Arts + Culture


Gulfshore Explorer: Puppy Love and the Many Challenges

Is this about the taming of Finn or of his new owners?

I don’t know where to begin. As I sit here, I contemplate just typing the word “poop” 1,200 times.1 Sure, I’d use different fonts and capitalize a few of them just to break things up a bit, but the word is now such a part of my lexicon that it not only supplants all others words in my vocabulary, it arrives with such repetition that it makes me think I may have stumbled into some sort of alternative universe. PoOp. POoP. poOp. Oh god.

If you’ve not already guessed, we got a puppy2. With a few months of parenting under our belts, I can tell you that puppies change a person. For real. We now discuss poop multiple times a day, every day: its shape, size, color, texture, regularity, timing, location, recovery, disposal, contents, etc., as if we’re laboratory technicians working in a colonoscopy clinic.

A few months back, Claudine and I were normal people living in a normal home. Things were going well: We had a landscaper, a robot vacuum cleaner and lovely high-gloss wood flooring replete with sexy fur rugs under the appropriate coffee tables3. We still have most of those things, but the rugs have been removed because the puppy seems to think the fur is a threat and attacks it like it’s a squirrel shaking a rattle. In addition, we also have shredded pieces of paper scattered everywhere. Former envelopes, Amazon boxes, toilet paper. Apparently that’s great fun. And delicious. I assure you the robot vacuum is ill-equipped.

At this point I should probably mention my OCD. If a picture is askew, or there is a fingerprint on something, or someone has left a cabinet door open, or there is a sock on the floor, I’m probably going to have to take the day off. I take a lot of days off now. Luckily, poop never happens in the house. Which is good because Claudine is a germaphobe. A full-on, buys-bleach-in-bulk, debates-wearing-surgical-masks-out-in-public germaphobe. She once bleached a couch after a friend (a sweaty friend, mind you) sat on it. It disintegrated a week later.

That’s why it came as a complete surprise when she even brought up the idea of getting a puppy. After all, if we meet a dog on the street, she will contort herself like a cast member of Cirque du Soleil to avoid it touching her. If that move fails, everything comes to a complete stop once the dog and its owners have walked away and we have to find a place to wash hands or sanitize.

“I wouldn’t be like that with my own dog,” she said. “And anyway, he won’t be licking my face.”4

Oh.

We went back and forth on this for a few months. We searched local shelters. We Googled dog breeds. She was mesmerized by the vast variety of dogs available. In Jamaica, where she’s from, there’s primarily one breed of dog: tan mutt. Every house seems to have one, and yet no one seems to be really concerned about its whereabouts. For a girl who likes to shop, researching dog breeds was a terrific time suck. Instagram and Pinterest seem to have an inordinate amount of accounts dedicated to making puppies irresistible5.

A few more months passed. I talked about getting a fish.

The next thing I know, we’re FaceTiming a woman in Arkansas who has a 3-week-old Maltipoo that, if truth be told, could have been a chubby guinea pig based on the picture quality. It had a bolt of white on its head, a cross of white on its chest and little white socks on its feet. Everywhere else? Red(ish). I assumed we’d talk it over and then ask to FaceTime again in a few weeks so we could see how the little rascal was filling out.

“We’ll take it!” Claudine said to the woman.

Of course, you can’t take home a puppy at 3 weeks old, so we had to wait until he turned 8 weeks. We debated driving to Arkansas to pick him up, but, you know, Arkansas. Or, for $350, we could have the little guy fly Delta and he would arrive at RSW in a mere couple of hours. We spent the remaining weeks picking out names (Claudine chose Finn “because it sounds Jamaican”6) and ordering puppy paraphernalia via Amazon. As people do.

When the big day finally arrived, we planned for our drive to the airport by filling the car with bath towels, baby wipes, bottles of water, soap, hand sanitizer and the pride of first-time parenthood. After a bit of paperwork, we were handed a small, barking kennel filled with a gorgeous ball of fluff, wet dog food, wet newspapers and poop. Was that foreshadowing? Hard to say.

Claudine, always prepared, was wearing surgical gloves. If Norman Rockwell were alive today and for some reason observing just outside the Delta cargo pickup center in Fort Myers, it would have made for a lovely painting.

At a mere 3 pounds, no ounces, little Finn was the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, surrounded by the craziest parents any dog could ever have. The germaphobe soapmaker (yes, she started a soap business, but that kind of makes sense when you think about it) even created a line of organic puppy shampoo7 (hand to God) that leaves his fur smelling like fresh lemongrass and looking like Farrah Fawcett just got a blowout.

Just how cute is this dog? Since getting him, we’ve been offered cash by three different people. Is it just me, or is that pretty weird? In New York, we were stopped on the street by a man who already has two dogs but was looking for a third. Though he travels frequently among homes in New York, Greenwich and Palm Beach, he has a full-time dog nanny to take care of the pups. He texted us later to see if we would bring Finn to his house to meet his wife and dogs.

Just walking down the street in town here became a chore, as virtually every other person we passed wanted to meet Finn. It doesn’t help that he has a personality disorder that forces him to stand on his hind legs and hop in the direction of anyone new. He looks like a tiny toddler in a teddy bear costume pretending to be the Easter Bunny. It’s adorable. He gets so excited to meet someone that he may very well pee on his or her foot during the greet. It’s really only a problem for people wearing flip-flops. Or suede. Still, no one seems to mind.

And while the excitement of strangers is still as fresh as a daisy, his interest in his parents has waned considerably. We have yet to see any of this unconditional love and loyalty we hear so much about. I feel the love only when I come back from the mailbox and he reacts as though I’ve just come back from an overseas deployment. Sometimes I check the mail three times a day just to make him happy.

His true love, of course, is food. Touch a bag of chips or open the refrigerator door and he springs to life like he was just poked with a cattle prod. There’s hopping, jumping, whimpering, crying, barking, spinning. It’s too much.

Claudine’s research also concluded that dogs should be on their natural, ancient diet, by the way, which means meat and bones. But only organic meat and bones. Organic beef and turkey and chicken from Costco ground up with organic veggies from Whole Foods and into a cooked casserole that smells so amazing I don’t fully understand why we aren’t eating it ourselves. But it turns out you want to limit the amount of food you give one of these things because you want to get them to poop on a regular, predictable schedule to avoid accidents. Ironically, Finn arrived fully housebroken. He’ll go to the door and scratch at it, like an angel. The first few times it happened, we were stunned.

But as time has progressed, he’s taken to scratching at the door and then just standing outside with me. He’ll just turn his little teddy bear-like head and look up at me as if to ask, “What’s the meaning of life, Papa?” And I’ll reply, “Poop, Finn. Poop. Don’t you want to poop? Come on, Finn. Poop! Poop! Poop? Do you have to poop? Why are we here? Poop.”

 

1. That’s my word count.
2. If that’s not what you guessed, do tell…
3. Thank you, Judith Liegeois.
4. He actually doesn’t lick her face. At all. He knows.
5. At the time this was written, our pup’s @iamsur_finn account had a ridiculous 2,700 followers on Instagram, while this writer, @planetkorb, an internationally published entertainment writer, struggles to maintain 437…
6. It’s entirely possible she is not from Jamaica.
7. It’s called Pawsitively Organics (pawsitivelyorganics.com). Feel free to buy some.