About a Dog: Part Three

August 14, 2015

Getting a puppy during a crippling bout of depression was either the most foolhardy or the most genius decision I’ve ever made. Frankly, I’m still not sure.

The cons:

~Severe depression isn’t like regular depression. Severe depression crushes you–as in Wile E. Coyote vs anvil crushes. I couldn’t get out of bed some days, which meant that I couldn’t care for my kids, or my husband, or household things, or myself. If you’re that compromised, it’s pretty much a dumbASS decision to add another needy thing into the mix. Because Hello! dipstick, a puppy is pretty much a furry infant. Remember how exhausting it was to take care of an infant? You don’t sleep. That’s sort of inconvenient and doubly so when you’re so depressed that the only thing you want to do is sleep.

~I had the genius idea to present our new family member to the girls on Christmas morning. That’s the holidays, people. The holidays are whirlwind freakshows of relatives, decorating, gift buying, baking and despair. And that’s if you’re functional. I was catatonic.

~Hypoallergenic dogs are hella expensive. Hella.

~If you’re too depressed to take care of the house, imagine how much more difficult it is to take care of a house with cute puddles of pee in every corner.

~Did I mention that puppies are needy?


The pros:


mozzy                                                                                                                        ^Yeah, pretty much that.


No, really, I’m going to backtrack here and tell the whole story, because this is About a Dog, not a List of a Dog.

When I spent hours researching the right breed of dog for our family, I still didn’t think there was any way in Hell that we were actually going to end up with a dog. There was still a rational sliver of me left that knew I was not in any condition to care for another living thing. After all, I was doing a pretty shitty job of taking care of the living things I already had. I clicked on web pages, made notes, checked out breeder information–all fairly certain that it was a waste of time. But I kept sitting there, doing it.

I wasted no time crossing big dogs off the list of contenders–no fucking way was I hassling with a big dog after my experience with Zillah. I crossed off medium-sized dogs, too. I just couldn’t see myself with a dog too big to pick up off the ground. I looked at the handful of small dogs left and just kept coming back to the Bichon Frise, with it’s description of: highly affectionate!!, very friendly!!, good with children, adaptable, doesn’t shed, merry and playful of temperament. The only downsides? They were a pain in the ass to groom and could be somewhat difficult to potty train.

Oof. Those weren’t great downsides. However, the grooming part wasn’t that big of a deal after all, because I didn’t like the way groomed Bichons looked. Groomed Bichons look ridiculous, in my opinion.


bichon                                                                                                                              ^ridiculous


The potty training issue bothered me most, but still, I checked out several highly rated/conscientious breeders. This was a disaster, because those websites have pictures of actual puppies, and those puppies are irresistably cute. They also have timelines re: when the puppy is old enough for transport and adoption. And then, worst of all, they have detailed descriptions of puppy personalities.

At 10:30 on an October night, butt-sore from researching and after several days of sleep deprivation, I clicked on “Jason.”

Okay, is “Jason” the shittiest name for a dog ever? All I kept thinking about was “Jason” from the Friday the 13th movies–not something you want associated with your household pet. I knew immediately that the name would have to go. But as far as puppy personalities go, he was a floppy, sweet-natured, cuddly, joyful star, and when I got to the last sentence, “is doing remarkably well with potty training,” something in me cracked wide open and before I knew it, I’d charged a very large amount of money to our American Express card.

Hoo-boy. I’d gotten myself into a pickle, although I still had a couple of days to change my mind. Or for my husband to tell me I’d completely lost my mind. But you know how that turned out.

“Jason” arrived on December 23, at 11pm, which was a bit of a logistical problem. I really, really wanted to surprise the girls with the puppy on Christmas morning. In all honesty, I still wasn’t thinking very clearly (November had actually been a deeper, scarier pit than October). I also was suffering enormous guilt for my absence, my sadness, my darkness, my inconsistency the past few months. I’d been a horrible person to be around…if I was around…and I’d put my family through the wringer, especially the girls, who really didn’t understand. Deep down, I knew a puppy for Christmas wasn’t going to fix the damage, but part of me also thought, “What kid gets to say that one year, there was a puppy under the Christmas tree?”  Not very many, and I wanted to give them that.

