Friday, September 6, 2013

They Come in Brown? The Greatest Puppy Story Ever Told

On the tenth anniversary of us getting Couper, we are going to tell the often promised story of how we got him. It goes a little something like this:

Couper: Big Buddy, please tell me a story before I go to sleep.
Big Buddy: OK.  One story, then off to sleep you go.  What story is it you want to hear?
Couper: My favorite story.
Big Buddy: The one where you peed on the couch and I sat on it?
Couper: Yes, uh no.  I mean my other favorite story.  The one about how I became the Little Buddy.
Big Buddy: OK. Well, one day your mommy and I decided that we wanted the best little buddy in the whole wide world. So we called up Santa Claus and said, “Santa, please search the world over and find us the bestest little buddy in the whole land”.
Couper: Santa!?!
Big Buddy: Yes, Santa. So Santa looked and looked and he brought over a really really fine little buddy. We said, “Santa, that is a really really fine little buddy, but it is not the bestest little buddy in the whole wide world”. So Santa sighed and went back to his search.
Couper: Wow.
Big Buddy: Later Santa came back with an even finer little buddy. But it wasn’t the bestest little buddy in the whole wide world, so we sent him on his way again.
Couper: Poor Santa!
Big Buddy: Finally one day, Santa came to the door with the bestest little buddy in the whole wide world. Do you know who that little buddy was?
Couper: Me???
Big Buddy: Yup! You! We thanked Santa who replied with a hearty “Ho Ho Ho (you guys sure are picky...note to self, order more coal)” And we took you in and lived happily ever after.
Couper: That sure is a great story.  Is it true Big Buddy?
Big Buddy: You better believe it.
Couper: Wow. That’s a lot better than the story of how we found Godiva in the garbage.
Big Buddy: Couper! We did not find Godiva..
Couper: Good night Big Buddy. ZZZZzzzzzzz
Big Buddy: the garbage...Good Night Little Buddy

Now that Couper is sound asleep, we can tell the real story of how we got Couper.  We tell him the story above, so if you see him, don’t mention anything I’m about to tell you.

It was early September 2003.  George W. Bush was in his first term. “Shake Ya Tailfeather” was #1 on the charts. The Simpsons were in their 15th season of doing flashback shtick where they tell you three things that went on that year.

Couper’s Mommy was in her first year of teaching and was living with her parents. I had been seeing Couper’s Mommy for about a year and a half.

We are going to introduce more characters, including one more that can be called “Couper’s Mommy”, so for the sake of simplicity, let’s just name our cast:

Little Buddy: Frank/Couper
Couper’s Daddy (2002-2003): Larry
Couper’s Mommy (2002-2003): Christie
Couper’s Mommy (2003-present): Jamy
Big Buddy: Big Buddy

There. That will help. Otherwise I would have to write a sentence like: “Couper’s former mommy called Couper’s Mommy to tell her that she had a dog…” and we would all be confused and I will go half insane a quarter of the way through this.

So, early on the morning of Saturday, September 6, 2003 Christie called Jamy to tell her that she had a dog who, if Jamy did not take it, was going to the pound.

The year prior, Jamy had been Christie's student teacher. Christie taught fourth grade. Her husband was a high school teacher. They had two daughters, probably about 4 and 6 years old at that point. They also had a large older dog that had been with the family for some time. At some point during the year, it was probably brought up that Christie had gotten a puppy for the girls.

The puppy’s name was Frank and he had gotten into big trouble that morning. Seems Larry was shaving, and not paying attention to Frank, so Frank peed on Larry’s leg. That was the final straw. Frank was out of there. Christie got one phone call to give him away or else it was the pound for Frank.

So, Jamy had to scramble. The first call was to her parents to see if they would be willing to have a dog in the house. Her parents are not really dog people, but surprisingly the answer was a qualified, trial period, yes.

Her second call was to me:

Jamy: Hey, I just got a call from Christie. She has a dog that either I take or he is going to the pound.
Me: What kind of dog?
Jamy: He is a miniature dachshund, 1 year old male with brown hair.

Now Jamy and I were both dog lovers.

I have wanted a dog since I was two and my parents bought me a book called “Solomon Shag” and a stuffed dog I named “Shaggy Wah Wah”. But despite my desperate pleas, I never got anything more than books or stuffed dogs. I always felt I was gone too much to get a dog once I moved into my own place, but I still always wanted a dog, the breed varying from cocker spaniel, to dalmatian, to lab. Basically whatever kind of dog I met last.

