DeWitt column: That Christmas puppy fever
Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
Sooner or later it happens, coming around with eventual, patient certainty in that great cycle of the universe, like Haley’s Comet but faster: my wife comes down with the Christmas puppy fever again.
This strange, acute fever infects the deepest inner workings of the poor woman’s mind, gripping her with its delirium and altering her perception of reality. The reality is, I argue, we already have several dogs and two children, including one kid who isn’t house broken or even certified sanitary yet by the county health department. The kid who eats dirt will give the puppy worms, I argue. The last thing we need is another yapping, mess-making, furniture-destroying varmint in our tiny home.
Perhaps the infection was caused by exposure to a Puppy Chow commercial during a Christmas love story on the Lifetime Network - I curse you yet again, Lifetime! You and Nicholas Sparks have ruined my life! - or, more than likely, from a cute-puppy post on Facebook. Luckily, I am immune to this fever because I have seen how it can ravage and rip apart an American family. I know what is destined to happen. Christmas puppy fever wears off as quickly as it attacks. We will get a puppy, and everyone will fawn over it for a couple of days, maybe a week, tops. And then everyone will get tired of having to take the puppy outside, tired of the puppy eating shoes and biting toes and stealing food, etc. And I’ll be stuck with it by New Year’s Eve.
“But don’t you want to see the kids’ faces light up on Christmas morning?” says the wife, sweetly. That dirty woman.
“Okay, I want this in writing,” I say, navigating the family minivan toward my doom. “Repeat after me: I, Mommy, do solemnly swear that Daddy, who has agreed to get this puppy under much protest, will not once be called upon to walk this dog in the middle of the night, and will certainly never be asked to clean up any of this dog’s mess! But I will pet it and play with it every now and then, if I’m in the mood. Do we have a deal?”
The wife just looks at me, smiles and nods with an all-knowing smirk. She knows, I know, even the pup I haven’t met yet knows, that within 24 hours Daddy will be getting dew on his house slippers, shivering against the cold, dodging drops of rain, while the puppy plays and does everything but use the bathroom like it’s supposed to. And then the little monster will come into the house and leave a calling card or two in the middle of the living room floor. Of course, Mommy’s hands will be messy, covered with raw chicken and barbecue sauce, so guess who will be cleaning that up?
Thanks to GPS, I can’t pretend to get lost and we quickly find the place. Sure enough, out back there is a pen full of puppy life, teeming with chocolate and smoky-gray cuteness, a tangled litter of half-Lab, half-Weimaraner puppies, all with blazing blue eyes and cute enough to make even the hardest heart yearn for puppy breath in his face. I had never seen so many chubby, adorable puppies in my life! They all rush to us, tails wagging, wet noses sticking between the diamond-shaped holes in the fence, licking our fingers. “Oh look, honey!” I exclaim. “Take me! Take me!” they all seem to say.
A sweat breaks out on my forehead, and my eyesight gets dim and moist around the edges. Childhood memories of puppies and Christmas morning and games of fetch swirl before my eyes. That one there looks like he wants to be a quail dog. Oh, look! Is that one going to be a dove retriever or a duck dog? Knees weak, I scoop up two of them. All of them are sold and spoken for, says the nice man, except for these two smoky gray runts right here. No one seems to want them. Poor little guys. Soon all of their brothers and sisters will be gone, and what will become of them?
“Valerie,” I hear myself saying, voice all trembling and scratchy and somehow disconnected from the rest of my body. “You know, two puppies wouldn’t be any more trouble than one puppy. And with two little guys, they would have a companion to play with.”
The man has to pry one of the wiggling, licking, whining bundles of joy from my hands. The wife has to drag me back to the van and strap me in the seat, kicking and protesting, screaming “I want them all!” out the window. She pays the man and cuts a trail of dust getting me out of his driveway with only one pup hugged tightly to my chest.
Curse you, puppy fever! You win this one, but there’s always next Christmas.
Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian newspaper in South Carolina. He is an award-winning humorist, journalist and outdoor writer and the author of two books.