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We're getting a dog

It wasn’t my idea, but we’re getting a puppy. Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. A home without one is just a house. Especially our house. It’s large and rambling and buried deep in the woods. If ever a domicile and its residents were crying out for canine companionship this is the place.

I just thought we could wait a little longer. Say a year or three. Our last dog, Wallie, perished a mere eight months ago. Isn’t a year generally considered to be a traditional mourning period?

Our new Bracco Italiano puppy
Ralph Gardner Jr.
Our new Bracco Italiano puppy

Unfortunately, I have no say in the matter. It wasn’t long after our beloved hound’s untimely demise that my wife looked around, considered what a future exclusively with me looked like, didn’t think it was pretty, and started hunting for a new pooch.

She wanted the same breed, a Bracco Italiano, as our previous dog. We’d never heard of Braccos when our younger daughter filled out an online family personality profile a decade ago and it produced an image of our future pet.

I wasn’t involved in that decision either, but I have my doubts about whatever website she was consulting. Why would the answer to our question be a dog we’d never heard of? Why not a Cockapoo? Not that I’d ever acquire any animal with a poo or a doodle at the end of its name. I’m a serious person.

What sort of picture was Gracie painting of our family? At the time most of the information online about the breed were YouTube videos of wizened old Italian men toting antique hunting rifles, while struggling to keep up as their Braccos forged through the Lombardy underbrush while Verdi or Puccini provided the soundtrack.

We weren’t Italian. We didn’t hunt. We spent most of the time in a modest two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. Clearly whatever algorithms the website employed had gone haywire. It wasn’t even until 2022 that the American Kennel Club recognized the breed. They’re described as intelligent, affectionate and enthusiastic.

Affectionate and enthusiastic they are. Intelligent, at least our dog Wallie, I’m not so sure. If we were looking for Lassie to summon help when Timmy fell down a well, Wallie wouldn’t be my go-to rescue dog. On the other hand, she couldn’t have been sweeter. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. And she was beautiful if your idea of beauty is a bloodhound’s face grafted onto the body of a gazelle.

I’ll be the first to admit that taking walks in the woods hasn’t been the same since we lost her. She’d clock ten or maybe fifty miles for every one of mine. She had a great nose and followed wherever it led. Usually, though not always, she found her way home. For example, the time a motorist encountered her on our country road, thought she was lost, and promptly adopted her.

Fortunately, the kidnapper honorably posted images of our pet and we retrieved her the following day. My issue is walking her at night in the city. In the country it’s not a problem. You just let her out and eventually she returns. I’m not sure whether it’s advancing age or a marked absence of generosity of spirit but I find it extremely painful after a night out on the town to then have to walk the dog.

Why me? It’s not my dog. It’s one of those times that my wife reverts to traditional gender roles. She enjoyed walking Wallie during the day when people would stop her on the street and make a big fuss. But at night in our neighborhood it’s often men walking dogs while puffing big cigars because they’re not allowed to at home. I don’t smoke cigars, except on special occasions, so I don’t have that to look forward to.

But my spouse found a Bracco breeder in northern Vermont, along the Canadian border, and slapped down a deposit without consulting me. We’re scheduled to pick up the puppy before the weekend. By the time this commentary airs we’ll be up to our necks in puppy training and other stuff.

I’m looking forward to our new roomate, too. I was also looking forward to a Caribbean vacation this winter. Apparently, that’s no longer in the cards. There are two other new elements to throw into the mix. The first is that my wife is Instagram friends with fellow Bracco owners, or should I say enablers, that post photos of their goofy pets and encourage her recklessness.

The other is that we now have grandchildren. I’m eager to witness their first puppy encounter, which should come next week. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were terrified at first, especially if the pooch – I’m told we’re calling her June though I’ve noticed that planned pet names often don’t survive first contact – sinks her pointy little baby teeth into one or both of them.

But in the grand scheme of things I’m confident that adding a dog to the family mix will be a net benefit. What you aspire to in a home, ideally, is controlled chaos. You want the place to be infused with life. It’s too quiet around here.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found be found on Substack.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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