You break it, you buy it.

The best pet is the one that finds you.

Being responsible for a living thing is a heavy load to carry and the idiosyncrasies of a domestic animal perpetuate habits of the humans around it. Which is why I was reluctant to get a pet, especially a dog. The only dog I had as a child was a German Shepherd mix named “Woof”. Folks often misinterpreted his name as “Wolf”. He was a gorgeous dog we got as a puppy from the Humane Society. He was the runt of the litter and we fell in love with him instantly. He was shy, but we propped up his ego and gave him too much love. The vet originally said he would be a medium build dog, but he done grewed into a massive beast. He was a protective dog by nature and being a latchkey sort, didn’t get the exercise he needed. Our backyard was about one eighth of an acre, which wasn’t enough room for an overweight ninety pound watch dog. He was aggressive and protective which lead to some awkward moments with guests. I was apprehensive when my soon to be live-in girlfriend, Dawn, asked me one night,

“How do you feel about dogs?”

One of her employees had purchased a Bichon Frise, which promptly squirted out eight puppies a week later. One was ours.

It was a big step to abandon my bachelor pad, but getting a dog to boot meant she really meant to stick her hooks in me. A couple of beers later and I agreed. My apartment search adopted a new variable, and I found a place across the street from my existing residence. We scoped out the puppies and the first one to come to me was a bumbling goof, happy and big for the bunch, he jumped into my arms. I picked all of his seven weeks of life into my arms and he promptly rolled out of them falling to the ground with a thud and a resounding “yelp”.

“We’ll take him.” I said. Pointing to a different pup Dawn was holding.

We were to pick him up a week later after our move and vacation, but we got a call that the pup we picked had a heart murmur and we’d have to settle for another. We had our pick of two, one that I had dropped and a second that turned out to be full of fright. We picked the broken puppy. He was sweet and outgoing and had good looks. We named him Maddux.

My anxiety welled within. All of a sudden, my whole life had changed. Dawn worked close to sixty hours a week, and with my open schedule I presumed direct responsibility for this puppy. I was mortified and resentful.

His good looks and puppy breath made all sorts of folks in the neighborhood love him. He was a ham and after growing accustomed to his new surroundings, became house trained and mellow in a matter of a few weeks. I trained him to sit and lie down and come. My girlfriend accepted all the fiscal policies of ownership and purchased him a bell to wear on his collar.

Underneath it all, I felt awful, like my love for him was a masquerade. I wanted to tell Dawn that I was afraid that he would be an obnoxious, barking lap dog and I wasn’t fit to care for a dog. I was also afraid that he didn’t love me. His disobedience and joy when he saw others ignited insecurities of long ago. I was sure that he would be indifferent.

Maddux grew and I tugged him in tow wherever I went. I swore that I would never beat him. I adopted a stern role of consistency and love. I was a drill sergeant. Time lapsed and my life hiccupped. The dog pressed my nerves and I lost my temper. I lost it once and pinned him on his back in anger and twisted his ear. He yelped. I resounded, “NO!”. He dropped his ears and tail.

That night, I told Dawn that I had lost my temper. I was sorry and resentful and awkward. I felt that the dog was a symbol of myself, and the children I would procreate. She told me not to worry.

I worried. I worried that I would let my past break the façade of the walls I quarantine it in and that my soul would leak out like molten wax and when she realized how abominable I was, she would view me with disgust and pity. I worried that the puppy would demonstrate blatant insubordination and run off. I worried that I might be alone again.

The next morning, Dawn asked me where Madduxs’ bell went. I didn’t know but I suspected he lost it when I pinned him down. Maddux was silent. I worked with him after that, giving him my love and showing him my real sorrow. He slept with me every afternoon.

Three months later, with cold, we found the bell. It felt miniature between my gloved fingers compared to the dog he had become. I shook the bell for all the loves and friends I had lost. I shook the bell for crimma. Maddux looked up at me with cold feet. He wanted to go inside and my daze frazzled his love. He tilted his head and spread his ears with confusion. I laughed and put the bell in my pocket. I didn’t tell Dawn. It was my grief.

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