Thursday, November 8, 2007

Duncaversary Part One: Meet Jake

It's three years today since Ken called me at work and asked, "What do you think about getting a puppy?"

It seems a simple enough question, but in light of everything that's happened since, it's like asking, "What do you think of willfully submitting yourself to financial ruin?"

Of course I got excited, especially after he mentioned the puppy he had in mind was an eight week old male golden retriever. We'd raised two females, Ashley and Nikki, a mother and daughter, when we lived in Chicago and had been dogless for five years. As I pondered the question I thought of the magnet which sits on our fridge, "A house without a dog is not a home." According to it, all our hard work amounted to nothing; we were homeless. Three cats were great but the magnet said nothing about cats! We needed a dog and Ken had stumbled onto one. And better yet, he was free.

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but a breeder in Fort Collins, where Ken was teaching in the Vet Tech program at Front Range Community College, had several puppies she needed to find homes for immediately. She brought the puppies to the school and Ken got excited. He missed his Girls, who'd been left with Ken's brother in Michigan when we moved to Colorado. He wanted a dog, and when I mentioned I wanted a male, he became even more excited. Pirates of the Mississippi, one of Ken's favorite country bands, had a song called "Feed Jake" and Ken wanted to name his next dog after the song. Not being a fan of country music, or the name Jake, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I've always believed that animals name themselves and have never been a fan of naming pets or children before you've met them. Names are sometimes the first thing we learn about someone and they are powerful things, keys to who we are. It was days before I named Winnie and Pip, and Olive went nameless for weeks; we'd unsuccessfully tried Daisy and Stella, but neither fit. A name has to be perfect, and it has to tell you something about who it belongs to. It never hurts to compile a short-list, however, and with that in mind I went to work, enlisting the help of my friends in the Student Affairs office at ACC. I explained the rules: it had to be a "people name," but it couldn't be a common name, like Joe or Mike; instead it had to be unusual, something respectable yet quirky. Heather took the job very seriously and spent the better part of the day compiling an extensive list of exotic names, only two of which I now remember: Algernon and D'Artagnon.

D'Artagnon? Obviously she didn't get it.

My assistant, Janet, had recently lost her father, a famous Methodist author, D.A. Reily. She'd returned from his funeral in Brazil only the day before and as we were talking about him, I asked her what the D.A. stood for. "Duncan Alistair," she told me, and the second I heard it, I knew it was perfect. What could be better than a Golden Retriever named Duncan?

Ken spent four days of the week in Fort Collins, living with a friend Monday through Thursday, coming home only on the weekends. I waited up for him that night, anxious to meet the puppy. When they pulled up I ran outside to greet them, and there in a box in the back seat was the cutest face I'd ever seen. A terrible traveler from the beginning, he was shaking and covered in saliva; thankfully, Ken had washed the vomit off him before introducing us. I opened the back door and peered in at him.

"Hi there, little guy," I cooed. He cocked his head at me. "Are you a Jake?" I asked, picking him up. "Or are you a Duncan?" And with that he winked right at me. A good solid wink, not a blink, not a twitch or a spasm, but a wink.

Ken was standing behind me. "Duncan," he said aloud. "I like that."

And almost immediately, Ken's dog became mine.

Like it was meant to be.

1 comment:

Kevi said...

Nice baby picture. If I recall Olive was almost Pearl.