Friday, July 27th, 2012...08:12


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As a kid I often wanted a pet [dog] that I could play with, but my parents weren’t too interested in having any (we had some freshwater fish) and I likely couldn’t handle the responsibility myself; so I went pet-less until around the age of 11. At that time, we reached an agreement that I was capable of caring for a hamster. After an eventful trip home from the pet store (Huey, named after the hamster in the Calvin and Hobbes comic) chewed through the cardboard box in the car, climbed up into the ventilation system and had to be lured out via a corn kernel), I managed to care for Huey until he died of natural causes a little over 2 years later.


He contracted some sort of respiratory illness, becoming lethargic and wheezing; my parents humored me by taking him to the vet. The vet in turn claimed to have put him in an oxygen chamber, but Huey died a few minutes later (perhaps the vet actually gave him a lethal injection, I’ll never know). Much like razors and printers, the business model of owning a hamster revolves around an initial cost e.g. razor handle, printer, hamster cage and then smaller continuous expenses e.g. razors and shaving cream, ink/toner and paper, hamster and food. So for a few dollars I picked up another hamster, Andiamo and he lived for a bit more than a year before I found him one morning somewhere between Algor mortis and Rigor mortis. By now I was 15, living in a townhouse with my mom and convinced her I could take care of a dog.

My idea of a dog lay closer to the dog’s ancestors e.g. wolf, coyote so only a few breeds would do. I was quite active (ran, rode my bike/rollerblades etc.) and decided I wanted a Siberian Husky. We visited a Husky rescue group and after several meetings ended up with adopting one. I named him Weiland.


Unfortunately, I was not ready to take nearly full responsibility of the dog. Huskies shed a lot and no matter how often I brushed him, I still ended up with more vacuuming duties than I wanted. As we didn’t have a yard and my mom worked full time, while I was at school he was in a crate (we tried to keep him in the kitchen but he could jump over any barrier we setup). And I just couldn’t consistently wake up early enough to take him for long walks before school. After a few months, we ended up giving him away to a family that had a husky and a yard and was looking for a second one (they’re very gregarious).

Back to hamsters, I went through Pierre and Surimi over the next 3 years, took a break when I went off to college and then during my junior year picked up General Nogi. The General was a badass, lived for almost 3 years and survived a trip down a flight of stairs in a hamster ball. When I moved into an apartment after college he caused the people below me grief, running around in his ball on a hardwood floor. Once he died, I didn’t get another hamster until I moved a year later. Fuzzhead managed to escape once but was successfully lured out of hiding with strategically placed piles of food. He also developed a similar respiratory condition as my first hamster, Huey, but recovered after we moved his cage to a different spot in the loft (presumably with less dust). After he died, I went pet-less for the next 5+ years.


My wife’s family has had many pets, birds, rabbits, cats, dogs, fish, hamsters etc. I’ve known her for 14 years, during many of which they had 3 outdoor cats (Sam, Mugsy and Wilbur) and until last month they always had a dog, Maxwell. We had discussed getting a dog when we moved into our loft 10 years ago, but decided it wouldn’t be fair to the dog since there wasn’t a yard and only a few patches of grass in our neighborhood. We also couldn’t agree on what type of dog to get as she preferred a dog that would be comfortable to have on her lap and I one that I could go hiking with, could run faster than me (I think I can still beat a dog with legs < 1 foot in length in a straight race, I certainly was able to run faster than Maxwell [Yorkshire Terrier]) and looked like a "real" dog i.e. closer to wolf/coyote than not. In addition, there were the usual logistics e.g. we enjoyed travelling and both worked full time. A couple of years ago we bought a house with an enclosed backyard, removing one of the primary obstacles to owning a dog. My wife had also been working at a job for the last few years, mainly in the afternoons/early evenings which meant a dog wouldn’t be home alone for 10+ hours/day. So the decision really boiled down to what kind of dog to get and what to do with it when we went on vacation.

Another change in our behavior when my wife changed jobs, was a reduction in frequent short 3 or 4 day trips (unless it was a holiday weekend since she no longer had vacation days), and a focus on longer trips when she had multiple days off. In-between the less frequent, longer travels my wife would go through periodic bursts of Craigslist and Petfinder searches; every now and then we’d visit a shelter or dog adoption day, but could never agree. I still felt the desire for a dog with roughly the size and look of a coyote, but that would make it difficult for my wife to pickup and hold or have on her lap for extended periods of time.

After a trip to Cambodia at the end of last year, we had another lull before our next batch of travel plans went into full effect (annular eclipse in New Mexico, Yankee games in New York, weddings in North Carolina and Colorado). After a disappointing trip to the Berkeley SPCA and a few more dog adoption days we happend upon a group of rescued dogs at a Petsmart in Concord. There was a curious reddish-copper dog on top of a crate, curled up in a ball alongside a cat, both sleeping. All the other dogs were barking and jumping in the makeshift pens; every now and then the cat or dog would stand up to adjust positions and then settle back into their naps. We spoke with the woman who ran the rescue about the dog for a little bit, Gina held her and we walked her around the store for a little bit. She appeared to be a mix between a chihuahua and a dachshund, was still a puppy but nearly full grown (a little underweight). She remained very calm amidst all the people, looked like a “real” dog and would be a good size to hold on one’s lap (10 pounds), so we signed up to adopt her. She had yet to be spayed or microchiped and already had an appointment at the vet the following week, so we put down a deposit, filled out the paperwork and came back the following Saturday.

Rescuing Annabellatrix

The car ride home was uneventful, she laid down in the crate we had bought. She still had suchers from the surgery and slept a lot the first few days we had her in the house. We took her out in the back yard at regular intervals in case she had to go to the bathroom and quickly adapted to going in an area along the fence which we rarely had reason to walk through. Amazingly, she has yet to have an accident in the house or the car. Her behavior has been better than could possibly be expected, she gets along well with all dogs; even ones that don’t like other dogs seem to like or at least tolerate her.

This isn’t to say everything has come up roses; she seems to be intent on collecting diseases, fungi and parasites. Within the first few days, her incision became infected causing her to go on antibiotics. With a weak immune system, she was unable to fight off ringworm which she either already had from the rescue or contracted somewhere in our backyard. A few weeks later she ended up with a tapeworm and most recently contracted giardia. None of these seem to phase her and only the ringworm was really an inconvenience for us.

She is able to (videos) fetch and loves to run crazy laps in the backyard. If you’d like, you can follow her exploits: Annabellatrix on Facebook and Annabellatrix on Flickr.

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