A Pedigree of Excellence

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In the days of LEGOs, puzzles, and the kindergarten’s medium (a.k.a. finger-paint), to me, the definition of a real dog was a four-legged replacement for whining kids. The idea of having a dog sounded more enticing to me than playing with beady-eyed Barbie dolls and Hot wheels. The difficulty was to convince my hard- headed parents into adding more chaos into our already hectic household. The problem that my pea-sized brain did not consider was the improbability of persuading my stubborn parents.

“MOMMMMMMMM”……my sisters and I pleaded.
“Can we please get a dog? We promise we’ll take care of him.”
Not to my surprise…my sisters and I were shot down like a fighter pilot in Pearl Harbor after our first attempt. So together Megan, Whitney, and I devised a rather clever plan. Our plan of action was covering the entirety of our one story house with post-it notes that read, “Dog? Please.” To our dismay, our proposal only resulted in a “family meeting” announcing that we would never own a smelly, flea infested mutt. Our last resort was conning our parents into thinking we wanted to go to the mall for Oshkosh B’ gosh Pepto-Bismol pink jean overalls and ice cream, when really our motive for the Saturday outing was to go to the pet store. There we did not find a dog that met our only expectation: large enough to be considered a small pony; however, our trip did benefit us in one way. Our parents finally realized that it would be easier to buy us a dog and appease our never ending determination rather than agonize a bunch of youngsters.
Coincidentally, my grandpa’s oncologist, Dr. Gurtler, had a litter of Labrador Retrievers that she was trying to sell. My mom found out about the friendly pooches and decided that if we were to get a dog, we should visit one. My mom’s idea in taking us to see a dog was to teach us the responsibility that comes along with the ownership of an animal such as feeding, exercising, and disposing of excrements. My preconceived plan was simple: one visit to view the desirable faces of the pups, selection process, and then I would be able to walk out the doors holding MY lab, exuding looks of the poster child for joy.
Beige walls, stacks of un-filed papers, and the smell of camphor were the only things I could focus on while intently waiting for the door to open and be greeted by a dozen of playful puppies. I sat there, waiting in an uncomfortable chair thinking to myself that in a moment I would be able to hold my future canine companion. A tall, tan woman abruptly walked into the room, almost in tears.
“I can’t keep him! My landlord does not have a soul!” she said barely catching her breath.
I sat still, perceiving the stranger‘s predicament until Dr. Gurtler appeared to reassure her friend that when her living arrangements were amended, there would be a dog waiting.
Although I sympathized with her, her misfortune just added another pup to the list of nominees to be the Nolan's household pooch.
Perplexed by Doctor Gurtler's relieved grin, my family shortly found out that if this Labrador had not been returned today, we would have been out of luck. For the other dogs that she was planning on offering to us were already claimed. So the saying is true, “you snooze, you lose.”
My initial disappointment in the inability to choose was allayed by my first gaze of the black, silky- furred, 3-inch pawed puppy dubbed Bruiser that clumsily slid towards me on the white tile floor of the office. ONE WEEKEND-is all I have to convince my mom that buying a dog is a smart decision and not one that will chew a hole in a family heirloom or slime her Italian leather shoes. The deal was we were allowed to take Bruiser home for a trial weekend. A weekend of fun came and went and my parents decided that we should return Bruiser, even though we all grew attached from just three short days. “It just wasn’t the right time.” Or so my parents claimed. My mom decided that it was in our best interest that she return Bruiser first thing Monday by herself so we wouldn’t complain that she was being unreasonable. For now the opportunity to change her mind was thrown out like the doggie biscuits on Monday morning.
Monday afternoon, I walked in the door and made a b-line for the kitchen... when suddenly I detected a noise that was unfamiliar to my auditory system. The soft, reverberating footsteps did not register with my sound catalog. All I could focus on was the whoosh of a tail behind the counter.
“But, but...I thought he was going back today...” I said quizzically. My mom replied in her most sincere voice,
“I just can’t imagine this dog living in another home. On the way to the doctor’s office, Bruiser crept from the backseat of the wood- paneled station wagon to claim rights to shotgun. He looked up at me with those sleepy, puppy eyes and because of that face, I called Doctor Gurtler to inform her that we would not be returning Bruiser.”

My success in inducing my parents to reconsider their initial prejudice towards pets has altered their outlook on animals. Not only were photos of Bruiser displayed on the mantel (in larger form than my sisters and I), but he was a crucial member of the family. His disposition was one in which my parents have sworn upon when asked by other adults, “how did ya’ll find such a perfect dog?” The response is always the same…we just got lucky. However, in our case, that luck only lasted for seven years.
Approaching Bruiser’s seventh birthday, (in dog years, 49) he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, also known as bone cancer or the angel of death. Unaware of which stage the cancer was in, the veterinarians predicted the cancer to have already metastasized, sucking the life out of every individual cell in his forelimbs, narrow scapula, and vital organs. Denying the vets’ prognosis, my family opted for chemotherapy every other week for six weeks. Ironically, Doctor Gurtler supplied the medicine to treat Bruiser. When our decision proved to only accrue medical bills, we were forced to take another route: amputation. Bruiser then became known as a "tripod" and he was the center of attention, not always for good reasons, in my neighborhood. Despite his lack of limb, his vigor to run with the “big dogs” was proof to his superiority. Bruiser’s energy level did not noticeably diminish until months after his amputation. With no other options, the final resolution was animal euthanasia.

Bruiser’s presence in my family’s life has predetermined the fact that we will never go without floppy ears, a wagging tail, and muddy paws within the house. Since my experience in watching something as simple as “man’s best friend” develop into one of the most beloved members of the family, I have seen a drastic difference in the way my parents and I view animals. Furthermore, I have made a promise to myself that when I am older I will never deprive the people around me of the love that a dog can instill.





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