Dusty and me


by Jay on December 13, 2009

The Worst Christmas Gift I Ever Received and the Best

A recent study tried to explain how our tradition of Christmas giving is only marginally good for the economy at best… and may actually harm it. The premise is that people buy stuff for themselves that they perceive will provide some value.  However, gifts  far too often are given that the receiver doesn’t value at all. This has a negative effect on the economy.  Before economists we used to call this wasted money.

And sometimes the value of a gift is seen by the receiver as negative…sometimes really negative.

Such was the case when I was surprised one Christmas morning a few years ago with a handful of white fur collared by a red ribbon and bow.  It was a dog, a bichon frise, a breed I had never heard of at the time. According to one witness the look on my face was more horror than the glee and gratitude I tried to convey.

I probably set myself up for this though because I’ve had dogs for most of my life and had been talking idly about rescuing one from the pound.  But I had also thought it through and made it clear that I realized that it wasn’t a good idea. We lived in a house with a pool but no fenced yard. Both my new wife and I were commuting to Raleigh every day to work and try to keep afloat a company she had started shortly before we met. This meant many hours away from home every day including many weekends.

If the choice of a little white bichon as a gift for a big athletic guy seems a little odd one should keep in mind that appearances are more important to some gifters than others.  In this case I believe one motive was to preempt me from bringing home some big scraggly mutt from the pound.  Like poodles, bichons also don’t shed, which I’m sure factored into the decision. Unfortunately, for the gifter, whoever advised her didn’t make clear that even such fancy puppies still need to relieve themselves and have a tendency to not understand that things like expensive shoes serve a purpose other than their need to teeth.

When you’re handed a responsibility you do what you have to do.  I walked the dog early and often to try to avoid accidents. I left the office at 5:00 so he wouldn’t be alone too long. I fed him and bathed him and before long we started to become buddies.

The first disagreement the gifter and I had over the dog was about naming him.  I invoked my right as the giftee to make the decision and after several weeks decided on Dusty because he reminded me of a fluffy dust mop.  I also banned the groomer from putting ribbons in his hair or going to inordinate lengths to tease it up, which is how bichons are shown.

The relationship between the gifter and I deteriorated over the next couple of years. Dusty was just one issue but it got to the point where the ultimatum came…”The dog goes or I go.” After thirteen years Dusty and I are still together and the gifter is long gone.  What started out as a unappreciated  but loving gesture and a responsibility I didn’t ask for ended up well. I don’t know what I fear the most now, outliving Dusty or not outliving him and he isn’t cared for when I’m gone.

Over the years here’s what I’ve learned about dogs and real estate:

1. No matter what you pay for a dog or how fancy the breed and the name, it’s still a dog. Dogs naturally pee, poop, and chew when and where they feel like it.  They can be trained but unless you plan to keep them outside all the time, they will make housecleaning a little more challenging for a while. If you are really fastidious,  get a cat. Dusty and I lived with a cat all of his 13 years and 20 of mine. Bix died last year and we both miss her, although, if the truth be known, she didn’t have much personality as cats go.

2. A fenced yard is good,  although for many people a little forced exercise walking a dog is a good thing. Even though we have a fenced yard now, Dusty still insists on his walk every evening and no matter how tired I am, I’ll let him set the direction.

3. The world is divided into two types of people, those that love dogs and those that don’t. Even so, when you put your home on the market do everything you can to stage your home as “dog free.”  This can be very difficult in the real world, but necessary.  Dogs in the house are a distraction for buyers from both groups.

4. Dogs don’t make good surprise gifts.  OK, that has nothing to do with real estate but it’s a good lesson anyway.

5. A good reason to buy a house is so you can have a dog. Dogs always make me sentimental around Christmas. Before there was Dusty there was Dozzie. Dozzie was a pound pup that my first wife and I picked out at the shelter in Winston-Salem when we lived there.  We decided to wait until after our holiday travels to bring it home to our daughter. Christmas day at the family dinner table I gave Steph a card and wrote in it “This is a gift certificate for one doggy.”  Mistaking my “g”s for “z”s she asked, “What’s a dozzie?” The name stuck.

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