Last week, we adopted an eight-week-old beagle/poodle puppy from a local shelter. And now I know I’ve officially grown up because I’ve given my vintage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles towel, which I’ve had for over twenty years, to little Penny Lane. I swear, my wife chose the name, even though I’m the Beatles geek. We call her Penny for short, as well as a variety of other sickeningly cute nicknames in bizarre high-pitched voices. How quickly we’ve become “those people.”
Once we were normal adults. Carefree, yesterday. But the transformation into “those people” is always swift and disarming, marked by a sudden onset of temporary insanity. Because no person in a sound, rational state of mind would want a dependent baby animal that poops, pees, and barfs all over the house, and then tries to eat it.
No rational person would want a teething, chewing thing that you can’t even pet, who comes at you mouth open like a tiny shark thirsting for blood, your hair, or that Martha Stewart Collection Teddy Bear the wife picked out at PetSmart. Dear God, no rational person would want a puppy. At the very least, a rational person might have instead chosen that housebroken Cocker Spaniel with only one red bow in its hair, the other bow sadly missing.
I suspect the jumpy and barky Jack Russell Terrier as the bow thief. He just looked like one.
Once you come down with the insanity, the prognosis isn’t good. Other initial symptoms may include compulsive puppy toy purchases, random cooing noises, and deciding whose set of parents shall be known to the puppy as Grandma and Grandpa vs. Mommom and Pop.
Within twenty-four hours of bringing your new puppy home, further presenting symptoms may include increasingly bizarre dinner conversations, for instance—how cute her little yawning sound is (really cute), how much she likes her kibble comparatively to the new treats you got her (winner: treats), and in-depth analysis of poop consistency (I’ll spare you the details.)
Within forty-eight hours, if you experience any of the following, you must seek immediate medical attention:
A) wiping the puppy’s butt with a baby wipe
B) feeding the puppy canned pumpkin off a spoon
C) singing the puppy’s name to the tune of “Call Me Maybe.”
The wife was guilty of “C,” NOT ME I SWEAR.
The symptoms aren’t all cutesy and saccharine. Dire symptoms may also include moodiness and drama, such as while gazing lovingly at the sleeping puppy, the wife unnervingly states in puppy-talking-voice, “one day she’s going to die and that makes me want to kill myself.”
Fortunately, the temporary insanity subsides—however, a secondary wave of the illness occurs: new puppy parent anxiety. Also, the use of the phrase “puppy parent.” You poor bastard.
In our case, Penny developed a cough on the third day. Internet research commence! It turns out researching dog diseases on the Internet is the same as researching human diseases. It’s just like that bone chip fragment in my thumb that I was certain was a tumor. You’ll google “puppy cough” and come away convinced the dog has end-stage renal failure, even as she’s happily rolling around on the floor trying to kill the Martha Stewart bear.
So I took Penny to the vet. Growing up, my father used to threaten that he had a five-hundred-dollar vet limit for our dog or else she’d get put to sleep. Of course he loved the dog and would do anything for her, but if it was going to cost more than five hundred bucks to treat her, well, too bad for Spritzy. I never knew for sure if he was ever serious or just joking in his usual deadpan sense of humor. But I do know one thing for sure: I am not my father. JUST TAKE MY WALLET YOU VET PEOPLE.
Our little pup was sick. She had a respiratory infection and two kinds of worms, including one that could be passed to humans. Have you ever noticed how “zoonotic” is one of the most disturbing words in the English language? But a few rounds of antibiotics and a couple hundred bucks later, she’s still happily annihilating the bear.
The third stage of the disease is pictures.
Pictures is the most dangerous of the stages because it can be easily spread to others. Facebook is the germy doorknob of puppy and baby pictures. You used to make fun of “those people,” but now that you are one of them, you may experience total loss of self-control and social awareness. The first picture of your new puppy may garner up to fifty “likes,” the modern version of “congrats” from friends and family members. The twentieth picture of your puppy will only get one “like,” and it will be your eighty-year-old grandmother who is a fervent and persistent liker of all things puppy.
You may experience symptoms for up to a month or longer as your transformation into “those people” completes. There is no known cure. There is no going back. Long term side effects include companionship, love, and standing on your back deck screaming the dog’s name repeatedly to come inside while the neighbors think there’s something completely wrong with you.