My dog Greta was an impulsive purchase. For me, she justified the notion that it is absolutely sane to pet a puppy, and then aggressively shove your credit card in a salesman's face.
It was July 4th weekend, and my younger sister had time to kill before catching her flight back to Nashville. Jordan (my boo) and I agreed to take her to our favorite pet store, one in which we spent several afternoons torturing ourselves staring at puppies we didn't have the guts to take home.
I had long romanticized the notion of owning a Ruby Cavalier King Charles. I thought - how British of me, but like trendy British, because the Ruby Cavs are more unique - I really am sophisticated when I get going. However, since Rubys appeared to be mostly procured through breeders, owning a dog still seemed like a cloudy fantasy to us. A breeder is what we would do. A breeder meant Jordan and I would really make pet owning a well-thought-out decision.
But that fateful July 5th, when we walked into our West Village pet store, staring at me with big watery brown eyes, was a gorgeous Ruby - my dream dog, miracle and ovary shaker. I felt as if I had birthed her myself. That's how instant the connection felt in my full heart. I appealed to the salesman to please take her out of the cage so I could cuddle her on the cold tile floor of the store.
The minute I held her in my arms, I looked at Jordan, who is just a peach of a man. I said to him, lip quivering, "Babe. Would you be okay with us getting this dog?" In a state of bewildered goofiness, he replied "Wait - what? This is happening?" I held the small puppy up to my face, trying to match the expression in her Betty Boop eyes with my own green saucers. "Oh, okay, I guess this is happening," he laughed. Just a peach.
We brought the little redhead back to our small Hell's Kitchen apartment where her older brother, Walter (our magnificent and judgmental Persian cat) was waiting. The initial interaction between the two was most definitely fraught with turmoil, but they soon became best friends. And by soon, I mean within two hours of meeting. Walter is a picky son of a bitch, but he also can't deny greatness.
Joey came over within minutes of us bringing the puppy home. Clad in shorts and sunglasses, holding a bottle of Champagne, he welcomed his niece with spectacular love. We proceeded to have her "naming party," and Joey aptly suggested Greta. And there you have it. Greta Garbo Friedson was officially christened within the subtle confines of our junior one on 48th street.
Despite the initial joys and sparkle of owning a new puppy, Greta's introduction to life outside the pet store was quite rocky. When we first brought her home, I noticed a number of disconcerting sniffles, and promptly took her to the vet. She was diagnosed with kennel cough and received an army of antibiotics. Used to parenthood with Walter, I thought - Easy-peazy-lemon-squeeze-y. We got this cough. Ain't no thang but a chicken wing.
Well. My loose attitude soon disintegrated when Greta's cough morphed into full blown pneumonia. Pneumonia that eventually did transition into a less threatening chest infection, but nevertheless, lasted 8 months. This was real dog ownership, where responsibility truly kicked in, and where every vet visit ended in tears of fear and frustration. I had fleetingly irrational thoughts - Would we have a funeral? Of course we would. Could we ever own another dog? Probably not.
Finally after countless antibiotics, blood tests, chest x-rays, ludicrously high bills, and a trip to small claims court - Greta had a clean bill of health. Only to be quickly dashed by a case of explosive diarrhea. Because that's the thing about life. You jump over one hurdle only to slam crotch-first into another.
It was a Sunday, and our dearly beloved Dr. Gabrielle's office was closed. So after being on our hands and knees for hours, clutching Lysol, and violently cursing each other - Jordan and I bundled Greta in our best towels and got into a taxi. We raced violently towards the 24 hour animal hospital as the driver's radio station fittingly blasted Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop."
We rushed haphazardly into the hospital lobby, exclaiming our dire situation - she's gonna go again at any minute, we need to see someone, we need a gurney or some shit, no pun intended, sort of er - we were awkwardly cut off and put into a small hospital room. Greta shuffled around the room and then proceeded to shit in every corner of it. Jordan and I frantically began cleaning up after her, but she got the best of us, and soon the room was an 8 x 8 shit box. I opened the door and hollered at the nearest nurse, "I'm sorry but she won't stop shitting and we're running out of towels and can we please get the doctor in here?" To which this nurse blankly responded, "We have dogs dying downstairs. It might be a while." Kudos. She successfully made a woman steeped in shit feel even shittier.
But she was totally justified in her remark. I realized suddenly that that was the kind of mother I would probably be, and I must say it is supremely jarring to find that you will be the mom that everyone else makes fun of, that mom who wails in the school nurse's office - "WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY CHILD HAS LICE?! YOU'RE JUST CALLING ME NOW?! THIS IS A CODE-MOTHAFUCKIN'-BLACK, IRENE!" Because all school nurses are obviously named Irene. But yes, everyone makes fun of that self-righteous mother, and in that midtown 24 hour animal hospital, I was her.
Needless to say, we eventually got to see the doctor and Greta didn't make a number two for several days. Crisis averted, clean bill of health restored, all quiet on the Western front, and suddenly it was Greta's first birthday. I finally could look my brilliantly sweet dog in the face, and confidently feel that we kept her alive through her first year of life. I think it's mutually understood between Greta and me that Jordan and I are dorky, neurotic parents - but we do everything we can to give her a good life.
Truthfully, all I need to do is look in those watery brown eyes I adore so much, and I can see just how much she loves and appreciates me. I know she'd thank me if she could speak, but then again, it's probably best she can't, because then I'd give her all the treats, and we would probably end up back at the vet.
To this day, Greta remains a delicate flower. She will almost always get sick if given the chance, and she is most definitely a handful. However, she is also pure delight, and I can't imagine our little family without her. She's given Jordan and me a deeper respect for parenthood. We're getting married soon, and when we do choose to have children of our own - thanks to Greta, I know I will be the mom with every doctor on speed dial and a shamefully unlimited supply of spare towels. So you know, knowledge is power I suppose.