had still not accepted me completely, and not as someone who had a say-so over what they could do. She also knew what the eventual outcome of this was going to be, and she knew that I had a right to be involved. She told the girls, "I'm not sure about this. You'll have to ask Don."

The girls really wanted that dog, and they were ready to deal with the devil to get it, so they turned to me and gave me the same pitch. I knew that while this might not be a "make or break" situation in our relationship, what I did in the next few minutes was going to color the next few years in some way. This was the first real family decision that hinged on the girls' wants and needs, and I didn't want to blow it.

I was also falling for the puppy and could see my wife, who refused to admit to such emotions over animals, getting a "what a cute little thing" look on her face.

To stall for a minute, I asked what her name was. "She doesn't have one yet," they replied. As I looked her over and petted her a little, I noticed a small star of white among the coal black fur on the back of her neck. "That looks like a diamond", I said, and then I knew what to say next.

"Let's call her Diamond."

It took a second for that to seep in, but then they realized what that meant. She was going to be ours and she had a name.

She's got a little bit of arthritis now, but she is still the champion beggar of central Texas. She is the only dog I have ever known who taught herself to play dead so that she could be "revived" with treats. We have to spell in front of her, and my wife complains because the words are getting longer and she's having trouble catching them. The girls long ago taught Diamond to carry messages and small objects back and forth between family members. Although as she aged, she quit putting her toys away on command, she learned that she could barter for treats by picking up dropped objects such as the pieces of paper I tend to let fall around my desk. We had to stop her the day she tried to bring us the remote, however.

She is somewhat psychic and knows when we are about to go somewhere and might just take her along. When she realizes she is being left behind, she retreats to her "pouting spot" on the couch. If we are gone too long, she complains under her breath when we get back, and there is no way she can be enticed to go outside if she believes we might be bringing in people food.

She protects us diligently from all intruders including passing cars or helicopters that are a bit too loud, or kids playing a half a block away. She bravely and boldly attempts to terrify all visitors until they reach down to pet her, and the puppy of several years ago reappears, and they are friends for life...until the next time they come to the door.

The girls who were "going to take care of her"?

Oh, they live about 160 miles away. One is a new mother and has two cats and two dogs of her own, and her sister has two dogs. She recently got rid of her killer attack cat, but that's another story. They still love Diamond, and fuss over her when we come to visit and baby-sit her when we have to travel, but somehow she has become our dog...my wife's and mine.

I don't regret that. I am sure that everything would have turned out all right, but I think it all started to get a little easier for us to become a family the day we added Diamond to it.

You know what? She just got up and went into the bedroom. I bet she’s going to tell my wife I’ve been ignoring her. She’s long ago learned the fine art of going to Mommy if Daddy can’t be swayed.

About the Author

Donovan Baldwin is a Texas writer and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as yoga, writing, nature, animals, the environment, global warming, happiness, self improvement, health, fitness, and weight loss. Pick up some free information on cats at http://cat-and-kitten.com/ . He has also collected several of his articles on health, fitness, diet, and weight loss at http://nodiet4me.com/articledirectory/ .

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