Lula Dog is sweet as pie. She is a leaner, a licker, and a leaper-into-the-air. Her long, undocked tail wags like a fan when she’s happy. She is eager to please. She sleeps calmly on the floor by the computer or in her crate when you’re writing. She is full of affection for Marshall and me and the women at the vet. She is good on walks, although she lunges at the occasional squirrel.
Saturday, I took her to the fancy-dancy pet store in Virginia Highlands, where, it has been my experience in the past, you can blow your week’s earnings on a single organic chew toy and collar. And dogs love it there! Everyone’s tossing them treats. They get lots of admiring comments; they meet other dogs. So, I was psyched to bring Lula there for the very first time before our first walk in Piedmont Park.
Then we arrived.
The nice, bearded guy behind the counter praised her good door manners. Then he tossed her a treat. Her tail plunged, from a tentative top-wobble, straight between her legs. She leaned against me, cowering, and emitted a low growl. Then another man—unbearded—tried to toss her another treat. Her growl turned into a fierce bark I’d never heard, and she rested her entire 44-pound bodily weight against my knees. She barked and snapped. As I tried to maneuver us over to the treats and portable water bowls, she slunk about my ankles, whining and growling. She barked at every man we saw. It was hard to go anywhere in the store, she was so clingy. And I was just…floored.
So I ended up just kind of standing there. “This is new,” I said vaguely to the two guys working, not knowing what else to say. What had happened to my sweet girl? Who was this man-fearing, slinking, growling dog?
The guys started right in exhorting me to take her to the store’s five-million dollar training class. “You want this to be the next 14 years of your life?” said the one guy, all tough-love knowing. I wanted to punch him. If he’d let me talk, I would have told him that yes, I know the five-million-dollar trainer is amazing; I’d taken my old dog to his training classes years ago and yes, I knew the value of training and had been planning to train her anyway—somewhere significantly less expensive.
Because—let’s review. The expenses of a new dog:
• Adoption fee: $200
• Crate: $100
• Identification tag: $9.99
• 1 bag/fancydancy dog food she’s used to: $25
• Food/water bowls, leash, collar, chew toys: ~$45
• Treats for trainin’: $3.95
• More expensive, non copious-diarrhea-causing treats: $7.95
• 3 Months’ heartworm preventative: $40
• 3 Months’ flea and tick preventative: $67
• 1 Car-seat protector, purchased at discount, online: $25
• Second identification tag, for microchip: $9.00
The night before, on a walk, I’d gotten to talking about getting a choke-chain and a clicker for training, and Marshall, who was full of affection for Lula and 100% onboard for all of the above expenses—but who had, all the same, reviewed his own bank account the night before—burst out, “Jesus. All this just seems like it could be a bottomless pit of dog expenses.” And I couldn’t really say anything to that. Because he was right. But we also needed a choke-chain and a clicker.
But moreover, at that moment in the pet store, I was shocked and upset not at all because of the money, but because this sweet creature I’d just spent an intense two days getting to know, had all at once, turned into a different dog–and it was shocking. Lula had showed nothing but doting affection for Marshall since Day 1. So, what was it about these five men in the pet store—and come to think of it, the bearded friend of ours we’d had over for dinner the night before?
The pet shop boys’ dueling lecture on rescue animals flew by me at a rapid clip. They enjoined me not to give up or think Lula was a bad dog, but I just stood there and waited for them to stop. I already knew all this. No way was I going to give up. It was just getting used to this new idea of a dog with Issues that had me riveted, silent, to the floor in the middle of the pet store. That, and said-dog’s butt, pressed fiercely against my shins, preventing me from taking even a step forward without just stepping over her.
So, I was not quite in my right mind when I finally moved laterally over to the counter and picked out an overpriced, poorly-designed portable dog water bottle and a six-dollar organic rawhide stick that would take Lula exactly one hour to consume. The thing was, driving to the park, glancing back to see her lying down, content, in the back seat, chewing the stick, I regretted nothing.
I was looking for some sort of “man-hating-hah-hah” pic to go with this post, but quickly changed my mind–because, of course, that whole equation of feminists with “man-hating” is just so tired. Besides, Lula’s just scared of ’em. Still, this is pretty funny, huh?