Jack is a speeding black streak across a white field of snow. Jack is big black comma curled up in his bed on the floor. Jack is a lean, wriggling greeter when you come into the house. Jack is a lanky, dark puddle of fur stretched out on the kitchen floor.
Jack is an inveterate floor cleaner, always looking for the stray shred of cheese that has fallen off the cutting board or a random bit of pasta that slipped from the pot and missed the colander. Jack takes his peanut-butter-filled kong and thrashes it up and down and around the room, licking and snuffling till all the peanut-butter is long gone.
Jack also sings. He sings along to “Happy Birthday.” But better yet is Aaron Copland’s rousing spiritual, “Walls of Zion.” He howls along to “Walls of Zion.” He throws back his head and wags his tale like he’s Robert Duvall in The Apostle, just on fire with Holy Ghost Power.
Jack is my daughter’s dog and though he has cost us worry, money and heartache (he’s been hospitalized for eating the better part of a baseball and has nearly OD-ed a few times on chocolate), he is one of the winningest dogs there is.
The problem is, he lives in Brooklyn. And I don’t.
I’ve been saying for a few years that I want to get a dog. And for a few years I was able to postpone on my jones by dog-sitting for friends and having Jack up for visits.
When I spent the fall of 2010 living in the seaside town of Rockport, Mass., there were dogs everywhere. I was a first-name basis with Eloise, the gregarious Airedale who walked up and down Bearskin Neck, winning friends and influencing people. There were twin Bernese sheepdogs who, before I met them, I assumed were their owner’s son and daughter-in-law since she kept saying she and her big kids had gone hiking in Dogtown that day.
There were dogs who wandered up and down Atlantic Avenue where I was living and dogs that waited, tethered outside Tuck’s Candy Shop and The Bean and Leaf and Lula’s Pantry.
I never really lacked for dog time in Rockport.
But now, with Jack in Brooklyn and time and money not making a Rockport lifestyle a possibility, I have to face two facts:
Fact one: It was easier to get pregnant than it has been for me to get a dog. Having kids was a snap: you conceive and nine months later (in my second daughter’s case, six-and-a-half month’s later), boom!—there’s a kid.
Fact two: I don’t know the first thing about how to find a dog.
I know I want a rescue dog. I know I want a trained dog. Beyond that, I know nothing.
I watch all these people walking by my house, their dogs on leashes and I think, “now how’d you find that dog?” I’m simply stumped by the process.
One gloomy day last fall I stopped in at an animal shelter only to find that all the good dogs had gone to the Fireplug Run, the socially ill-adapted dogs and biggest barkers left behind and looking unhappy in their shelter cages. I really don’t want an incessantly barking, neurotic, sociopathic dog.
And I’m secretly worried that I’ll get one who won’t measure up to the two dogs I know best: Jack and the late Daniel, a very large dog of equally large intelligence and affection.
Are their breeds I should rule out? I like dachshunds, but are they too yappy? I like Airedales, but when I went to the Airedale Rescue site to click on “the adoption process” I was warned it was an unsafe connection. Is that an omen?
I adore pugs, but the people I live with are split down the middle: one hates them, one loves them. For the sake of domestic harmony, the no vote always has to win out.
Truly, getting a kid into the world was easier than getting a dog into my house.
But—I am not without hope.
Because if it takes a village to raise a child, I believe there will be some good advice headed my way about how to get a Jack, Eloise and Daniel-caliber dog.
And next time I go to Rockport, maybe I’ll be strolling up and down the Neck, my flipflops flapping and my pup’s tongue hanging out, digging the dog scene.