Fifteen years ago today, my baby boy was born.
At eight weeks, he’d come home with us in a cardboard box. His name had taken us hours and hours to think of: my mom wanted Jamie, Taylor, or Zachary; I wanted something cute (similar to Whiskey). My dad didn’t really have any opinion and just kept tabs on what could possibly work. Out of the list of names, Murphy and Parker were the two we could all agree on. So it was that our purebreed labrador would get a fancy name that would confuse everyone for the rest of his life.
Murphy was my very first puppy and my first learning experience of what a dog was capable of doing (and getting). Compared to my golden, Murphy was a holy terror. Nothing was safe: wooden banisters, my retainer, my bras, shoes, toilet paper, garbage, pens, paper, mail, butterflies, cacti… We always made sure to have a huge supply of tennis balls, heavy rubber balls, and nylabones on hand so he would learn to chew on those instead of the plugged extension cord.
Murphy was not the sharpest tack in the box. No matter how many times we would warn him or watch him get hurt, he would continue to burn/poke/trip in the most painful ways. We used to joke it was because he wasn’t getting enough air while he slept and thus didn’t get a fully developed brain. He was a dim-witted baby, but he was my baby.
As with many purebreeds, my dog came with health problems. We discovered allergies just after he turned a year old, followed by a cancerous tumor in his butt. A strange bacteria ate away at the bone in his muzzle, which meant he had to have teeth removed, leaving a permanent dent in his muzzle. Sometime after that, his butt cancer came back. It got to the point where all of the vet staff knew him by name and loved it when he came for a visit; he was something of a celebrity with the receptionists. And sometimes our vet would comp us a visit because we’d stopped by the week before for something else.
Despite all these flaws, he was the most precious thing in my teenaged life and for my early twenties. He was there for my breakups, my losses, my loves, my disappointments, and for my entertainment:
It got to the point where he tried to avoid the camera or shoot me a dirty look.
I rarely ever called him by his full name (unless he was being bad). Murphy, Murph, Pretty Kitty, Stinky Bear, Whitey, and Grandpa were just some of the names I’d use for him. His groomer referred to him as the “Murfinator.” As cute as all these nicknames were, nothing pleased me more than the baffled look on people’s faces when they heard “Murphy Parker.”
Things I miss that he used to do:
1. Throw tennis balls back at me.
2. Throw tennis balls in my face if I was napping and he wanted to play.
3. Checking me out for morning breath every day. If I was sleeping in, he’d come into my room, look for my mouth, and start sniffing.
4. Waking me up at an ungodly hour to let me know he had to go outside.
5. Wagging (banging) his tail on my bedroom door if I was pretending to be asleep.
6. Nightly “puppy visits.” Right before he went to bed, he’d poke his head into my room and wait for me to give my usual goodnite kiss or evening butt scratch. If I was preoccupied, he’d bang his tail on my door. And if I was on the phone, I’d tell my caller “Hold on…I just got a puppy visit.”
Things I don’t miss:
1. Stepping in a “present” left outside my door because I didn’t wake up early enough to take him outside.
2. Finding my suits and sweaters covered in white dog hair.
3. Getting nose juice and drool on my pants.
4. Having to guard my breakfast/lunch/dinner from an uninvited guest.
5. Walking behind a farting dog while going up the stairs.
6. Being stalked for walkies.
Once he passed twelve (Whiskey’s age when he passed away), I figured he was going to make it to be sixteen. I used to joke that I’d get him stuffed when he passed so my mom would have a companion in the nursing home. That’s why I was surprised when cancer took him exactly two months after his fourteenth birthday; I’d just assumed he’d keep getting older and older until we’d have to ask him, “Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, ‘Oh shit, I’m still here?’ ”
I love you lots, Smuffy Muffy. And not a day goes by where I still expect you to come and check me for morning breath.