Happy One Year Adoption Day, Fred Rogers
By Bob Simpson (Writer)
I’ve written about my dog and the wonders of dog ownership before (see my post, Fred Rogers Teaches Me Stuff), but this weekend marks a special occasion in the life of my dog. This Sunday, February 21st, will be the one year anniversary since we adopted the little rascal, but the journey towards owning this particular dog began about 25 years ago.
I was 4 years old, living a blissful and innocent life in the Chicago suburb of Downer’s Grove. My interests at the time included speaking in a horrible accent, refusing to color within the lines, and watching “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” One day, I rolled up on my mother and declared, “Mom, one day I’m gonna get a dog, and I’m gonna name him Fred Rogers.”
Actually, go back and do me a favor. Read that quote as though it was spoken in the most disgusting Chicago accent you can imagine, because that’s how I talked. Trust me, I’ve seen the home movies. Here’s that quote written phonetically: “Maaaam, wan daiaey I’m guhnna get a dahg, and I’m guhnna name hum Fred Rahgers.”
This became one of those “isn’t my son cute” moments that my mother recounted to anyone that was within earshot, and while I will agree that I was pretty damn cute, what my mother failed to realize was that I was also dead freaking serious. This wasn’t some willy-nilly childhood whim that soon fell into myth and legend, oh no, I was singularly determined to one day get a dog and name him Fred freaking Rogers. Why? Cause I loved that guy…how could you ask me that? He was a sniper in Vietnam and had to wear long sleeves to cover up the tattoos he got for each kill he made.
I carried this desire in my heart for the next several decades, though in the interim I was graced by a number of wonderful dogs. There was the Brittany, JJ, my family’s first dog, a determined and ferocious hunter of all things insect that, I swear, never once stopped moving. There were (or I should say “are” as they’re still very much alive) Dusty and Addy, the two family beagles, with the precocious and willful Dusty playing alpha to the loveable, yet incurably stupid, Addy.
From these animals, I learned a little about responsibility, ownership, and how to avoid piles of dog crap. From JJ, I learned about instinct and drive. From Dusty, I learned about the value of a nap and the benefits of humping any animal that enters the room. From Addy, I learned about vaginal dryness (it’s a recurring problem for her).
Yet, despite these lessons, my relationship with these dogs was never as “pet” and “owner.” No, I was always that lower member of the pack that the dogs would have to cater to and occasionally fart upon, particularly Addy, whose bowels contain what I think is the rotting corpse of Benjamin Disraeli. The dogs of my past hold a special place in my heart, but it wasn’t until I met Fred Rogers that I understood what it meant to really love an animal. Fortunately, I chose a life partner that loves dogs so much that it occasionally freaks me out. Like, we’ll be talking about something pretty serious, say, the Irish potato famine, and should any four-legged canine walk by, the conversation is ruined. Here’s an example:
Me: Anyway, most of my Irish ancestors in the 19th century died from starvation.
Emily: That’s too bad.
Me: Yeah, it makes me sad sometimes. I hear starvation is the worst way to die. Well, that and-
[dog walks by]
Emily: Dooooooooooh, look at that face, look at that silly puppy face! Yes, you little puppydog, you got a silly happy face, yes you do! Silly little dogface!
So, as our relationship became more concrete, about 78% of our conversations revolved around owning a dog, whether it be what breed we would want, whether we would adopt, what we would feed it, etc. One aspect that was never in doubt, however, was the name. A month after returning from our honeymoon in Australia, we decided the time was right. In fact, I recall the conversation happening a little like this:
Flight Attendant (with Australian accent): Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Los Angeles-
We started the search. We looked at breeders and websites galore and visited the Burbank Animal Shelter, which was pretty sad so I won’t go into it (I’ll just say that waste removal didn’t seem to be a priority). Then, a friend of mine recommended the Pasadena Humane Society, which was a terrific fit, my wife being a Pasadena girl and all. Looking at their website, we saw a number of fantastic options, and decided this was the place to look.
So out we went to go find a washer and dryer. Oh, crap, sorry, that probably read weird. We actually didn’t set out on February 21, 2011 to get a dog, but to get a washer and dryer. After being unsuccessful in that venture, I looked over at my wife as we drove away from Sears and said, “Hey, why don’t we go check out the Humane Society?”
She punched me in the face (because she was happy) and we headed to Pasadena. Now, let me tell you a little about the Pasadena Humane Society, okay? It’s freaking awesome. I mean…awesome. The animals are kept in large enclosures that are really clean, and the staff knew what the hell they were talking about, so we felt super comfortable. Also, they have about ten million animals there, so the choices were plentiful. We saw Labradors and Poodles and Spaniels and even a Jindo, and, of course, a vast number of abandoned pit bulls. We circled the place twice, coming back with a few animals of interest, but none of them were perfect. Ready to give up for the day, we decided to take one last trip around the pens. We looked intently at every single dog, trying to find the perfect fit, and then, turning a corner that I swear had not been there before, we saw him.
He was a little fella, about twenty pounds and black as coal, playing excitedly with another small, white dog in his enclosure. They scrapped and played and, suddenly, the black one stopped and realized he was being watched. He ran up to the fence of the enclosure and jumped up and down, his tail a blur with excitement. We stretched out our hands, which he licked with gusto, then read his “rap sheet” taped to the enclosure wall. He was a 1 year old Dachsund mix, picked up on the streets, and his little buddy, the other small, white dog, had already been adopted. Not wanting to leave the little guy alone and realizing that this may be the perfect dog, we had him taken out so we could meet.
After a few minutes of sniffing around the area, the little dog started to interact with us. The PHS volunteer explained that he had a lot of energy which sometimes translated into “spastic” behavior, but that he was overall well-behaved. Emily and I knew after a few minutes that this was it. This was our guy, but we had a small problem: we hadn’t prepared our house for a dog or bought any of the supplies. I asked the volunteer if we could wait a few days and pick him up later in the week, whereupon she explained that the weather that night would be incredibly cold and to leave him outside at the humane society might not be a great idea. It was clearly a selling tactic, but, by God, it worked. After what seemed like an hour of internal deliberation, we agreed, and the little dude was ours.
Before we went home, we walked the little dog just next door to the Humane Society’s pet supplies store to buy him some necessities. We picked up a leash, a couple bowls, some toys, and a collar, and just as we were ready to leave, a little boy and his dad walked in the store. The child’s face lit up as he saw the small, black dog, and he looked up at me and Emily with excitement.
“Is that your dog?” he asked.
“Yep,” I said.
“What’s his name?”
“Fred Rogers,” I said with pride. The boy patted Fred a few times, and as we walked out the door, he called out.
“Enjoy your new life, Fred!”
I choked up, realizing that however many years ago I was that little boy, and finally, today, the dream is alive.
 I could walk at the time. I just said "rolled up" cause I wanted you to think I was cool.
 Not true. Here.
BOB SIMPSON is a writer and lives in Los Angeles, where he works for an entertainment company that he'd prefer to keep anonymous, should he accidentally diss something they made. www.bobsimpsonblog.blogspot.com
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