by A.V. Wallace
My husband, Art and I
moved to Marin County from San Francisco when I was
6 months pregnant with my first child. We were newlyweds
then, barely back from our honeymoon and all beamy
about starting our grand new life together. Family
pets had been a part of both our childhoods, but as
a medical resident it had been hard Art to take care
of any animals at home. Residency was finally over
and I was caring for my 12 year-old diabetic cat (Art's
allergic to cats) and so Art must have felt a degree
of impunity in doing what he did the very week I delivered
our first son.
I was 9 months pregnant.
Through an unnatural gluttony for taramasalata (Greek
caviar spread) I had gained over 50 pounds and was
wobbling in the 200-lb range. Poor Art, he must have
needed some consolation (although I was awfully cuddly.)
Pregnancy does strange things to both the body and
brain. So one day, when Art called from work to let
me know that his officemate had just adopted a local
puppy in Larkspur, I , in my hormone-blasted gravity
replied "How nice!" Little did I know that
Art had interpreted this to mean "Why of course
you can have a puppy, dear!"
That very evening we
drove into deepest, darkest Larkspur to visit the
home of "Dinette", an allegedly reknowned
local bitch-about-town who had recently given birth
to a large litter of "mastador" pups. What
is a "mastador", you might ask? Ah, the
Mastador - an ancient and most dignified breed of
Spain, traditionally belonging to matadors. Actually
it's a mastiff-labrador mix, in this case with a dollop
of Rottweiler thrown in for good measure. We were
intrigued by the name, impressionable thrill-seekers.
The house was at the
end of a long, winding road and perched along a precipice.
This required me to hobble my voluptuous corpus up
several extremely (or so it seemed) steep and rickety
staircases to the top. Once ascended into the Persian-carpet-bedecked
redwood loft, we were very cordially greeted by a
most groovy bearded representative of Marindom. I
barely had time to inquire where he got that fabulous
incense when a he emitted a high-piched whistle and
6 black and brindle puppies came zoooming in from
outside. My eyes immediately focused on her -
how could they not? She was jet black and slower
than the rest, scampering towards us almost demurely,
her juvenile jowls wiggling unsurely as she skidded
to a stop and into a puddle of her own over-excited
pee. Sigh. Those baleful eyes, that silky puppy sheen.
Art wanted a girl. She came home that night. Art promised
to take her to obedience school.
Those first two days must have been nice. I look happy
in the pictures. They're a complete and total blank
in my memory, further confirming my later notion that
the pregnancy hormones had rendered me near-incompetent
for making any serious decisions at the time. Not
that I regret getting Jennie. In retrospect, no, not
And so two days after
welcoming Jennie into our family, we welcomed our
first son, Alfred. Nature can be kind and I honestly
don't remember much of Jennie being a nuisance. Art
wants me to write that I was in some sort of domestic
hell, swimming in both baby and dog poop. I only remember
her being the sweet, jowly, demurely dignified creature
she is, in miniature. It must be said that Art did
take his new Daddy duties very seriously, both to
the baby and the puppy. Jennie did attend obedience
school every week for a full year and a half and Art
took the time to practice with her in the yard.
Would I recommend any
newly expectant mother to get a puppy? You may want
to ask Samantha Regan, a member of the Spring Marin
Moms currently experiencing the "zoo" of
both a new puppy and new baby. As I said before, Nature
has been kind enough to erase any negative memories
I had, much as it mitigates the visceral memories
of natural childbirth (Sure it was the greatest pain
I've ever experienced! Would I do it again? Sure!)
I wouldn't recommend the baby/puppy twinset to anyone
whose partner is not truly committed to training the
Part of properly caring for a dog is training it so that
it knows what behavior is and is not appropriate.
That way, much as a human, the dog can can be positively
conditioned, knowing to expect rewards for "good"
behavior, and punishment for "bad." Left
to their own devices, dogs will be dogs, which means
stealing food from tables, jumping up on people, humping
legs, sniffing crotches and generally being arbitrarily
responsive to any human request. Growing up my father
always trained our dogs, and I have seen how untrained
dogs behave. If you don't mind a zoo atmosphere at
home, fine. If you do, make sure your partner contacts
a local obedience school. Links are at the bottom
of this article.
Lastly I just want to
say that Jennie is a wonderful, darling, special and
irreplaceable member of our family. She's seen me
through two new babies and has been a lady all the
way. I can trust her to be gentle with my family and
to growl menacingly at people through the window until
I indicate that they are friends. She let the babies
"ride" her and swat her ears and never growled
at them. Rarely does she steal rogue leftover chicken
nuggets from off the table. She is truly our "jowly
gem." In closing I would like to share this ditty
I wrote for Jennifer Juniper Wallace, to be sung to
the tune of "Oh, La Paloma Blanca." Ahem.
Oh, my jowlina
I'm just a dog in the yard.
Oh, my jowlina negra!
You eat everything we discard -
No one ever can take
your filthy dog bone away.
* Marin Humane Society's
Behavior & Training Notebook:
You can train a dog by yourself, but you need to be
committed and consistent. MHS also offers a wide range
of classes for dogs of all ages at their offices in
Novato. Visit the website or call 883-0116 for details.
* Marin Dog Parks: Listings of
dog-friendly parks in Marin, including local DogPark
groups, and dog park etiquette. Gives a good idea
of what sort of behavior is expected of a civilized
dog in public.
* Marin County Dog Training
Club: These folks referred us to where Jennie went
for a year and a half. 461-6559
A.V. Wallace is
the mother of two young boys in San Rafael, a former
member of the San Rafael Mother's Club and a current
member of the Dixie Home and School Club. She is also
wife to Art , mom to Jennie the Mastador, Hoppity the Holland
Lop rabbit, and a tankful of platys and tetras. Her
homepage is Plumsite.com.
Pets & Animals * Back to Family Ties *