Officially, the first pet my family owned was a giant ill-tempered iguana named Igor. I have little memory of this except the stories of Igor finally escaping our home and harassing the neighborhood’s dogs and cats like a miniature Godzilla. They found it dead one morning after a nasty frost, his rein of terror finally ended.
Over the next few years, in a blur and in no particular order, I’ve owned: an anorexic snake that I finally released back into the wild; a turtle who tried to bite me and I released back into the wild; a load of dying, foul-smelling cannibalistic fish; a chameleon that didn’t eat or change color; a ferret I couldn’t keep because it smelled; a couple of tarantulas I gave away when I joined the Air Force; a morbidly obese hamster named Lump who got so fat he couldn’t move around his cage and then died; a fighting fish my wife accidentally washed down the sink while cleaning his bowl; and another snake that developed an infection on its head and died a day later.
Needless to say, I haven’t had much luck owning pets. It was getting kind of hard not to take some of this stuff personally. It wasn’t like I forgot to feed and water them — like the countless number of plants I’ve also owned — it just seemed like I had bad pet luck. I felt like an evil version of Dr. Doolittle.
My wife and I had thought about getting a dog, the way someone who doesn’t gamble thinks about winning the lottery — a lofty goal with the odds stacked against it. A series of pet-unfriendly apartments sealed the no-dog deal.
There were lots of reasons not to get a dog, I bitterly reasoned. Something loving you unconditionally and covered with fur seemed less like a companion than a new form of Prozac. And then there were the people who dressed their dogs up in clothing and talked to them like some sort of freakish human child that should probably have been kept in the bell tower — that alone was a reason to stay as far away as I could possibly get.
So when I decided to adopt a dog, the decision came as a complete surprise to me.
I happened across a website one day that showed pictures of dogs in need of adoption. They just looked so desperate — the way only dogs can. It was then that I realized I wasn’t adopting a dog for myself — I was doing it for the dog.
I suddenly felt like the Angelina Jolie of the pet world.
Determined to do right by this newly adopted cattle dog, I learned everything about pet care that I could. I took her on long walks off the dog-fecal-encrusted trail by our apartment, taught her to sit, to come, to not urinate in the center of the room.
But the big day was coming: the first vet appointment. What if there’s something wrong with her, what if she’s sick or has a parasite or some kind of rare exploding canine syndrome? My wife asked me to send her a cell-phone text message when I left the vet to make sure everything was OK.
Would everything be fine? The dog and I nervously entered the office. A half-hour later we emerged. I texted her the message, “All is good.” Because it was.
Ian Neligh is a news editor for Evergreen Newspapers.