Today would be the 24th birthday of my childhood pet, a spaniel-chow mix named Murfin. Don’t ask where the name comes from. It’s a long story that mostly centers around me being a preschool creative genius. He’s not around, of course, but he did far overstay his welcome having lived into the early months of 2003, i.e. the age of 14. That’s a generous lifespan for a larger breed of dog. It’s especially a generous lifespan for an obese dog who literally ate garbage whenever he could.
His chow-chow side naturally made his coat thick and puffy, although the cocker spaniel side made his hair longer and he looked like a terrible shag carpet that was homemade out of a used mop. His chow-chow side also mixed with the cocker spaniel side to create a multi-coloured tongue, pink and blue and purple and black. His personality was definitely chow. He was stubborn, loyal only to my mother unless he needed something, and got very angry at any slight hint of somebody infringing on his territory. He would bark at anything walking down the street – not on the yard, down the sidewalk – and if someone was walking their dog he would get so angry as to chew on the windowsill and the carpeting of the nearby stairs.
He had nearly toxic periods of glandular and gastrointestinal problems, and yet he lived to 14. He once destroyed Christmas advent calendars and ate all the chocolates, and yet he lived to 14. We had to shave him each summer so his coat wouldn’t give him heatstroke (he had to be put under at the vet’s for that, because otherwise he would ruin the poor groomer) and he came out looking like a sausage. And yet he lived to 14.
Don’t get me wrong – he was absolutely adorable when he needed to be, or so we thought at the time. He was so cute as a puppy that for some reason my parents decided to keep him in spite him chomping into my arm within a few months of the adoption. But, as said, he was fat and he was stubborn and he wasn’t nice to anyone, and for the last 18 months of his existence he was deaf, incontinent, and had terrible arthritis. In the winter he would have to go outside every five minutes to sit in the snow to cool off his joints, and while out there he wouldn’t stop barking because he wanted to see if he could hear himself. I would be the first to come home after university classes and I’d keep my shoes on until I stepped in the inevitable wet spot, then get the paper towels and spray the carpet until the room only kind of smelled like urine. He would keep me up late because he couldn’t walk up the stairs without a butt boost the whole way, and always had to sleep in my parents’ room, but he didn’t want to go up there until 1 or 2 in the morning. If I went to bed without pushing him up, he would bark whenever he felt like it and someone would have to do it anyway.
He violently hated some of my friends. He got so angry when hungry that he would flip his thick ceramic food bowl upside down with his paw (naturally broken the first time; then we just taped it back together and put it in a carpeted room). When he got too old and lazy to flip the bowl, he would just fall asleep with his paw in there, being melodramatic even when unconscious. When he sneezed he would sneeze so hilariously hard that he’d hit his head on the floor and forget what he was doing or where he was going. When the smoke detector batteries were low and it wouldn’t stop beeping, he’d sniff his behind thinking that’s the tune his flatulence played.
This all seems like an amusing pet memoir to you readers, but I reiterate: I lived with him for 14 years. The whole family lived with him for 14 years. The whole family tolerated him for 14 years, and I had the heaviest burden in the worst of them. (Also wettest, dirtiest, and loudest.)
The family has had other dogs since then – better dogs – and so we’ve gained perspective on how suckered in we were with Murf. We wouldn’t have stood for his shenanigans if we had these dogs before we had him, because we’d have higher standards. And yet, after 14 years with this terrible canine being, we’re all still dog people. That shows commitment.