Jamy did have dogs growing up, but mostly they were guard dogs and definitely outside dogs. Her dream dog was a female chocolate lab which she would name Godiva (hey, we know that name!). I liked labs. My sister had two labs and they were great. So I was absolutely OK with this plan.

My exposure to dachshunds was pretty limited. Growing up, an older couple down the street had a black dachshund named Willie. Willie’s daddy was a proud Scotsman who occasionally would walk Willie in full Scottish regalia (yes, including the kilt). Willie was a nice dog who was always willing to be petted. At least when I wanted to pet him (meaning Willie’s daddy wasn’t wearing a kilt). Jamy’s brother also had a black dachshund named Frankie (hey, we know him!). I had met him once or twice to that point and knew him as the mellowest dog on the planet.

So, my first thought was, “great, lap dog”. My second thought was the stupidest question in my long history of stupid questions:

Me: They come in brown?
Jamy: I guess so.

In my defense, there really are not brown dachshunds, they are called red dachshunds, as pointed out in the 350 books and collectibles that we have gotten since. Still, I am pretty embarrassed by that question to this day.

Jamy: So, I am going to pick him up, show him to my parents and then bring him by.
Me: Brown, eh?
Jamy: I guess.

Jamy picked up Frank, showed him to her dad, who was wowed by his ability to play soccer, and brought him over. She brought in a small kennel (get a free dog, get a free kennel!) with the loudest little thing I ever heard. She opened up the kennel and out jumped the cutest brown dachshund I had ever seen (“OK, I guess I have seen brown ones”) who proceed to bark at me in my own house. As we learned through the years, this is his standard operating procedure. After he finally calmed down, I poured him some water in one of my fine 35 year old Corelle bowls and wondered what to do next. “Hey, I have some tennis balls, lets see if he likes that”. So, we went to the back yard, which at that point was pretty neglected and full of weeds after a summer of rain, and I threw the tennis ball. Couper ran through the weed jungle to where the ball landed, tail wagging so hard, you would think his heinie was going to fly off. I had just made a best buddy for life.

Now this wasn’t a done deal. She had to introduce Frank to her mom and figure out if and how this was going to work out. But one thing was clear at this point, we couldn’t let little Frank go to the pound.

So, with Frank’s future still a bit up in the air, I headed out to the stores for my usual Saturday errands. At K-Mart, I decided to take a look down the puppy aisle. Bowl? OK, can’t keep using the fine Corelle dinnerware. Treats? Yup, gotta have something other than water. Toys? I am pretty sure he will like those. (I bought the Daily Growl, a rubber squeaky newspaper that lasted at most 2 minutes and a rubber hamburger that was his favorite toy for years until the last one wore out and they inexplicably stopped making them). Trouble was I wasn’t entirely sure the dog was a done deal. I tried calling Jamy four times from the K-mart, but no answer. I bought the stuff anyhow. Next I went to Safeway. Hey, they have a puppy aisle also. More stuff in the cart. More unanswered phone calls. Bought that stuff too. In the end, I bought about $70 worth of dog stuff for a dog we may or may not be keeping (and wouldn’t be living with me anyhow - My ratio of dog toys to dogs living with me was infinity...even now, ten years later with three dogs, it is just below infinity).

I finally got hold of Jamy. The dog was a go, at least for the near future. She brought him over for Saturday night dinner. He of course barked at me the moment he came in the door. However, he did seem to like the $70 worth of stuff that I had gotten. From the start, the free dog was anything but free. He showed us how much he liked his new stuff and his new playland a little later by peeing in the kitchen. His house. Marked.

There was one more problem; he couldn’t be Frank. As mentioned, Jamy’s brother’s family had a dachshund named Frankie. Calling this dog Frank would be derivative, not to mention confusing. So, we went back and forth on names. Godiva was out, being that he wasn’t a she.  My suggestion, Regis, was voted down. We went back in Frank’s history. Before living with Christie and Larry, he had another owner. We didn’t know much about these people, we got something about them being older and the puppy was a bit much for them. Anyhow, his name with his first owners was Coupe (small, fast, and low to the ground?). We liked that and eventually decided to add the “r” to make the name ours. So, welcome Couper.

There was another problem, one that I only brought up in retrospect many years later. A dog was a really bad idea for Jamy at that moment in time. She was a month into her first teaching job, a second grade class. Anyone who has ever met a first year teacher knows that they are overwhelmed. She barely had time for anything but school stuff. Not to mention that first year teachers, and especially elementary school teachers, catch every bug that the kids bring in. The last thing she needed was a dog that demanded so much attention, he peed on his former owner’s leg when he didn’t get any. But what else were we to do? Let him go to the pound? Try to find yet another owner? I guess he could have stayed with me, but with an hour commute each way to work, I was gone more than I was home. There was more chance of people being home at Jamy’s parent’s house. So, it was a bad idea, but it was Couper’s best bet. I kept my mouth shut and let it play out. In the end, it was a bad idea short term, but the best idea for everybody long term. It has been the best ten years.

