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Small Wonders: Everything was fine. And then...

Everything was going just fine. Work is going well, both for me and the wife. The kids are as happy and healthy as two twitchy, frustrating mutant life forms can be — able to bathe and entertain themselves with some semblance of independence.

A roof over our heads, cars that are almost paid off, manageable credit-card debt, food on the table. We’re easing into summer, the barbecue is ready, the lawn is green, the garage tidy and everyone is sleeping through the night. Britney Spears is back on tour and a Kardashian is getting married.

Like I said. Everything was going just fine.

So, of course, we had to go and mess it all up.


Some months ago you may have read in this column that my family was in search of a puppy — a cute, cuddly critter for my girls to grow up with, a decoy for them to torment besides their parents. That’s when we found that it’s easier to adopt a child from a Third World country than it is to get a puppy in the greater L.A. area. Chihuahuas and pit bulls from the pound don’t count.

We filled out the forms, submitted blood tests and earnings statements; we pledged to feed our prospective pooch rare and possibly illegal meat as recommended; have it groomed thrice weekly by only accredited canine stylist professionals and provide psychic therapy/chakra balancing treatments ‘til death do us part.

Such are the demands made by the gatekeepers of adoptable pets.

And still nothing.


Then a few weeks ago we went to a pet adoption extravaganza where dozens of rescues and shelters were showing off their wares. It was like a furrier convention, but with cages instead of a catwalk. I expected to be interrogated and refused by even more deacons of doggydom.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 ran amok falling in love with this pug, that poodle and every other beagle, basset and bloodhound. The air was filled with the aroma of excrement and the deafening chorus of barks and yowls. Row after row of discarded, disenfranchised, death-row dogs were vying for attention and salvation. Kind of like a presidential debate.

Then we saw her.

At the end of one cellblock in a pen with five other puppies, she sat. A wee terrier — with a dash of Jack Russell and a pinch of Salvador Dali — barklessly calling us with black marble eyes.

All the pups clamored for attention, but when we reached in to pet this one, she merely rolled over on her back and bade us rub her mottled pink belly.

Exactly how I seduced my wife.

But in true sibling form, Things 1 and 2 refused to agree that this was “The One.” If one gets a cheeseburger, the other orders chicken fingers; if one likes mint chip, the other wants Rocky Road; one sips Scotch, the other Bourbon.

As soon as Thing 1 fancied this scruffy three-month-old black-and-white scamp, Thing 2 looked elsewhere for love.


That’s when a slight, gangly, feeble little shepherd with ill-fitting skin fell into view. Literally. At only eight weeks and the runt of her litter, she was continually tumbled by more agile pups. Thing 2 “The Compassionate” could not resist. Nor could their mother when she saw her babes holding the newest objects of their affections.

The attendant foster mother saw the delight in their eyes. And I saw the dollar signs in hers.

“You know, it’s easier with two dogs,” she lied.

And I took in that soul-deep, time-slowing, peace-sucking breath that my children loathe because it foreshadows every denied request and fit of rage by their father. Thankfully, I knew, we’d never be able to take these dogs home today. Surely there would be a tome of forms to fill out in triplicate, financial audits, home inspections and a 60-day cooling-off period before we’d be allowed to take responsibility for these beings of light.


A one-page form and they rubbed the embossed numbers of our credit card onto a cocktail napkin with a dull pencil.


So we enter a stage of life marked by soiled blankets, chewed shoes, sleepless nights and animal waste dotting the backyard. And that’s just my part.


But driving home with my bundles of joy in the backseat cradling their own bundles of joy — four sets of eyes filled with delight and wonder — I got a strange yet familiar tickle in the back of my throat. The same one I felt as a boy in the backseat the day I brought home my first pup. Yet this moment meant so much more to me, was so much sweeter.

But before I could put this miracle into words, the shepherd emptied its bladder upon Thing 2 and my backseat.

Like I said. Everything was going just fine.

PATRICK CANEDAY is author of the book “Crooked Little Birdhouse.” He may be reached on Facebook, at and