Sunday, January 5, 2014

Earl's Lucky 13th Birthday

I adopted Earl from the St. Joseph, Missouri animal shelter on February 23, 2001.  The card on his cage listed that he was about 7 weeks old, so I worked my way back on the calendar seven weeks and decided my puppy's birthday: January 5, 2001.

He's thirteen years old today.  Happy birthday, Early Bird!  I named Earl after the Dixie Chicks' song, "Goodbye Earl," that my ex-girlfriend used to play on the cassette player in the car I bought her.  It was Kristin's idea.

"I can't name my sweet puppy after the jerk in that song!" I protested.

"No, see, his name will be Goodboy Earl, because he's such a good boy!" Kristin was probably the most excited I'd ever seen her when she made this announcement, so I threw her a bone and let her name my new puppy Goodboy Earl.

When Kristin and I broke up, she got custody of the two dogs she had brought into the relationship, and I got custody of Earl.  Earl missed his playmate Weebles, a pit-bull mix who Kristin had rescued after the young female dog was found bloody from bite marks on her face and with a broken leg--probably the victim of a dog fight, or a dog that was used as bait for training fiercer dogs to fight.

Kristin took the dog to a vet and got her all patched up.  She had to wear a cast on her broken leg for a long time, so Kristin named her "Weebles" since "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!"

She was a sweet dog.  You know that bumper sticker that says, "My ex took the dog and left me.  I sure do miss my dog."  That's how I feel about the situation with Kristin and Weebles.

Earl missed Weebles too, so I adopted Sawyer, a black lab/beagle mix, in late 2002 to be Earl's companion during the day while I was at work.

I didn't know a dog could be sweeter than Weebles, but Sawyer is.  She's the sweetest girl in the world.  She loves to lick.  People.  The couch.  Her toes.  Her butt.  (You have to watch her or right after she finishes licking her butt, she'll shimmy over by you and lay one on you right smack in the mouth like a trashy French poodle.)  She even licks the air sometimes, usually when Will is cooking meat.

I had been dating Will for not quite a year when I adopted Sawyer.  I had also, in between Sawyer and Earl, adopted an abandoned kitten I named Thatcher--after Becky, not Margaret--so Will was growing weary of what was beginning to look like an addiction.  When I brought home a stray cat someone found in the sewer by the library where I work, Will said enough.  We broke up.

"I just can't live in a house with a bunch of pets," he explained.  "I'm not a pet person."

It was a very kindhearted breakup.   An it's-not-you-it's-me kind of deal, only what Will was saying was it's-not-you-it's-your-pets.

It lasted three months.  We got back together.  Will moved in with me and my pets--it was up to five by then since I took in my mom's old cat Ferdie too.  He said absolutely no more, and I agreed to those terms.  But then the stray cat from the sewer ran away and suddenly Will's mom and dad had two little Maltese dogs that needed a home.  I managed to find one of them a home, but the other one, Beau, we ended up keeping after I spent $1800 on emergency surgery for him when we discovered he had Addison's Disease after undergoing a simple neutering and nearly died.

I have no idea why Will objects to my taking in so many needy pets.

But seriously, the pets-to-humans ratio in our family has evened out over the years.  Will and I mated and I popped out Katie, although not nearly as easily as my cat did while giving birth to two kittens when I was a teenager.  Ferdie grew old and got kidney disease, so we had him euthanized.  Then Beau's Addison's Disease got worse and he died.  Now our side of the Carleton Clan consists of three pets and three humans: Earl (13), Sawyer (11), Thatcher (11), Katie (7), Will (32), and Becky (43).

Even though Earl is 13 and I am 43, he probably has much less time left on Earth than I do.  According to this calculator, Earl is 82 in human years.  At 13, we're lucky he's still alive.

Earl is very much alive.  He still guards our front door when we're in the living room, or he guards our bedroom doors at night.

Goodboy Earl Carleton, guarding the front door
January 5, 2014 (age 13)

Sure, he does most of his guard duty while napping and making those adorable, muffled yelps, his feet "running" in his sleep, but if someone comes through the door, by golly, he's up...slowly...stiffly...just a sec my dern hips are buggin me...and barking, deeply, his lungs still full of life as they were when he was seven weeks old, filthy, covered in his own urine from having stayed at the animal shelter when a farmer brought him in with his two siblings after his purebred Great Pyrenees dog got knocked up by who knows what farm dog.

I love my Goodboy Earl.  We all do.  A few months ago, when Earl's hind end really started bothering him, Will announced, "You know, Babe, when Earl's hips get too bad for him to walk on his own, I can carry him."

"He's seventy pounds!" I protested.

Will waved off my comment like it was a gnat in his face.  "Big deal.  I'll carry him wherever he needs to go."

Here's my wonderful husband, Will, who once declared he'd rather break up with me than live with all my pets, offering to be our elderly dog's human wheelchair.  Earl got to Will like he got to me thirteen years ago, when I thought to myself, "Oh, what a lucky dog he is" as I rescued him from the pound.  Living with Earl has taught me that we're the lucky ones.