• Carmen Marie Fabio

Broken dogs

“The first one changes your life; the second one really screws it up,” is something a co-worker told me after the birth of my eldest son. She had no words of wisdom to offer about the third who ended up being a funny sweetheart and just quirky enough to throw off the perfect momentum and rhythm of a family of four.

I obviously have a painfully short memory as I recently adopted a third dog after succumbing to the charms of a photo sent into the paper by the Animatch dog adoption organization.

“Oh, my heart,” I answered the foster mom.

“I know,” she responded.

“No way,” said my husband later that evening as I described the small Chihuahua whose owner had recently passed away. ‘Sadie’ has a bizarre affliction in that her mouth hangs permanently open, leading her to have an expression of perpetual awe.

“She’s only 10 pounds,” I reasoned. “You won’t even notice her.”

I was wrong.

I’ve come to the conclusion that every dog gets the same amount of personality but big dogs are better able to fit it all into their body mass. That’s why large breeds like Newfoundlands and Great Danes are generally pretty laid back.

Chihuahuas’ personalities, on the other hand, ooze from every orifice and they will frantically and frenetically let you know it.

The human equivalent would be someone screaming at you every time you looked at one of their family members, got near their food, or knocked something over... or just breathed in general. But somehow she has carved out a niche for herself in our pack that includes a fearful and deferential Doberman and a pudgy Jack Russell who would be happy doing nothing more than migrating from couch to kitchen, eating and sleeping for the rest of her life.

Sadie’s mandibular affliction means she’s a very messy eater and leaves the water bowl cloudy with strings of saliva and stuff. Her breath could gag a maggot and despite probiotic treatments and nightly brushings, the halitosis is winning.

Both the Doberman and my middle son had the same facial expression when I brought her home – “What the hell is that?”

She’s sort of house trained in that she recognizes she ought to do her business outside but, much like her excess of personality, sometimes stuff just falls out of her.

But unlike the other two canines, this one exhibits a certain fearlessness as she trots proudly alongside us on the leash, head and tail held high, giving the vocal equivalent of the hairy eyeball to anyone she perceives as a threat to her pack of canines or humans.

“Her hardware is wonky,” observed my eldest son, “but the software works just fine.”

It’s been a rough autumn season with a divisive election and maybe just the change in season that is apt to throw life’s natural cadence out of whack. Some days are filled with surprises, and not always good ones.

But as the weather cools down and the skies darken early, after dealing with screamers, being sworn at, being lied to – sometimes all in one day – hunkering down with the love from my fiercely loyal and protective clan reminds me life is pretty good, broken dogs and all.