Chronicles of Whistling Duck Cottage

Week Thirteen — Puppy Conversations with My Grandson

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One of the highlights of Saturdays with my grandchildren is when my grandson says Let’s talk! Usually this happens at the end of the day — sometime between dinner and his mother arriving to pick up him and his sister.

His 8-year-old sister is on a fast track to pre-teenager-hood and has begun a habit of retreating to “their” room, which is my office/guest room where they sleep on overnight visits, and commandeering my computer to watch an hour of Taylor Swift videos or annoying episodes of Some Assembly Required, Mr. Young, and Richie Rich. I remember her brother going through this same stage of self-inflicted solitude to watch TV shows and movies that leave adults scratching their heads. We leave her be. They have no internet or TV at their apartment so an indulgent hour or two each week at my house won’t turn her into a dolt. My grandson survived that stage, as I am sure she will.

My grandson and I typically engage in our talk time on the back porch, swaying back and forth in rocking chairs, watching the sunset, listening to the whistling ducks chattering and arguing raucously.

This week’s talk began thusly:

Me: So, what is the topic of conversation tonight?

(We’ve had previous conversations about college, Trump, white supremacy, school bullies, New York City, careers, family members, sports — particularly soccer, his new love — and books.)

My 10-year-old grandson: Dogs.

Me, incredulously: Dogs?

Him: I want a puppy really bad.

Me: You know your mom isn’t keen on pets and doesn’t have the money to pay to feed and care for one.

Him: I know. So, I have a proposition for you.

Me, hesitantly: And, what proposition is that?

Him: I think the law says I can move out when I am eighteen, right? (I nod and don’t mention that he could do that even earlier.) So, you will be older and could use even more help here, right? So, I could move in and help you and in payment you let me have a dog!

I smile inwardly and outwardly. This boy wants a dog so badly he is planning for one eight years from now! My inward smile is a sad one. I want him to have one now while he’s still a kid and can enjoy the companionship of the most loyal friend he will ever find. By the time he is eighteen, he will be more interested in moving in with some hot girl than with me. He will be more interested in a car than a dog.

I would willingly pay for him to have a dog now — food, vet bills, pet deposit at their apartment, whatever it takes — but I know my daughter does not want the physical responsibility of one, does not want the hassle of another being that needs care, even if my grandson provides most of that care. She doesn’t even much like dogs.

Me: Well, that sounds like a heck of a deal. I’ll take it!

Grandson smiles broadly: I knew you would say yes! I knew it! So, let’s talk about the dog now. I want either a beagle or a chocolate lab.

We talk about those breeds, do a Google search, and read about them. Turns out he likes the looks of a black lab more than a chocolate. Turns out that the lab personality is more attractive to him than the beagle’s. I tell him stories of the two black labs and the shepherd/lab mix I owned in years past. We settle on a black lab puppy and then discuss options for acquiring one — breeder, pet store, rescue group, animal shelter.

The cost and questionable backgrounds of breeders and pet stores convince him that those are not acceptable dog sources. An animal shelter is unpredictable — you never know what they will have and often don’t know the background of the dogs. We look up lab rescue groups in our area of Florida and settle on that as the best avenue for acquiring his future puppy.

Him: I already have names.

Me, impressed at the forethought he has put into this puppy: Really? You already chose names?

Him: Yes, if I choose a girl, she’ll be Shelley. If I choose a boy, he’ll be named Santiago. But, I’m sure I’ll choose a boy.

He then asks about all the dogs I’ve had in my life. There are many. Living 20+ years in the country on three acres allowed me to rescue many dogs, but our talk includes all dogs of my life, from childhood until now. I name them, one-by-one as the evening darkens and we can no longer see the lake, stopping to tell him about each dog. The number reaches 32. I am not surprised: he is impressed.

Him: I have one concern about bringing a puppy into your house.

Me: Really? What?

Him: I don’t know how Chanelito and Pooh will feel about sharing their space with a puppy.

Chanelito and Pooh are my dogs — Chanelito is 14 and Pooh is 16.

Me, surprised that this is his worry: Honey, Chanelito and Pooh won’t be around when you’re eighteen. You know they’re old. How could they possibly live another eight years?

Him: Gee, I know they’re old but, for some reason, I never think of them as dying — just getting older. But, you’re right, they’re really old now.

Me, gently: Honestly, I would be surprised if Pooh makes it to your birthday next May or maybe even to the new year. She has lots of problems. Chanelito is better off, but dogs of his breed rarely live past fourteen or fifteen. Both dogs are on borrowed time.

I explain what “borrowed time” means.

Him, looking sad: I just never think of them not being here. Will you get another dog once they’re gone?

Me: We’ve talked about it.

Him: I suggest you get an older dog so the dog won’t out live you and get stuck in a shelter when you die with no one to love him. It happens a lot, you know, that old dogs get dumped because they’re too much trouble or their owner dies. It would be great if you could save one from dying alone in a shelter.

Me, overflowing with pride for my grandson: We’ve thought about that and agreed that an older dog would be the best choice for us. And, you’re right, there are many older dogs that need homes. When the day comes that we are dogless and go in search of one, will you help us choose the right dog for us?

Him, his eyes as bright as a Christmas tree lights: Can I, really? I would love to help you pick out a dog! Can he be “our” dog until I move in and get my own puppy?

I was always a writer but lived in a bookkeeper’s body before I found Medium and broke free — well, almost. Working to work less and write more.