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By Staff | Nov 27, 2009

I had never paid for such a thing before, so I was somewhat nervous.

After making some discreet inquiries I learned of a certain place on the outskirts of town where, it was said, there would be a nice selection from which to choose. The low cinderblock building wore a decidedly grungy aura. After dithering in the car for a few minutes, I took a deep breath and slunk inside.

A youngish woman, who seemed to be in charge, greeted me as I entered. She knew what I wanted.

“How does this work?” I asked, glancing around anxiously. “This is my first time.”

“It’s pretty straightforward. You just go through that door and take a look at what we have to offer. You see something you like, you pay me. The price is sixty-five dollars.”

“That’s it? No stings attached?”

“Nope, no strings. Unless you’re into that. We could loan you a leash.”

I had to at least have a peek. Palms sweating, I pushed through the door and stepped into another world.

I walked slowly down a row of dreary, Cold War-style compartments. There seemed to be a rule against talking as the occupants – inmates – stared at me wordlessly from their doorways.

Being a decisive guy, I made my choice swiftly and decisively. I went back to the anteroom and paid the woman. In cash. Untraceable.

“I believe I’ll take you up on that leash offer,” I said.

She looked at me through world-weary eyes. “Yeah, you sort of struck me as the type.”

And that is how my wife and I acquired our newest family member – our new dog, that is.

This is the first time I ever paid for a dog. When I was a kid we were always able to obtain for free some mongrel or another for a farm dog. The pedigree didn’t matter so much as the price.

This tradition continued into adulthood. My wife got our last two dogs, littermates Copper and Curly, gratis from a neighbor who had been surprised to learn that his dog was of loose virtue.

Copper and Curly lived good, long lives, but both eventually became old and infirm and had to be put down. It’s tough to make such a decision, to conclude that an old friend is not really living, just existing. And there’s always karma to consider; after all, someday such a decision might be made about me.

At first my wife and I told ourselves that life was better without dogs. No need to worry about them during the frigid winter nights, no more dog food to buy.

Yet something was missing. A farm just isn’t a farm without a dog. Plus it’s good to have a pal along during walks, someone to scout ahead and scare off any potential cougars or sasquatches.

Sometimes in the middle of the night a person might hear some rustling and thumping outside the house. If you have a dog you can surmise that your canine guardian is simply doing his job, checking things out, patrolling for nighttime varmints. This allows you to roll over and quickly go back to sleep.

The tipping point for me came late last summer. Out by the mailbox, mere yards from our house, some critter had left a huge log-like doot. Whatever had done it had to have been pretty big. I’m thinking sasquatch.

I began to do research on different dogs so I could casually drop hints during conversations with my wife.

“Did you know,” I said casually one day, “That Golden Retrievers are both very intelligent and extremely loyal?”

“A girl can never have too much loyalty,” she replied. “And we could certainly use more intelligence at our place!” She looked at me meaningfully when she got to the intelligence part.

We soon learned that we both wanted another dog, which is how I found myself in that cheerless cinderblock building. I chose a young male Golden Retriever who seemed both extra loyal and especially intelligent.

I took him home and he took right to the place. We romped, rolled in the leaves, marked territory. In the granary, he began to sniff meaningfully at a particular board. I lifted it up and he became a blur of red fur as he swiftly executed a pair of mice.

When my wife learned about the mice, she declared that any dog who hates mice as much as she is worth his weight in gold.

Our new addition is named Sandy, the same as Little Orphan Annie’s dog. Which is fitting, since he had been picked up as a stray, orphaned by his previous people.

So now there is another furry creature to joyously greet my wife when she comes home. She often complains about the smelliness, but I tell her it could be worse. We could be sasquatches.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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