For a while I was convinced that Gilbert the shelter dog was meant to be ours. He was a border collie/Aussie mix, not at all the breed we were interested in, and he was all the way over in central Oregon. But I fell in love with his photos and video, and JB surprised me by agreeing that Gilbert seemed awesome, and I spent hours filling out the shelter application, which was surprisingly long and detailed, but I was like more room for me to convince them we’re the perfect family! and I wrote and wrote and wrote and the shelter director told me that they would collect all the applications and make a decision at the end of the week and we planned to arrive at the shelter towards the end of our vacation and then halfway through the week I got an email saying Gilbert had been adopted out the previous Saturday. File under great mysteries I’ll never solve: who got that dog, and how were they so amazing the shelter totally abandoned their whole ‘collect all the applications’ business? Ah well, at least Gilbert has a new home, and that’s what’s important (but also screw you, shelter, just a little bit?).

We visited a shelter where we met Bea, who was a sweet mixed breed who pressed her nose into my hands and I kind of loved her but she was over eight years old and it just didn’t seem right, she seemed like she wanted to be somewhere peaceful where she could curl up and rest without being bombarded by loud-ass children. Then there was Fred, the uncreatively-named yellow Lab I drove to Coos Bay to see, and I really really hoped that would work out but he was just too strong and rambunctious and at first I thought that would be okay, that we could deal with that as we worked on training, but I couldn’t keep ahold of the leash and he scared the kids and he knocked Dylan over and oh man I was so sad but I had to pass on Fred.

There were lots of other shelter searches (lord, so very many pitbulls and chihuahuas) and fruitless emails with breeders looking for adult dogs (my favorite was the snooty lady who wrote me that she was selling her male show dog for $6,000 and she doubted very much that was what I was looking for, I so wanted to pull a Pretty Woman on her — “Big mistake! HUGE!” — but, well, frankly she was right) and some eventual consideration of a puppy even though my puppy con list was like a mile long (meaning the cons vs the pros, as opposed to a puppy convention) (OMG PUPPYCON I WANT TO GO TO THERE and then come back home while someone else cleans up) and then, and THEN —

I am breaking that paragraph because my own run-on sentence was making me run out of air. Anyway, and THEN JB ended up talking to the Lab breeder who we got our former dog from, and like the time before, it just so happened that she had an adult female that she had been considering adopting out and since the previous situation had worked out so well she was happy to re-home this dog with us, and so JB drove up to Kent to pick her up, and you GUYS, may I introduce Ruby?


(Note stolen Minecraft Creeper.)



She’s three years old and she is the best.

(PS: If you’re wondering how the cat/dog dynamic is going so far, if you’ve seen this video you have the general idea.)

When we were on vacation, I lost Riley for a while at an aquatic rec center. If you’ve been to Sunriver’s SHARC on a hot day, you know what it’s like: every cubic foot of water absolutely teeming with people, kids everywhere you look. The only way that pool could possibly be more crowded is if there were a dedicated staff of employees pushing people into the water like those white-gloved subway packers in Tokyo. JB and I were sitting nearby while the kids played, then one of us gradually realized we hadn’t seen Riley in a while. It was visual chaos trying to scan the scene, the only way I could make sense of all the thrashing, squealing activity was to section it off into a sort of mental grid before moving on. B7 is clear, Captain! Eventually JB was on one end and I was on the other, and the more time went by, the more I wondered what our next step should be. When exactly do you stop worriedly peering around and start to, you know, completely fucking panic?

The thing that kept me from unraveling, I guess, is that while the presence of people make parsing the area difficult, the water itself was somehow reassuring. Clear as a bell, bright noon sunshine illuminating its every nook and cranny: no shadowy submerged bodies, or anything. Still, it was of course slowly, increasingly awful until suddenly it wasn’t, because there he was and had been all along. Towheaded and be-goggled, just like 895 other same-sized kids.

It’s funny how the entire vibe of the place changed for me after that. Up until then I’d been sort of enjoying the shitshow of it all, gazing around at the throngs of people and playing a rude little mental game of Fake or Real? with regards to how various women filled out their bathing suit tops. Afterwards everything took on a sinister vibe, like a horror movie where things appear to be normal but there’s a pervasive sense of inexplicable dread. I felt like I kept getting slow-mo glimpses of people laughing: Muh ha. Ha. Ha. Haaaaaa. Somewhere, an invisible person on a cello steadily ground out the Jaws theme. All the surgically enhanced boobs held poison darts.

But in the end it was all okay, and isn’t it weird how many stories like that we all have? The thing that could have gone totally sideways but didn’t, or at least didn’t completely, and you’re left thinking about how life is just one big old Choose Your Own Adventure book only most of the time you don’t get to choose to flip back to the page that drove the outcome. On the first day of our vacation Dylan went flying off a hotel bed and and smashed headfirst into a table, total blood-spurting disaster, and after we’d made the heart-pounding drive to an Urgent Care and a kindly doctor sewed his brow bone shut I thought, Jesus, less than an inch lower and he maybe would have lost an eye, and on it goes, a million zigzagging what ifs, and I think that’s what drives some people to become nasty judgmental parenting-topic trolls, it’s the belief that you can actually control all that shit. Can you imagine that burden? It must like living at the top of Everest, clinging to a freezing rock and forever gasping for a full breath.

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