Take a look at the face in the picture.
It is the face of unconditional love. It’s also the face of unholy terror.
And it lives in my house.
I grew up in a household where having a dog inside was a huge no-no. My daddy laid carpet for 30 years, and I had seen first-hand what dogs do to carpets. And trust me, no matter how well you think you’ve trained your little precious, they all go inside.
I’ve also never been much of a dog person, though I will always choose them over cats, to which I’m almost deathly allergic.
A dog bit me once when I was a kid, and I guess that helped frame my attitude. I like for them to stay on the ground. I don’t want them jumping on me. I don’t want them in my face. And I want them outside.
Or at least I did.
After holding firm for several years, I finally relented on my no-dogs-in-the-house rule and allowed Santa Claus to bring us a little fur ball that my daughter promptly dubbed Charlie.
The look on Madyson’s face when she saw the puppy under the tree will be worth all the ensuing toil and trouble.
I have to admit, the house-training part has gone incredibly well. A couple of accidents notwithstanding — which, let’s face it, are not accidents at all, but “on-purposes” — Charlie has learned quickly where outside is and what he’s expected to do once he gets out there.
He has not, however, learned much of anything else.
For instance, it’s become apparent to me that this dog does not speak English, which is quite inconvenient. Commands like, “Don’t eat that!”, “Get out of the mud!” and “Hurry up and poop already, it’s freezing out here,” all fly right over his tiny, fuzzy head.
Also, Charlie doesn’t have hands, which means he picks up everything with his mouth. Everything. To whit, so far he has bitten, chewed or otherwise attempted to kill with his teeth:
• Lamp cords
• A laptop
• The remote
• A Christmas tree
• Christmas ornaments
• My guitars
• The couch
• A variety of stuffed animals (in particular, a little dog with a jingle bell on his tail that will never be the same)
• Sweat pants (mostly while someone is wearing them)
• A beach ball
• And finally, us. Mostly our fingers.
In fact, the only things he doesn’t seem much interested in chewing on are the chew toys we bought him. Jumping up to stop him from eating stuff has gotten me more exercise in the past week than I’ve had in the past month.
Charlie also seems to have just two speeds: Wide open and comatose.
A day pretty much goes like this: Wake up, poop, eat, run around acting crazy and biting everything within reach for about an hour, lapse into a coma, repeat.
When I say crazy, I’m talking certifiably insane. This dog runs laps around the house at speeds that rival the field at Daytona. He barks. He bats stuff with his paws, he jumps in the air, he turns somersaults. If he was a person, the guys in white coats would go after him with the butterfly nets — if they could catch him.
But then, all of the sudden, it’s over. His eyelids start to droop. Pretty soon he is in my lap, paws up in the air and mouth hanging open like he’s dead. I have checked for a heartbeat a time or two.
I’m not kidding. When this dog goes to sleep, he slips into an altered state of consciousness akin to hibernation. When I move him from my lap to the couch it’s like carrying an old dish rag. And he doesn’t even stir, except maybe for a soft snore.
And once he is asleep all is peaceful in the house again. For a little while. Until he wakes up again, and everyone says, “Uh oh. What’s he going to do this time?”
But then he looks at me with those puppy-dog eyes, and I remember the happy tears my daughter cried when she saw him, and I think, “Do your worst, Charlie.”
We’ll love you anyway.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.