It was that special moment in our marriage when we yearned for something to nurture. We decided that a dog was the perfect solution. It was a nice way to ease into the responsibility of a family. I had my heart set on a yellow lab. I don’t know. There is something so cute about that face. To say that I was warned about the amount of trouble they could get into was an understatement. I knew they chewed furniture, shed like a mother and ate underwear but I was stubborn and I wanted a yellow lab no matter how much work they were.
It was a beautiful October day. A friend of ours had a yellow lab with new puppies. The male was a stocky hunting dog and the female was a docile, loving chocolate lab. I convinced my husband to come with me to finally pick out our first dog. We walked into a strange house and headed down to the basement. Everywhere you look there were little black fur balls running around. It was dark and smelled kind of nasty, like dog urine. I think they tried to keep it clean but there were so many puppies it was nearly impossible. As soon as those little puppies noticed that a buyer entered the basement they ran to our feet. Correction: All of the smart female puppies ran to our feet. I looked at the owner “I thought you said you had 1 male yellow lab left?” She quickly responded ” We do! He’s down here somewhere.” We clapped our hands and did a half whistle to get his attention. It was so dark down there but we heard him. We heard all kinds of shit falling over in the back corner. He was a bull in a china shop from the very beginning. The sounds alone made me wonder if he was the right dog. Clink, clank…[panting] .. crash…clink..clank…[panting]! Then he burst out of nowhere like superdog! His ears were flopping and his tail was wagging. He ran 360’s around the perimeter of the basement paying no attention to anyone or anything around him. His mission was clear. He wanted to play! He ran by us at full speed taunting us and blindly tackled one of the black lab puppies. We bent down to pet him but he dodged our attempt of affection and then randomly peed on the floor. He made me smile. “He’s the one!” I said. My husband looked confused “that idiot?” “Yup..he’s the one.” “I don’t know babe? He just pissed on my shoes!” He knew I wasn’t budging on this one. Reluctantly, he wrote a check for 500 dollars and we scooped up the restless fur ball and took him home. He rode on my lap all the way home. He licked my face and scratched my legs. He had more energy than either of us had ever seen. He looked left, right, left, right, left..as if he was asking “Where are we going guys?”. Then without warning he jumped off my lap and onto the floor. He stayed there for approximately 15 seconds then whimpered for me to pick him up again. I picked him up and looked at my husband “What are we going to name this little fella?” He shook his head in disbelief. He still couldn’t believe that I talked him into buying a 500 dollar spaz. “I don’t know? What about Norman? Ya know? the character ,Norm, from the sitcom Cheers? Every time he comes down to Doherty’s Pub we can chant “Norm!” just like they did in the show.” I take a moment and think about this. “Agreed. Norman it is!”
The first few months were tough. We both worked full-time jobs and we were gone during the day. The only option was to crate him. We had friends with labs that agreed this was the best option. They like having a designated safe spot. Since they sleep there, they won’t go to the bathroom in their crate. He needed it! He would have destroyed our home if we let him run the roost while we were away. We made it nice for him. Some fluffy blankets and a bowl of water. We used the command “crate up!” and he routinely did with no argument. Although the crate seemed like a perfect solution, 8 hours was too long in a crate for a puppy. I worked as a RN at the hospital only a few miles away and would beg my coworkers to cover for me during my lunch break so I could let him out of his crate to use the bathroom and run a few laps around the backyard. All was going well until he did the unthinkable.
