As I sit at my desk at home trying to write, I have to concentrate to ignore the constant reminder that I'm not alone -- chewing, slobbering and the ever-so-faint odor of barbecued pig ear.
But if it wasn't for that pig ear, writing would require an entirely different level of concentration as my dog, Toby, pawed at my legs to be picked up and placed on my lap where he would turn clockwise in circles for at least 10 minutes until he found the perfect spot to collapse. Then he might decide that the floor looks fun, jump down and start the process all over again.
It has been exactly one year since my husband, Jerry, and I brought our bundle of teeth home. And as first-time dog owners, we've decided the ups far outweigh the downs, but I never knew a 10-pound ball of fur could wreak so much havoc.
Toby has come a long way since puppydom. We look back at the nights filled with 4 a.m. pee breaks and laugh. But what he gained in bladder control, he certainly hasn't lost in spunk.
When we bought a house this summer, we knew the move would be an adjustment for him, especially because we were introducing him to carpet for the first time and he still had occasional accidents. So, to protect our floors, we decided to keep him in the basement while we were at work.
He quickly let us know that it wasn’t an acceptable arrangement by ripping up the kitchen linoleum that peeked through the basement door. So much for protecting our floors.
On the other hand, when we showed him the fenced-in backyard, a look of absolute bliss spread across his face. He repaid us by taking care of the gardening -- ripping up the plants, digging ankle-breaking divots throughout the yard and eating all the cherry tomatoes.
Then there are the unexpected joys like when he runs around with one of my bras in his mouth while we have company or when he wakes us by puking in our hair or barking until our ears bleed when a TV show just happens to contain a doorbell ring.
But despite all of the missing socks, shredded tissues and an occasional destroyed shoelace, I know I wouldn't give up dog ownership for anything.
When we thought Toby escaped late one night recently, Jerry and I drove around with our windows down for hours, screaming his name until our voices became hoarse. We thought it was over. I didn't think I'd ever see him again.
I tried not to cry as I pictured him scared and alone with no one to vomit on. Or worse: Someone might decide to keep him. But would they have a cherry tomato plant? Would they have his favorite brand of shoelaces? Would their favorite TV shows have doorbell sounds?
Fortunately, when Jerry and I reconvened at the house to change into warmer clothes, I heard our dog whining. In true Toby style, he had inadvertently locked himself in a closet.
But enough reminiscing. Toby is pawing at my legs. The barbecue-flavored distraction has apparently lost its luster. It must be time to play.