Shepherding in a new leash on life, without paws

Finally, after all my manly attempts to avoid it, we sat down and had a conversation. We agreed that if we got a dog it would have to be something medium sized, like a collie or large beagle. I hate those little ankle biters who bark like they’re breathing helium. I’ve always had large dogs like German shepherds, but we wanted this to be an indoor dog, and getting a big one in our house would be like turning Godzilla loose in downtown Fort Wayne.

Soon Emily found a photo of a shelter/rescue pet on petfinder.com; a part shepherd mix, adult, already partially trained, brought in a month before after it strayed or was dumped by some former owner. (By the way, “rescue” means the human rescues it, not that the dog goes searching for you with a thermos of brandy. Not that I have a problem with that.)

The vet who had the dog named him Goliath, apparently a joke since, in the photo, Goliath looked nice and medium sized. Just what we needed.

I’ve never adopted a dog from outside Noble County; my pets usually turn up at the door all by themselves. The application was more detailed than most job applications I’ve filled out. References? My driver’s license? Blood type?!

What arrangements have you made in case you become incapable of taking care of your pet?

Um, I’ll let him eat my body? I’ve put on a few pounds, that should keep him awhile.

Why do you want to adopt this pet?

That one gave me pause. My answer to questions like that is usually the same one that enrages parents and kids alike: “Um … because?”

But I know why. Dogs are so much better than humans: Completely loyal, never talking about you behind your back, unconditionally loving and never holding a grudge. They’re like humans with the bad stuff taken out. If they turn on you, it’s generally because you did something bad, not because they covet your job promotion or your Elton John album collection.

We drove to a town called Warren, Indiana, and walked into the veterinarian’s office with the intention of meeting Goliath in person, to see if we bonded. I walked to the counter, looked over, and came eye to eye with the dog, who was stretched out around the vet’s office chair.

All the way around.

You see, the photo did not do justice, and it turns out the name Goliath wasn’t ironic at all.

He stalked out – causing the building to shake – knocking over chairs with his massive tail, and looked me in the eyes with those big brown ones of his (I didn’t have to crouch down for this). I was thinking, “This dog is way bigger than what we intended.”

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Being a pet owner is like being a parent, in that if you’re a good one you have to do the work, instead of just enjoying the experience. On the way home we drove with the windows cracked, and I almost lost visibility from the fur whirlwind blowing around in the car. Although we’d already prepared for some dog, we had to stop for a fur brush, a heavy-duty collar meant for Angus bulls, and food dishes heavy enough that he wouldn’t shoot them across the room and break our ankles. Then we bought him a small compact car to use as a chew toy.

That day I took him for a walk around town, learning he’s skittish around other dogs, and doesn’t like sirens at all. We encountered two little girls who patted his head; one murmured “he’s big,” and the other replied, “He’s big as a horse.”  We’re going to get a lot of exercise, and I’d better buy a snowsuit, because walks don’t stop when winter blows in.

But for all the challenges of having a pet, there are worse things in life. For instance, there’s not having one.

By the way, we didn’t want him carrying around a heavy, big sounding name like that, so we call him Bea. It’s short for Beowulf.

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