Ten years ago today I stood in a random vet’s office trying not to puke on the counter. I’d never been to this particular vet before but it smelled like all the others. It seemed nice enough. It was where the animal shelter sent all of its pets to be fixed before they were allowed to go home with their new families. I was half of a new family. Well, I was about to be one-third of a new family. My husband and I were picking up our new fuzzy son.
I was very nervous. I felt faint and sick. I ran to the bathroom and threw up once in the toilet. As I washed my hands and mouth after, I told myself everything would be fine. Yes, adopting an adult street dog was a big commitment. Yes, we’d taken on responsibility for this little stinky animal for the rest of his life, whatever that entailed. But, it would be good for me. It would be good for us.
Hogan didn’t make a noise for weeks. He peed all over the house before we got him on a good walk schedule. He ignored us like we didn’t exist, even after the stitches came out and the cone came off, even when I’d pick him up and hold him like a baby, even when I told him he was the most handsome boy in the world. He seemed scared of us or at the very least perturbed by us. His go-to move was putting a paw on one of our faces and leaning his face away from us like, ugh, get away from me please. Come to think of it, that’s still his go-to move.
He was stoic at first. I loudly told everyone that we’d adopted a barkless dog. I took a swab of his inner cheek and sent away for a DNA test so I’d be able to answer the inevitable dog park question: What kind of dog is that? (My answer, “A handsome one” didn’t satisfy most people.) By the time the results came back we’d learned some more important things about our new pal. We discovered that he was extremely smart. He learned to sit, stay, roll over, shake and play dead in just a few weeks of treat training. We also learned that he was food motivated and that he’d eat anything. He learned to open our cabinets, take food out and dine on the floor at his leisure. He could open un-openable containers and closed doors. He once knocked out the screen of our second story window, strolled out onto the roof and casually barked at the neighborhood for a few hours. He was amazingly athletic for a little fat guy; the dude could catch anything and was extremely fond of fetching tennis balls. He started making noises. Lots of them. Snorts and barks and grumbles and this sound that there are not words to describe but I can only say is like if a robot was getting murdered.
We discovered he didn’t really want to be with us no matter how much we plied him with love and toys and treats. He wanted to be back on the street. He ran away every chance he got and he was good at it. I cried every time I found him. We fixed doors and checked locks. We tried to make him love us back.
Over the years he relaxed a little. We witnessed moments of joy like when he got a new toy or if we gave him a spoonful of peanut butter or when I’d play hide and seek with him around the house. (The dog is extremely good at hide and seek as long as he’s the seeker. He’s also a passable soccer goalie if you’ve got a long hallway for him to guard.) We stopped worrying about him as much. Sometimes he’d deign to sit with one of us or lick our arms or noses. He never turned into the cuddler I wanted him to but we could tell that he loved us in his own way. We could tell that he was happy.
In the decade we’ve been his family, Hogan McSmalls has done some memorable things. “Tell us a Hogie story,” our nephews would beg. And we’d always have one for them. The time I came home and the house smelled like gas because he’d turned on all the burners. (They are child-protected to this day.) The time we came home to a locked and closed up house and the dog was just gone, disappeared like he’d taken the floo network or something. (In actuality, he’d opened the locked door to the balcony (??), closed it after himself, jumped 10 feet to the driveway and taken a few laps around our block. You know, for fun.) There was the time I came home to find the toaster on the couch, the Vitamix on the rug and the Keurig chewed within an inch of its life. There was the time a chihuahua tried to get Hogie’s attention and Hogie snorted, lifted his leg and peed all over the poor gal’s head. Hogan McSmalls has been so consistently bad over the last ten years that he’s entertained us, our families and everyone we know with his shenanigans.
So, today, on the 10th anniversary of his adoption, I would just like to say, here’s to Hogan McSmalls. He may not be affectionate and he may not smell nice. He might not be well-behaved or sleek. His tiny head might be waaaaaay too small for the rest of his body. He may be a giant pain in the ass on a daily basis. (As I wrote that, he grunted at me from under my desk.) But he’s funny. And interesting and sweet and weird. He’s my heart. He’s our little friend and we’re grateful for him always. Even when he pulls out some drawers, uses them as steps, gets onto the counter, opens a cabinet door, eats a bunch of raw rice then rapid-fire poops rice out of his ass like a machine gun for a week.
*To see way too many photos of Hogan McSmalls, please check out his Instagram hashtag: #hoganmcsmalls