It was a
cold freezing evening. We were both tired and looking forward to putting our feet up after a long day at work. We walked into the kitchen and the smell nearly knocked us out. Did Norman escape his crate and poop all over the house? We slowly peeked around the corner holding our breath with the necks of our shirts being used as a make shift mask. We had no idea what we were about to discover. There he was. He was inside his crate alright. Panting, excited to see us as if he had done nothing wrong. Covered….I mean totally covered in dog shit. It was smeared on every wall of the crate. In every crevice. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. How are we gonna clean this? If I open the door he will bolt out and there will be shit all over our house. What were we going to do? How long has this poor puppy been laying in his own feces? He was clean at lunch. I let him out at lunch…I watched him poop. What happened? Was he sick? Maybe he couldn’t help it? My husband, less compassionate by nature, started a rant (fact: he rants when he is upset) that made me double check to make sure the back door was closed tight. Our neighbors would have called the police for sure. “What the F—k? What kind of dumb a– dog shits in his own crate? This dog is f–king idiot. Look at him. A smart dog would know that he f—ked up. He’s f–king smiling????? It smells like a f–king dog kennel in here. I don’t need this shit after a long day at work. What the f————-k!!!” With that…he picked up the crate with Norm inside and slammed it on top of a pile of snow on the back deck. He opened the crate door and as expected… Norm bolted full speed to the back corner of our yard and peed in his designated spot “by the tree”. Ming scolded him “Don’t try to act like a f–king genius now!” Then spunky Norm did the same 360’s that he did the day we met him, staring us down with each new lap. When he finished his cardio, he ran and grabbed the biggest branch he could find and dropped it at my husbands feet. “I’m not f–king playing NORM! Sit down.” Obediently, Norm sat still covered in shit but proud of himself that he knew the command. We rolled our eyes. He was charming but dumb. Dumb as a rock. I kind of felt sorry for him so I gave him a pat on the head. It reassured Norm that daddy wasn’t gonna give him away and felt like the right thing to do. I bent down and whispered in Norm’s ear. “Norman. If you know what’s good for you, you won’t move. Stay.” As Ming walked over to the garden hose he muttered a plan on how we could fix this situation and move on. “I guess we can just spray the crate until it’s clean and then we can give Norm a good bath.” We had a plan, it was all down here from here…. so I thought? He turned the hose on full pressure. We were going to need it to get the smeared poop chunks off the inside of the crate. Nothing came out. Ming..now confused..”what the?” He looks closer and then it dawns on him that the hose is frozen solid. Looking at Norm he explains “of course you did? You decided to do what no dog on earth has ever done on the coldest night of the f–cking year. And now….the damn hose is frozen. How are we gonna clean up your shit Norman?” I looked at Norman “Don’t answer that Norm,trust me.” I walked inside and filled a coffee mug up with boiling hot water, opened the back door and saturated the inside of the crate. It worked. We didn’t have a hose but tossing hot water worked. Hooray! Plan B to the rescue. My husband joined me and we left the water in the kitchen sink running as we alternated tossing water in the crate. This worked for a while then I noticed Ming getting frustrated. He abandoned our water tossing by cup for something bigger and better. He began rummaging through the pots and pans and I inquired what he was doing? ” I’m gonna get this bitch clean 10 times quicker!” Well? I can’t argue with that? He filled my biggest cooking pot up to the very top with boiling hot water. I held the door open and Ming slipped on frozen water all the way to the crate, then he tossed the mother of all water buckets on the crate. I was standing down wind and the boiling hot water mixed with the shit smell created an envelope of steam around my face that made me gag. A shit facial is the only way to describe it. I actually dry heaved from the smell and when I looked up…there he was…clueless….panting..watching MIng ice skate and me dry heave. We both looked at him covered in shit and looked at ourselves. It looked like some sort of fecal war zone. Norm layed down like he was disappointed in himself. The crate was finally clean. We were exhausted and we I (who was I kidding) still needed to give him a bath. Dogs have a keen sense of awareness and seem to know when you are pushed to your limit. Norm climbed in the tub that night. I sacrificed my thickest pair of dish washing gloves and I soaped him up and scrubbed him from head to toe. “ya know Norman? Daddy wasn’t sure about you. I’m the one who picked you out of the litter and you are making me look bad. Not cool buddy? Not cool.” He apologized in his own way. He gave me lots of doggie kisses and didn’t even attempt to jump out of the tub until we were completely done. He was grateful to be clean and sorry for the trouble. Mmmmm? In a strange way he reminded me of Ming? I loved him with all my heart but I’m not so sure everyone would???? I got myself showered and ready for bed. I gave Norm one last kiss and grabbed some blankets and made a bed for him on the floor next to me but he refused to sleep there. He went to Ming’s side. Apparently, Ming was his “master” which I find totally wrong since clearly I picked him out of the litter and I am his caretaker? He’s your damn “master” because he swears at you? This is kind of like watching an abusive relationship. “Pssssst Norm? Don’t fall for him. I’ll treat you good forever. Don’t go for the bad boy. Trust me. It won’t get you anywhere. He’ll do less work than you and go to bed first for the rest of your life” [Norm is kind of a therapist for me. I tell him my irrationale thoughts and he listens.] I guess my rationale didn’t work. He still wanted Ming’s approval which annoyed me. He stood panting on the side of the bed waiting for Ming to acknowledge him. I nudged my husband. Ming looked at Norman. “What do you want?” He looked down at Norm with his big brown eyes and his clean fluffy coat. Norm tilted his head to the side as if he understood every word we said to him. “You better be glad your mother cleaned you up. What’s wrong with you Norm? You are not supposed to shit where you sleep.” Norm licked his face and Ming turned to mush and invited him to sleep on the floor next to him. MIng gently pet his head and rubbed his ears. “Norm….We still love you! I guess technically…throughout life…one way or another we all shit in our crate at some point.” I thought about that. It’s true. We all screw up and we all need to be forgiven. Thanks for the subtle reminder and the facial Norm. As we lay in the bed exhausted we laughed at the whole scene that unveiled that night. This was the beginning of our new family. This was the very beginning of our adventures with our favorite pet in the whole world, Norm.
Please subscribe below if you would like to be the first to read new posts!