Who are you and what have you done with my husband?

Even though I’ve been married to my husband for eleven years this September, I will always have a love affair with animals.

No, not the drunken-soldier-on-Alvarado-Street-in-Monterey species, silly.

Animals of the furry, domesticated kind.

Up until last Sunday we had three pets. Three. I won’t even try to take a picture of the three of them together. No good will come of it.

We got our fat orange tabby six months into our marriage. I moved to Augusta, GA three days after our wedding at the Naval Postgraduate school and six weeks later, my husband embarked on our first deployment as husband-and-wife.

I was lonely, of course. I moped around our beautiful apartment for four months and having opposite reactions to being a new military wife. On one hand, I finally met the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with but we didn’t even live together. On the other, it was freeing to take a break from the grad school fast track I put myself on and get to know myself all over again.

I needed someone else in the apartment with me while he was gone. I settled for something else.

One of my husband’s coworker’s cats had a litter and I chose the fiesty orange one. She was tiny and when she sat on one of the a 2″ x 2″ kitchen tile, she fit in it with room to spare. We named her Fuego.

My husband thought she was a “cute little cuss” and to my surprise, smelled her when he first picked her up. I know you’re thinking, “Awww” but wait, it gets better.

She was quickly joined by her litter mate, a gray tabby. After seeing the movie “Dogma” with Alanis Morrisette as God, I wanted to name the two after the fallen angels. The lighter one, Loki, was Matt Damon and Bartleby was Ben Affleck. Made sense to me at the time.

Little did I know that for a decade these cats would be despised and taunted by my husband, usually after something destructive they’ve done to the apartment or house. Usually.

But my husband never seriously threatened to give them away because he knew how much I loved those cats, and soon how much our children would too.

When we moved to Texas, a medium sized lab and sheltie mutt came to our door and I can’t say I blame him. After all, I was making the best chocolate cookies in the world at the time. Our son was three at the time and enamored with dogs. When my dad asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, my dad would tell him, “Be a doctor or an engineer.” Our son would say, “I’m gonna be a dog.”

So the dog stayed as long as he could for a few years. He was older and had to eventually be put down. I do credit that loving and gentle dog with helping with me depression. We had the dog for about a month when I realized I ran out of anti-depressants. He gave me hope that things can always change for the better. An angel of the canine kind.

Three years ago we brought those felines across country to finally settle into our retirement home. Sure enough, one of my friends told me she adopted a puppy from one of her students. Uh oh.

I went with her to look at the pups and was immediately drawn in by the runt. I’ve read that when choose a puppy, never get the runt. Oops. I’ve also read that when you choose a puppy you should carry it and he should be calm and not squirm.

Oops again.

Little did we know this cute little five pounder would grow to forty pounds in two months. Buddy dug holes into our already dingy carpet and the cats hated him so wherever he dug, they made sure to mark their territory. Though a carpet steamer helped a little, there was no magical carpet glue that would mend actual holes on our first floor. We decided to try and live with the damage as long as we could. We didn’t want to replace the carpet at all if this cycle was going to continue.

Then my husband’s accident happened and there was no way I was going to have a filthy carpet that didn’t lay flat, especially when my husband still had a catheter and still used a cane and a wheelchair occasionally. And then…

Ahhhhhhhhhh…

This floating laminate floor made it easier for my husband to get around, was so much easier to keep clean than carpet, and the dog spent limited supervised visits in the house.

Ahhhhhhhhhh indeed.

Until last weekend.

My cousin was in a bit of a quandry. Her youngest daughter was halfway through her nursing program in southern California and her landlord said no to her dog ownership. My cousin’s middle daughter just had a baby on the fourth of July. So naturally I said, “Well, if our dogs get along, maybe we can watch C’s puppy until she gets back from college.” Or forever.

I made that offer while carrying the newborn, only four hours old, on the fourth of July. Five days later my husband flew in for a couple of weeks. And I kind of forgot I said all of that.

On Tuesday after storytime at Borders we were on our way to get Vietnamese food when my godson called.

“Auntie A, can we bring you the dog today?”

Holy…

OMG. Was my husband mad. I could tell because he does the opposite of me. I can’t stop talking (as if you could tell when do I stop talking?) while he gets extremely withdrawn. One word answers.

So I try and adopt the voice of reason, “It’s just temporary. They can’t handle any more dogs [they already had two very high maintenance dogs] and D just had a baby.”

His reply? “Alright. I understand. But I am not going to expend anymore effort to this dog.”

“Not even petting the dog?”

“When do I ever pet our animals?”

Oh, point taken.

So this Chi-Weenie named Dolce (Italian meaning “sweet” or “good”) with it’s weird underbite and satellite dish ears has taken over the house. It’s already soiled the house twice and terrorized the cats. It’s already made the big dog miserable.

But within five minutes it’s already gotten my husband to fall in love with her. He’s called it the ugliest dog he’s ever seen but still says he can’t be mean to such a tiny little dog. He’s complimented her on her courage (he used another word) to attack the fat orange cat twice her side. He’s even impressed with her audacity to try and alpha dog the big dog.

This Chi-Weenie has brought out a side that I’ve never seen in my husband short of our own kids. Has Dolce melted his icy heart when it comes to animals? Has Dolce uncovered a purpose for animals other than digestion? Is Dolce our new baby?

Whatever the case may be, Dolce has made our kids very happy. She’s made my husband happy in ways I hadn’t seen a long time.

Dolce, indeed.

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