Awesome Stepkid Ro put the girls to bed and watched over things while we made a late night trip to the cargo hold at Denver International Airport. As instructed, we had paperwork, warm blankets and high-calorie liquid puppy formula at the ready. When we entered the cargo hold, there was a tiny, persistent, high-pitched noise coming from behind the desk. “Wheat! Wheat! Wheat!”  A sleepy-eyed, heavyset desk clerk looked at us, and the corner of his mouth twitched in amusement.

“You here for the little white dog?” he said.

We nodded, craning our necks over the desk, trying to see into the transport animal carrier.

He lifted the carrier onto the desk. “The flight attendants said this little guy protested the entire 2-hour flight.”

“Wheat! Wheat! Wheat!”

“Poor baby,” I said, unlocking the carrier. I reached in and pulled out a warm, white ball of fluff, small enough to fit in one hand.

I sat in the back of the car on the way home, cradling the quivering fluffball. He took two swigs of of the puppy formula and promptly passed out, bundled in the warm blanket.

“You okay back there?” my husband said, looking in the rearview mirror.

“We’re okay, but you’re in trouble,” I said. “Because I think I’m in love.”

“Jason” stayed with a friend until late Christmas Eve, and it was an interminable 24 hours until we could pick him up and smuggle him to the basement bedroom, where I slept in a sleeping bag on the floor, puppy snoring at my side. It was during those 24 hours without him that my husband and I chose a name. I was adamant that we not let the girls choose the name for the puppy–Bichons live an average of 12 years, and I was not spending 12 years with a dog named “Marshmallow” or some other dumbass moniker.

The final contenders for names were gleaned from two television shows we were obsessed with at the time, White Collar and Breaking Bad. “Mozzy” is a character in White Collar, played by the actor Willie Garson (probably known best for his role as Stanford Blach in Sex in the City). Mozzy is a swindler, a crook, a petty thief who is lovable and charming despite his sticky-fingered ways. “Pinkman,” of course, is the character Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, played by Aaron Paul, the foul-mouthed but big-hearted sidekick of Walter White. In the end, we just felt he was a “Mozzy”. After all, he was small and already stealing things–mainly our hearts.

When the girls woke up Christmas morning, we told them to sit by the tree and close their eyes. I scooped Mozzy up from the sleeping bag in the basement and placed him between the girls. When they opened their eyes, I was expecting squeals of delight and joyous little dances and maybe even tears.

I didn’t get that.

What I got was silence. Suspicious, dumbfounded silence.


I guess I’d been protesting so long and so violently against dog ownership that the girls had, at some point, just resigned themselves to never owning one. Instead of a joyful reception, I got shade. Apparently, the girls thought they were victims of some cruel joke.

“But we can’t keep him,” Miss D. said, wide-eyed and wounded. “You’re allergic.”

“You said we can’t have a dog,” Miss M. said, eyeing me narrowly.

Well, shit. That didn’t go the way I’d expected at all, did it?

Once I explained that Mozzy was theirs to keep, that I wasn’t some kind of Christmas Sadist*, all was well.

Except now we had a dog.

A dog I had no idea how to care for, or train, or even feed. I had to Google: How much food do you give a two-pound puppy?  I was that clueless.


Christmas night, once everyone was asleep, I had a good, long cry. All of the anticipation, and the cloak-and-dagger secrecy, and the holiday activity, and the disappointing reaction of my children–it just caught up with me. I felt wrenchingly, searingly sad. I looked at the little white puff of fur sleeping in the crate next to me.

Jesus, I thought. What have I done?


*I mean, come on! Christmas Sadist. That’s fucked up!

** Stayed tuned for the final About a Dog: Part Four

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Velva August 14, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Your stories always warm my heart and make me laugh. Mozzy is all yours. Your little ball of fluff.



Dawn in MI August 15, 2015 at 3:42 pm

I’ve been gone awhile. Obviously I need to catch up. This is one of my favorite breeds and if I didn’t have a sheltie I would have considered a bichon . Hope it works out!!!


Sherri August 16, 2015 at 9:30 am

My kids are begging for a dog… I know I need to wrap my brain around the fact that I will need to take time out of my schedule to take care of it. This is daunting. Every little bit of input from dog owners helps…. thanks….


Biz August 17, 2015 at 10:13 am

OMG, I would have been pissed if I didn’t get a big reaction with that gift! Can’t wait for Part IV!


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