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When we got Mako he was four pounds; he literally fit in the palm of my hand. This fact was made all the more impressive by his mom and dad, who were 140- and 180-pound American bulldogs. When we went to pick him out, I remember his dad (aptly named Brutus), bounding around a corner, a dark-brindle wall of muscle with drool flying from his enormous jowls. The breeder, who saw Brutus heading right toward me, threw me a bottle of Icy Hot. “Here!” she said. “Open the top and hold the jar under his nose and he won’t jump on you.” It worked. Brutus did a u-turn and went to go grab one of his favorite toys – a full-sized, inflated basketball. “He can really fit a basketball in his mouth?” my husband asked the breeder. I could hear it in Kyle’s voice; what he really meant to ask was, “Are we idiots for thinking this cute tiny puppy isn’t going to be an enormous disaster?”
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We knew Mako would grow up to be big, but from day one he seemed like he’d stay fragile and small forever. We put a ticking clock in his crate at night so he felt like he was next to someone, and he would practically jump into our arms if a stroller or bike went by. But our delicate little puppy began to grow at an alarmingly fast pace, and by the time he was six months he was close to seventy pounds. Sure, house-breaking him was awful, and he would practically crush your lap every time he came to sit on you, but he didn’t chew things and that was a huge positive. He knew exactly which toys were and weren’t his. And he never made a mistake.
We often brought Mako down to my in-laws’ house. They had golden retrievers, who were beautiful, docile, and seemingly all-around perfect dogs. Our big energetic puppy was a stark contrast. We did our best to constantly convince the family that Mako really was a good puppy. Yes, he was getting more enormous by the day, but he was so sweet and didn’t chew on things, which, you had to admit, was an incredible feat for a puppy, let alone a seventy-pound one. I think even Mako knew they weren’t buying it.
One night, we all went out to dinner. Mako was already taller than his puppy pen, but due to his fear of everything we figured he would never be so brave as to jump out of it. My husband and I arrived home a few minutes before the others, and when we walked in we both made a strange noise in unison – sort of a cross between a shriek, a gasp, and an expletive. There, on the floor, were shredded pieces of leather.
“Oh, shit. I think this is my sister’s wedding album,” Kyle finally said as we’d gotten to within inches of the mess. We both had that sinking feeling we were about to get grounded. We walked around to look for Mako, who had indeed jumped out of his pen, and was now curled up sleeping between two golden, furry blankets. “Do you think it was one of the goldens?” I asked. We both laughed, thinking this would be the last bit of humor either of us would enjoy for a while.
The next morning – after an evening filled with endless apologies to my in-laws – I looked out on the backyard at our Mako, running around happy and oblivious to the emotional damage he had caused, when my eye caught something shiny. I went outside to investigate. Dog poop. But why was Mako’s poop glimmering in the sunlight? I looked closer and there it was: the unmistakable silver-rimmed pages of a wedding album with a chewed-up picture of my sister-in-law, glamorous in her wedding gown. And here was a masticated bit of the father-daughter dance. And there, pieces of the bridesmaid who caught the bouquet. For the next few days, every time Mako went to the bathroom, another beautiful memory plopped out.
In the coming months, my husband managed to track down his sister’s wedding photographer and get another album made, and we continued to watch our puppy grow. After the album incident Mako never chewed anything that he wasn’t supposed to again. Looking back, it seems clear this was his way of telling us he wanted to be a part of the family. And if we didn’t like it? Well, then we could all eat shit.
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