I grew up with dogs. My family had dogs as far back as I can remember. I say this because my mom has been living alone without even a canine companion since my dad passed away nearly six years ago. You see, not long before Dad lost a lengthy battle with cancer, he had to endure the added pain and heartbreak of putting down their 14-year old German shepherd mix, “Rusty.” This was a dog Mom had rescued after he had been abandoned as a puppy somewhere near the Verdugo Hills Golf Course. As with all of our family’s dogs, he quickly became the most pampered member of the household. To this day, I think that losing his beloved Rusty did more to hasten my dad’s demise than even his disease.
Anyway, since my father’s passing, Mom has avoided getting another dog for a couple of reasons. First, she was busy traveling on long-delayed overseas trips but is now staying closer to home. (If you couldn’t go somewhere pulling a fifth-wheel behind you, Dad wouldn’t go, so Mom had been catching up with her wanderlust.) Second, she simply hasn’t wanted the hassles of raising a puppy — like housebreaking, scratching, whining and shedding. Coincidentally those are the same reasons she hasn’t wanted a new husband, but I won’t go there.
No matter how often my siblings and I have urged Mom to get a companion of the canine persuasion these past many years, she has resisted. Until this past week. That’s when she met Samy, the curly-haired housemate of a sweet old lady who lived across the street from my in-laws here in La Crescenta. It seems that their 93-year-old neighbor had gone out to get the mail one day a few weeks ago and never stepped foot back in her house.
After the departed neighbor’s adult son was notified, the funeral arranged for, the many details of a sudden (although not untimely) death taken care of, only the issue of what to do with Samy remained. As a 7-year-old dog, he was already housebroken, he didn’t bark at people, he slept through the night, and he was very, very lonely. In short, he was just waiting for someone like my mom.
My in-laws knew in their hearts that Samy and Mom were destined to be together. Introductions were made. Arms were twisted. Tails wagged. Hearts melted. Samy has had a new home for a couple of weeks now and already it seems as though they have never been apart. When I talk to Mom, she goes on and on (and on) about Samy’s latest achievement or activity or mannerism or cute-as-a-button thing he’s done. I should have made such an impression on her growing up. Needless to say, I’m happy for Mom. And for Samy.
This experience supports my longstanding belief that it’s better to adopt a “Heinz 57” variety of dog versus a purebred. We currently have two AKC-registered dogs in our home (who thankfully don’t read the newspaper). And as much as we dearly love them, our two canine children have been the most expensive animals we’ve ever owned. I’m not exaggerating when I say that our two current dogs have cost us more in medical expenses over the past eight years than any of the humans in our household ever have. In fact, looking back at the parade of pets our family has enjoyed, the found or adopted mutts have been the least high-maintenance of them all. And usually the best tempered, too.
Of course, ever the wise father, I have used the above observation as a life-lesson for our two teenage boys, albeit in relation to both cars and girlfriends. For surely it is written: The higher the pedigree, the greater the ongoing costs of maintenance.
And I can already hear the angry letters and e-mails being written.
See you ’round town.
JIM CHASE is a freelance writer and longtime Crescenta Valley resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.