I’ve envisioned myself doing many things throughout the course of my life including, but not limited to: astronaut, professional wrestler, horse farrier, competitive eater, Catholic priest, Guiness Book of World Records authenticator and famous Chinese-American rapper.
One thing I absolutely never envisioned myself becoming, however, was a dog owner.
Guess which one of those aforementioned things actually happened in the past few weeks?
I never grew up with a dog in my house — although my mother did give in and let my little sister get a dog shortly before I left for college — so I guess I never really understood the dog phenomenon. It’s not that I disliked dogs. Quite the contrary, actually. I was fine with other people owning dogs. I just never figured dog ownership was for me.
To me, dogs seemed like an awful lot of effort. They needed to be fed. And given water. And walked. And housebroken. Those are things I sometimes struggle to do for myself. I couldn’t see myself being charged with helping another living creature with those things as well.
I was never going to be “a dog person.”
In the past few weeks, however, I have found out that while I may not be “a dog person,” I am “the dog person.”
As in, one dog. My dog. The best dog.
I have been managing to put off getting a dog since my wife and I got married in 2001. My wife loves dogs and always wanted a dog. Seventeen years is a long time to hold strong against someone who wants something — particularly when you are married to that person. When our kids became old enough to realize what pet ownership was, they both wanted a dog as well. For more than a decade, I have been outnumbered in Great Fong Family Dog Debate.
But somehow — likely though sheer force of will— I managed to keep winning the fight. We never got a dog.
A few years ago, however, as my daughter was entering Troy Junior High School, I felt like she needed some motivation in her pole vault career. I told her she could get a dog if she broke the TJHS school record in the pole vault. At the time, she wasn’t even close, and I kind of figured it would stay that way.
I’d look like a nice guy for relenting a little, and she’d have some motivation to work harder for a goal I didn’t think she’d actually achieve.
Until, of course, she did.
Midway through the season, my daughter broke the Troy Junior High School pole vault record. No sooner had she landed on the mat then she loudly proclaimed, “I’m getting a dog!”
Because I am a man of my word (and because I’m pretty sure my wife would have left me had I broken the promise I made to my daughter), I relented. The great dog search was on. On Memorial Day weekend, my wife called me to announce they had found the dog they wanted and, in the matter of a few hours, we were going to have a dog living in our house.
A funny thing happened when my wife and kids came walking through the door with little Millie, our beagle/cocker spaniel mix … I fell in love.
Not just a little bit of love, either. The kind of love I haven’t felt since the birth of my children and since my wife and I first met. It really was love at first sight. We got her from a pet rescue, but when I saw the looks of sheer joy on the faces of my family members, I knew right away it was she that had rescued us.
I didn’t know the depth of my love for our little Millie until three days later, however, when she completely stopped eating. She stopped drinking water. She stopped being the playful pup with whom we had all fallen in love. Then she started vomiting. A lot.
At midnight that night, my wife took her to the MedVet unit. She called a few hours later to let me know Millie had parvovirus, which can be fatal in dogs. She then told me she would have to stay in the hospital a few days and how much it would cost us to get her help — money we frankly don’t have — and that the bill would come due whether she made it or not.
With tears running down my face as I thought about this little creature I had fallen so in love with in just three days, I remember telling my wife, “Do whatever it takes. I don’t care what it costs.”
Thankfully, our little Millie is home again and seems to be doing just fine. She’s back to her playful self and everyone in the house seems happy.
So I guess the lesson here is, “Never say never.” I never wanted to be a dog owner. And I guess I’m still not, technically.
I am the dog owner. I own the only dog that really matters to me.
David Fong writes for the Troy Daily News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.