“GIVE ME THE GODDAMN CHICKEN!”
Boa-like, Toby unhinges his jaw and attempts to swallow the entirely intact fried chicken breast he’s just scavenged from a throng of bamboo. Like a tiny, voracious panda.
So, here I am. It’s 7:00 AM on Santa Monica Boulevard and I’m performing in “That’s My Chicken!” starring Toby (as McChubberpants), Matt (as Obscenity-yelling Dad), and Fried Chicken Breast (as Delicious Morsel Certain to Give McChubberpants Explosive Diarrhea).
Me: *Unintelligible expletives while reaching into gaping pup maw*
Toby: DISIZBESTDAHYEVAH. TOBYLUVCHIKN *gulp-slobber*
Fried Chicken Breast: I can’t help that everyone loves me. Except the bastard who threw me into this fucking bamboo.
I had these grand notions about adopting a dog. That there’d be bells and whistles and angelic harps when we first brought home our furry child.
Instead, it just sort of happened that we adopted him — a boy no less.
See, we’d planned on adopting two female dogs — naming one Andrea and the other Emily, and at random moments calling out to them whilst channeling our best Meryl-as-Miranda Priestly impressions.
“Emily. Emily. There you are, Emily. How many times do I have to scream your name?”
But then Toby came along, and his name just seemed too fitting to change. Laid back and not so in-your-face as some of the other dogs, he just puttered around the activity yard while we tried to cajole him over with hot dog bits and cheese. Completely uninterested, he set to his primary task: peeing on all the things.
“We’ll take him.”
Flash forward a week after he’s come home. It’s midnight, and I’ve bolted upright, thrown myself out of bed, and am already in the living room by the time I actually realize I’m awake. Somehow, our little Houdini got out of his microfiber bed, tossed aside his microfiber throw, ignored his overstuffed bumble bee toy, and decided to wake the dead at the witching hour.
Over the next few days, coffee and stubble complemented dog hair-coated attire as Andy and I made our foray into being daddies. We fretted, worried, went overboard with praise when he shit outside, and couldn’t possibly stay mad at him for doing something horrendous once we heard his doggy snoring and sleep farting. And before we knew it, he was three pounds heavier and hoarding all of his toys.
In the end, I declare “That’s My Chicken!” a draw — he’s swallowed a few bites’ worth, but no bones.
“You know, you’re going to have to shape up when your sister gets here.”
Toby sniffs himself, then looks down the street.
Making the decision to get a second dog only six months after Toby wasn’t one that we made lightly.
With Toby, we have a routine. We know what to do — what he likes, despises, and how we can use the latter to our advantage. And his bedding and toys and other accoutrements don’t fuck up our design aesthetic.
All around, it’s a win.
But then we started looking around our apartment and thinking that we have just enough resources to make a difference in one more dog’s life. And that’s really what it comes down to in the end — effecting change, whenever we can.
So, Pearl came home yesterday.
And sure, she’s going to need plenty of help getting acclimated to her new life with a new little brother and two fathers obsessed with making her comfortable. There will be ups and downs and moments of us wondering what in the fuck we were thinking.
But there will also be moments of pure bliss.
Like yesterday, after we brought her home. She scampered around, and occasionally peed on things while I hurried after her spraying Simple Green all over the place. Toby, slightly amused and slightly disgusted at the whole situation, surveyed from his perch before surreptitiously stealing most of Pearl’s toys. Adoption detritus layered every surface — bags here, toys there, a leash or two draped over furniture. Sunlight filtered through the curtains and the air conditioner sputtered on. And everyone started to settle.
I looked around and took stock of it all. And smiled.
It’s not the perfect life. But I never wanted to be perfect.