Horrible Reason to get a Dog

Nutmeg after a vicious tick attack

This blog post is about Niblick, but that pinkish spot between Nutmeg’s eye and ear is the result of an unfortunate, clumsy tick-removal. My poor, patient puppy tolerated two failed attempts each of which plucked small pinches of hair. Finally, on the third try, the tick came free, but more hair came with it. I feel for her on cold days when the wind can touch her skin unimpeded. I’ve removed four ticks from my crazed puppy in just two weeks.

In the fall of 1981, I fell in love with a girl. I was stupid in love, and refused to recognize that this wasn’t a perfect match with great promise for the future. The girl lived in a campus dorm. I lived with my best friend in an apartment off campus while I faced three semesters of study to finish a degree in psychology. This after abandoning a major in physics and taking a year off to get my head straight.

My need for a dog had been strong. During my leave from school, I’d spent many hours visiting SPCA facilities and whimpering along with the animals I couldn’t adopt. I knew that alone I couldn’t provide all the attention a dog would need. Now, here was this girl. Our relationship was shaky, but despite some discomfort, it endured. And one day it occurred to me: with two people involved, managing a dog would be achievable.

Niblick the Purebred Pound Puppy

With two people involved, managing a dog would be achievable? You didn’t believe it, did you? No. And I didn’t either. But, you see, as socially and emotionally stunted as I was, I wasn’t about to have a baby to save the marriage. Perhaps, getting a dog with my girlfriend would create a deeper bond. (Yes, seriously emotionally and socially stunted.)

My puppy, Niblick

Niblick was adorable as a puppy, and never fully grew out of it while I knew her.

She (the girl) expressed only mild reservations, and showed some enthusiasm to share a puppy. Adoption in those days wasn’t so much adoption as it was picking up a dog from the pound. Ours was a crazy adorable mutt, and somehow I managed to name it Niblick.

I had recently taken up golf, become completely addicted to the game, and loved that Scotsmen had come up with apparent nonsense words to name the various golf clubs. A niblick is a nine iron, a club you’d use to hit high-lofted shots over short distances.

Niblick was a lover

Niblick was a lover. A product of the seventies, I wore my hair considerably longer than Niblick wore hers.

Nobody’s Puppy

My girlfriend and I didn’t live together, so Niblick had joined a broken home. The puppy spent some nights at my apartment, and others at my girlfriend’s dorm room. My housemate wasn’t happy about the dog, especially during those crucial house-breaking weeks, but Niblick learned quickly, and made friends with everyone.

I never heard that dog growl or saw her look menacing. In the dorm, she made dozens of friends, and she’d play happily with anyone she met in campus quads and courtyards. I was happy that Niblick loved everyone, and at the same time I was disappointed. She was, after all, my dog, but she’d follow anyone home and never notice I that I wouldn’t.

Niblick was dangerous with a stick

If Niblick was a danger to any humans, it was the ones standing near sticks. No matter its size, Niblick would pick up a stick and run happily, unaware that in some cases she could kneecap or otherwise damage people standing six feet away.

Moving on Out

My girlfriend tolerated me until I finished school, but we shared Niblick and each other less and less. I hadn’t become less stunted, so all this was traumatic. It was worse when I realized that jobs requiring a degree in psychology promised income just above the poverty level.

It was exciting to discover that companies in Boston paid decent wages to people who could type. My best friend decided to take a job in Boston, so I did too. Except that I didn’t have a job when I left.

I left, and I left Niblick with my parents. Man, my parents were tolerant. Why couldn’t Niblick eventually move to the city with me? Well, because that was a dumb idea.

Niblick has a tennis ball

Niblick and tennis ball. ‘Nuf said.

I moved in with a friend who owned a house in Cambridge. I became a “Kelly Girl” and visited dozens of businesses for short-term assignments where typing apparently just wasn’t getting done.

In time, it became clear that I couldn’t handle a dog in Boston. Not me and a dog and no one else. Of course, my parents had known that all along, and a friend of theirs was primed to take Niblick home the moment I gave the word. I never again saw Niblick, and I suspect it didn’t bother her even a smidge. She was happy and friendly and showed preference for no one.

I confess that losing her didn’t sadden me except for that twinge at the moment I said to my mom during a phone call, “Yes, please give her away.” Honestly, I was emotionally and socially stunted, and I was carrying a lot of other baggage through those first years in Boston. I heard that Niblick had a great life.



I Hate Tick Season

Nutmeg relaxes on the sofa

Nutmeg wasn’t allowed on the furniture for three or four months. The kids and I would hold her on our laps so that “technically” she wasn’t on the furniture. Of course she didn’t distinguish between our laps and furniture, and eventually my wife gave up: Nutmeg goes wherever, and is quite content about it.

My wife has always drawn a hard line with the dogs: they’re not allowed on the furniture—and Nutmeg’s two most recent predecessors kept off. But the kids and I are lap dog enthusiasts, so a few months into Nutmeg’s “training,” my wife lifted the furniture not allowed rule.

This morning, my wife was Skyping with our son, Callum, who is away at college. I sat on the sofa to listen. Nutmeg took this to mean it was time to play. She jumped on the sofa and smacked me a few dozen times with her big-blue-binky. I gently deflected her each time.

Spoiler Alert: Icky Bug-Thing Photo Below “the Fold”

When she relented, she dropped her binky on my lap and sat quietly for a few minutes. Then she leaned away from me until she fell onto her back; a maneuver I’ve never seen a dog do on purpose. She landed flat on her spine with all four legs sticking up in the classic doggie “scratch my belly” position and then lay still looking adorable.

I leaned in to scratch, and ugh! In the middle of Nutmeg’s pink but hairy belly there was a tick. This was the second tick I had found on her in about ten days. I gently pulled it free and disposed of it, and we got on with our lives.

Tick on Nutmeg

Does “spoiler alert” mean that looking at this photo could spoil your appetite? That’s the tick I pulled off of Nutmeg’s stomach this morning—photographed before I removed it.

Nutmeg seems to be a tick magnet. In the 18 months she’s lived with us, I’ve already lost count of how many ticks I’ve pulled off of her. She had Lyme disease earlier this year which, of course, comes from tick bites, and we haven’t had her follow-up doctor’s visit to gauge the success of her treatment. I hope she doesn’t get re-infected now that tick season is peaking.

I can say with conviction: Not removing ticks from dogs is something I miss about city life. I could not have said that when I lived in the city because at the time I didn’t know what I wasn’t missing. Ugh.