I like big dogs. Grew up with them, always have owned at least one. Or two. Or … well sometimes quite a few of them. Thanks to the kind-hearted desires of my animal-devoted wife, and my desire to live a life without conflict, my per-capita dog-to-dollar ratio has averaged about 4 to 1 over the past 20-something years. That means four big dogs per every dollar I have in my wallet.
The dollar category would be somewhat higher, but some of my big dogs ate the dollar. And the wallet.
I have nothing against little dogs. Little dogs are nice. They’re kind of adorable, actually.
It just that little dogs are not practical for someone like me. Especially when I stumble out of bed in the middle of the night and really believe that I have some kind of sixteenth sense that allows me to see in the dark, even when it’s dark and I can’t see.
It’s much more practical for me to walk into a big dog and bounce off, than step on a little dog and not bounce off. The big dogs learn to know it’s just me and get annoyed, look up and roll over. If they were little dogs, however, they’d be … well, most probably wouldn’t be around long enough to get annoyed.
Don’t get me wrong – big dogs aren’t perfect. They have their drawbacks, not a lot of them but the few that they have are, of course, big.
Take teething. All dogs do it – new big teeth come in, gums get sore, and chewing on things helps them relieve it. Anybody who’s raised a puppy usually loses a shoe, or a furniture leg to a chewing little pup.
That is, unless you have a big dog puppy.
Meet Molly. Molly was the first Newfoundland we owned and raised. Newfoundlands actually are wonderful, big black bears that someone decided really were dogs. And the Newfies were just too lovable and gentle to disagree with them.
She came to us because she was being thrown out of the house of her first owner. A friend was installing new carpeting throughout the owner’s house when the woman walked by with Molly, then 6 months old, heading for the door. She was taking her to the Humane Society to be put up for adoption. You see, Molly was the reason for the new carpeting.
Long story short, the friend asked the owner to wait and called his girlfriend who happened to be a co-worker of mine. The girlfriend came to me, knowing I loved big dogs. Fifteen minutes later, I was walking Molly out to my car to take her home. At six months, she nearly filled the back seat of my VW Rabbit.
A decision my wife and I never regretted. Not only because we both loved big dogs, but we’d owned enough of them to know how to live with them. Most importantly, to never, ever underestimate what a big dog can do. You can’t blame them – they do the same things that all dogs do. Just in a big way.
You’ll recall that little teething issue Molly had when she moved in. How could we forget.
One day I came home to find the kitchen floor covered with snow. Around six inches thick, from wall to wall.
Only problem – it wasn’t November, it was July. And it wasn’t snow, it was fluffy white stuffing. The kind of stuffing they put inside the six padded chairs of a kitchen dining set. All six, stripped of their covers and their stuffing. All over the place. And sitting in the middle of it all was one big, black, happy, giant puppy.
I had no words. In moments like this a big dog owner is reminded to not put too much importance on material things, no matter what they are. Or how big they are. You learn that they don’t last, especially with a big dog in the house.
I sat down on one of my new, rather uncomfortable metal-frame chairs.
“OK Molly, so what are we going to tell your mother when she gets home?”
I could tell by her wagging tail Molly was thinking. Really hard. So was I. It worked.
“Right, a tornado, good idea. Big one, blew in through the window, tore up the chairs, threw this all around and went out through that window there. Brilliant. Molly, this could work.”
I could tell by Molly’s wagging tail she really liked the idea. So did I. It didn’t work, but it was worth a shot.
Can’t remember what we came up with to explain how all the window sills were chewed off on another day, though. Hit-and-run beaver infestation, I think.
Molly lived to the ripe old age of 11, far beyond the normal lifespan of most Newfoundlands. Had two knee operations and one hip replaced (big dogs have big health issues), and destroyed or ate a whole lot of things, including some more furniture. I’m pretty sure she loved every minute of it. I know we did.
Despite the material losses, we still have big dogs. Always will. Two bulldogs (short but stout) and one bull mastiff (big and stout) now. Some day, we’ll no doubt have more. And some day, some day … we’ll have those chewed-up moldings around all of our doors replaced.
Just as soon as the big teeth come in.