And that is the story of how we got Couper. But, if he asks, just tell him the Santa story, please. After all, he is the bestest Little Buddy in the whole wide world.

Side Notes, Afterthoughts, and other Miscellanea:

- Couper (Frank) peeing on Larry’s leg is why I always pay attention to Couper no matter what I am doing. I do not want my leg peed on. So, while shaving, brushing my teeth, on the potty, even in the shower when we had an open shower, I play with Couper. You can’t be too careful with that one.

- In 2011 Jamy had a student teacher. We had her and her husband over to the house one night. As Couper was his usual insane self, playing and demanding to play, I said to the student teacher, “See that one over there. If for some reason, he pees on my leg, by law we have to give him to you.” She gave me a look that was somehow a combination of confusion and terror.

- Above I wrote that Jamy’s dream dog was a chocolate lab. As we have stated before, her childhood dream was to have four dachshund puppies. I stand by the latter statement.

- Jamy eventually wound up having both of Christie and Larry’s girls in her second grade class (by design, when you are a teacher in the district, you get your kids in the class you want). When Jamy would tell the class tales of the mischief that Couper got into the night before, the girls would nod their head and say, “Yeah, he was like that at our house too”.

- The most tenuous moment of the last ten years came on Halloween night 2004, a little over a year after we got Couper. Christie, Larry, and their girls came by the house for Trick or Treat. We let them in to see Frank/Couper. The girls were having fun playing with him again, and he was happy to see them. When Larry said it was time to go, the younger girl, maybe 5 at the time, turned to her parents and said, “Now that Frank is all better, can we have him back?”. It was all I could do to keep from leaping across the room, grabbing Couper and yelling, “NOOOOOOOOOOO”. But, in retrospect, I needn't have worried, even momentarily. Larry, still nursing a peed upon leg, was having none of it. Christie diplomatically said, “No, Couper is Jamy and Warren’s dog now”. But it was a heartbreaking and frightening moment.

- I am an idiot. I let Jamy and Couper stay with her parents way too long. My fault entirely. However, some of the best moments of those years were either getting Couper or when Jamy brought him over. When I would go get him at Jamy’s parent’s house, you never saw a dog so excited. I would let him out of his kennel and he would jump up and down so much it took two minutes to get a leash on him. It was just as fun when Jamy brought him over. I had a huge three car garage and Jamy had a garage door opener and a place to park her car. From in the house, I would hear the garage open, the car pull in, then the garage close. Then I would a couple of barks, and then about 20 seconds of desperate scratching at the door and whining. Jamy would get to the door and open it, and my Little Buddy would burst in full speed turning the corner from the laundry room to the living room, all tiled, and to the sliding glass door so that we could go outside and immediately start playing. Maybe it was all too much fun and that is why I let it go on too long. If only I could go back in time and tell 2004 me that it would be even better if they were here all the time.

- It is a good thing that we didn’t keep the name Frank ten years ago, because who knew that 9 and a half years later, cousin Frankie would come to live with us. I wonder sometimes when I call Frankie by name if Couper thinks I am talking to him, but he doesn’t seem to react to it. Then again, he only really reacts to what he really wants to react to anyway.

- We sometimes wonder what would have happened to Couper if we couldn't take him and he had been taken to the pound. He was young and a pure breed (not to mention the cutest puppy in the whole world), so he may have had a great chance. On the other hand, he is so obnoxious when he first meets people that he might have scared people off, especially those with kids. It is the great dilemma with Couper, he is such a pain to meet, but then so great when he lets you in. Anyhow, in honor of Couper not going to the pound, we make an annual donation to the Humane Society every September. Hopefully it helped another Couper or two along the way.

- It took two families, but we were the perfect family for Couper. We were able to give him all the attention he could want. Well, that isn't true, he wants all the attention there is. We were able to give him all the attention we could give without him wanting to pee on us. And as it turns out, he was the perfect dog for us. Lot's of fun, not too big for our house or yard, and just cuddly enough to offset his almost non-stop playing. Thirty five years after Solomon Shag and Shaggy Wah Wah, I finally had my dog.

- Today we have a trio of dachshunds housed in a shrine for dachshunds. We have a red dachshund, a black and tan dachshund, and a piebald dachshund. Not a brown one in the bunch.