Bones Mahoney

Max, our eighteen-year-old cat, died early last week. I was really close to this cat and don’t feel like writing about him yet, but we suddenly have a dog and so I’ll write about that.

My wife and son led the charge on getting a dog so quickly after Max died, though we had talked for years about “getting a dog eventually whenever our poor old achy cat passes on.” We wanted a rescue dog, preferably a mix, not too big and not too small, playful but snuggly, the kind of dog that looks like a dog in the most generic, plain-old-dog sense of the word.

My wife made the perilous move of looking up Homeward Bound and discovering online photos of cute and lovable puppies, which even in our sadness over Max, or perhaps because of the empty-house vulnerability we were all experiencing, convinced us that we had to rescue one of these particular pups as soon as possible, because what if, what if, he or she was destined to be our family pet and our inaction, though perfectly reasonable given our cat grief, resulted in a Badly Thwarted Cosmos or, God forbid, the tragic euthanasia of Unadopted Cuteness? We applied the next day.

We liked one litter best — a set of spaniel mixes (two border spaniels, two boradors) — and went to meet the whole pack of homeless dogs on Saturday morning at a rundown local mall. It’s a place that used to thrive but now, for reasons that are difficult to pin, is empty of virtually everything expect a decent movie theater, a JCPenny at the far end, and a couple of depressing stores that sell incense, dreamcatchers, and pewter dragons (it’s likely even those have closed; I didn’t check). An ideal location, in its way, for a weekly adoption clinic. I suspect it makes the mall smell better.

The minute we arrived, we were greeted by a tawny pup who, as if confirming our cosmic suspicions, had unexpectedly arrived overnight from a high-kill shelter in Kentucky. He would have been euthanized in a matter of days but Homeward Bound saved him, bringing him all the way up to find a home here in upstate NY. We still had our eyes fixed firmly on the litter we’d considered, but here came the Kentucky stranger, over and again, full of friendly action, licking our son, jumping into my lap (to be cradled, not to pounce), and rolling on his back in total submission to my wife. None of the pups we’d planned to chose from gave us any kind of serious attention.

My parents brought their own dog, a terrific sporty Dachshund named Howard, and he and the Kentuckian hit it off right away. This was crucial… we spend a lot of time with my parents and need our dogs to be Bosom Friends. Homeward Bound approved our application more or less immediately. I expected them to say we’d acquire our puppy in several days, once proper arrangements had been made with his foster family. But nope, he was ours on the spot, so before I really grasped what was happening, we had a dog named Bones wagging around the house.

He’s a Jack Russell mix of some kind. Homeward Bound said he was mixed with boxer. Friends and family disagreed. Today at the vet we heard “lab” and “German shep” and discovered he’s probably four months old instead of six, as we were told at the clinic, and so we really don’t know what the heck he is except capital-A awesome and exactly what we wanted.

He was found roaming the streets of Winchester, KY. That’s all the early history we got. He was neutered shortly after being found and got his early shots. But he must have had some training, too, because he’s already pretty good at Sit, Stay, Come, and peeing/pooping outside. He’s great with things that puppies are supposed to have to learn, like soft biting, letting go of toys when nicely asked (even marrow bones and antlers, which he loves), submitting to inner-thigh, belly, face, and tail handling like he’s trusted us for years. He’s been great with every stranger he’s met and seems inquisitive and active — not aggressive — around the few other dogs that we’ve encountered. Today we had the Best Nap Ever on the couch and played with a toy skunk. He rarely barks, and when he does he has a respectable reason.

He’s currently 16 lbs. Not knowing his actual mix, he might double or triple in size by the end of his first year. But that’s OK because he’s home no matter what, and while we still miss our old cat Max, whom my wife got before she even met me 17 years ago and was a member of the family for the entirety of our son’s life, Bones became a permanent Mahoney as soon as we walked into that hopeless old mall.