Monday, January 4, 2010

The Audition

It has nothing to do with the fact that I just read Marley & Me. It couldn't possibly. Life is just better with a dog a big ole canine that runs and swims and fetches and walks on a leash golden retriever. I know, Marley was a Labrador. But, come on, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, there isn't a whole lot of difference. Longer hair on the golden. Barrel chest on the lab. And that's about it.

I refer to this character as my first born whenever I'm wrestling him on the floor. When the boys get a little rough with him, and Beck just lies there like he would if we'd ever taught him to play dead, I tell them to leave my oldest son alone. What? He has my eyes and you can't deny that our hair is almost the exact same color. He almost always sports that dopey grin. And don't even get me started on the fact that his muzzle is starting to gray. I will forever be in denial. His chin was always a little white. It matched his left rear paw--also white.

We drove a couple of hours to pick him up. We couldn't afford pure bred golden retrievers in San Diego. We'd been married for three months and I was desperate not only for a puppy but for a puppy who would be good with our unborn unconceived children. The puppies we were going to look at were on sale. The breeder had welcomed a litter of twelve. Anyone who knows anything about breeding knows that a litter of eight males and four females is a bummer. I wanted a female. She had three males left and she'd lowered the price considerably. They were already eleven weeks old. A purebred golden retriever puppy with papers for $300 dollars in southern California six years ago was practically a steal. I decided a male would be fine.

We discussed names on the drive up.

Troy made me promise that I would choose. He knew he couldn't pick one and we knew we didn't need three golden retriever puppies. (Oh the humanity!) I gave him my word. Of the three puppies that were left, one was the runt. He was teeny, frail looking, less energetic than the other two. Cute as he was and cute as my husband--always shorter than everyone--was holding him, I didn't want the runt. I wanted a good, healthy pup. So, while my husband cuddled with Tiny, I set to choosing between the remaining two. I instantly knew which one I wanted. He was a little thicker than the other. He was, dare I say, a little cuter. Every time I reached down for him, he ran away, disinterested. I'd approach from the other side of the cage. The other puppy would sprint up, leap into the air, crash on top of the one I was trying so hard to grab, and wag his tail in a desperate 180 degree semi circle. Finally, I shoved him to the side and picked up my puppy. I stuck my face in his. I examined him from every side. I tried to cuddle with him. He squirmed and wiggled and shot between my arms and back into the cage where he spent some quality time licking himself. We talked price and paperwork with the owner.

The other puppy--the one I didn't want--was leaping and yapping and wagging and doing everything in his power to get my attention. Always impressed by a good audition I reached down and scooped him up mid sentence. He instantly snuggled into my arms as if to say, "Finally. Now I can relax." His body went limp. He closed his eyes. I held him out to examine him. His muzzle was less defined but, as I contemplated the subtle decline, he stuck his tongue out and kissed me. I didn't choose Beck. He chose me.

I dropped him back in the cage while we paid and she signed the paperwork. When it was time to collect our puppy her daughter cried and her son jumped into the cage. All three puppies leaped on him and wagged their tails. He lifted mine up from the cage. From the back it was hard to tell if he'd grabbed the right dog.

"Is that the one we decided on?" I questioned.

He grabbed Beck's back left foot. "Yeah. See." He tweaked the foot so that I could see. "He's got a white foot."

A white foot? On my pure bred golden retriever? I didn't know such a thing existed. I almost put him back on account of his white foot. But then he smiled, knowing that his brilliant audition had won our affection. He'd watched as one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine of his brothers and sisters had been chosen before him. Finally it was his turn. I couldn't put him back because of one white paw.

Now, as he lounges at my feet gnawing on a raw hide with his back feet sprawled out behind him--something most puppies grow out of and a position we call the flying squirrel--I can see that one white foot. It matches his graying muzzle even though it's been like that since he was born. It belongs on the best dog. I can't believe my puppy--my first born--is beginning to gray at six. Although the average golden retriever only lives to be 10 or 12 and cancer is increasingly common among the breed so his very best years are behind him.

He sits. He stays. He heels--sort of. He let's Matthew pull out his hair. He only kind of rolls his eyes when Garrett rides him like a pony. He doesn't eat our cat although we had to gate off the litter box because his poop was a different story. He goes sledding. He walks on a leash. He responds to Beck, Becks, Beckster, Buddy, and recently out of the mouth of Garrett, Becky. But never Beckham, his given name, because we just never use it. I asked Garrett who Beckham is and he said, "I don't know." I would have taken my dog or a really good soccer player as an answer but my three-year-old doesn't know. I followed it up with, Who is Beck? And he responded, "my dog," as though I was a total idiot. We'd stopped at the pet store on the way home to pick up a few essentials. We let him choose a toy. He couldn't be deterred from the stuffed soccer ball. Hence his name. He is a good dog.

I cannot think of a 300 dollars more well spent than the cash we handed that woman in exchange for her puppy. I can't imagine where we'd be if I'd ignored his audition.


  1. For the record the runt was not frail and lacking energy. He was a sweet friendly little puppy who undoubtedly made someone a good healthy pet. Certainly he was smaller and had lighter curlier hair than our dog.

    Now the pretty one, he definitely didn't care much for Lori (though he did let ME pet him). That's OK because I couldn't have asked for a better dog than Beck (puppy couch eating fiasco notwithstanding).


  2. Fair enough. The Hubs makes a good point. The runt was much more curly than the other two and I didn't want my golden to be curly because I had a curly golden growing up and her hair was often difficult to manage.

  3. *teary eyed* I can not wait to get a puppy!

  4. I like this. I still haven't managed to read/see "Marley and Me" and I would advise you to not read "Love That Dog," ever, meaning you totally should because you will cry a lot in the good way.

    There is nothing like the puppy stage, but between Casey (who was with us for 15 years, and acted like a cranky old man-dog for a good part of them) and the dog my parents have now (we're not sure, but the vet thinks he might be twelve) I've developed an appreciation for the twilight years. They always seem to keep up with new weird quirky things to do. Does your dog dialogue? Ours does. It's not a bark. It's not a growl. It's...some kind of statement.

    This episode of Kristin is Obsessed With Dogs, Part Million, has been brought to you by insomnia.