The bionic dog

This summer was an expensive but fun one for us. Kitchen remodel. Month at the beach. New right knee for our yellow lab.

At the dog beach.

Adios, home equity. It was nice knowing you.

But as I said to my wife the other day, “Money, you can’t eat it when you’re dead.”

She said, “that doesn’t make sense.” And she was correct. It doesn’t. Sometimes, the stuff just comes out of my mouth.

Earlier this year, our yellow lab tore her ACL in one knee, and had a partial tear in the other. The vet told us it’s common for the second knee to tear 100 percent after the first surgery. And he was correct. It did. We had hoped it wouldn’t, but last week we noticed Luna limping and keeping it off the ground, a bad sign.

Off to the vet my wife went. Second tear confirmed.

It was less of a decision of whether to do the second surgery – another 5K burned – as it was of when to do the surgery. After a day of discussion, we decided to do it right away. We can’t stand to watch Luna limp around, not to mention that it must hurt. So, in she goes this week for the second bionic knee filled with screws (pretty much what holds my brain together). After that there is a three-month recovery period (the first month is the hardest, because we have to restrict her to the dog bed, except for going out to fertilize the lawn). In four months, she’ll be pulling a sled again. Or should be to earn back the cost of the two surgeries.

To pay for the operation, we’ll be cutting back in 2013. We placed a vase on the dining table and scraps of paper in the mouth of a nutcracker. Each time we save money, we write it down and drop it in. Last night, I lowered our DirecTV subscription. Goodbye, Laker’s games. Hello, $300 saved over the next 12 months.

Oh, that wet dog smell.

My daughter also gave up Little Pony episodes, which she wasn’t thrilled about. She almost got a late-night ass-chewing from my wife when she said: “you aren’t giving up anything, Mama,” not comprehending the money going out the door was also earned by her mother.

We’ll be thinking up other ways to cut out spending in 2013. I gave up Christmas presents from my wife and daughter. And the landline phone may be going – why do we have it and two cell phones?

And, as Luna’s picture made two 2013 dog calendars, we’re thinking of letting people take their pictures with her for 5 bucks a pop. I can tell you exactly how much this plan will make – $15. Five from my wife, my daughter and me.

All of this for the love of a dog we raised from a pup alongside our daughter. What choice did we have?

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Speaking to my daughter’s future self

I hope there is a God so one day I can thank her for my daughter.

Kicking back at the beach with a yellow Labrador pillow.

How I got so lucky, I will never know. But I did. And it’s best not to question why.

I’ll also thank the Universe for my wife, too, because I won the marriage lotto. And, as a jackpot bonus, she contributed all the best genes and qualities to my daughter, especially the love, goodness, and kindness – because our 5th grader didn’t get any of those from me.

I’m the guy with the low opinion of humanity who thinks the world is going to collapse under the weight of billions of people with resources to support millions. No matter how much ketchup you use, you can’t eat an iPhone or iPad, or fish from a poisoned ocean.

But there in the middle of the madness is my daughter, bright, shiny, ready to join the ride I’ll be getting off of soon. And it’s everything we can do to keep her from harm, especially the self-inflicted kind. It’s almost as if the important talks we have with her now anticipate that she will become someone else, someone different from her 10-year-old self.  We speak to her future self, which feels a bit sci-fi like, and hope what we tell her sticks, and she remembers it when needed years from now.

We have conversations about alcohol and drugs: One day a friend will offer you drugs, someone you never expected (disbelief from daughter). What will you do?  If your friend drinks too much at a party and wants to drive you home, will you remember to call us? We’ll pick you up. No judgment. 

When she is a teenager, will she still love us? That’s a question my wife and I ask ourselves a lot. I’m not as concerned. I’m just not. I can only do so much.

But now that my daughter is almost 11, I’m feeling sentimental and a little bit . . . scared?

I read too many news stories about harm coming to women. I used to worry about our cabinet doors being secure and the bumper around the coffee table being in place, or wearing her helmet while biking. The stuff I worry about now feels more real, harder to see, like it’s waiting outside, lurking – a jungle filled with scummy people, losers, and criminals. We can prepare her, coach her, but in that moment when she in on her own one day, what can we do?

Our neighbor’s adult daughter has a drug problem and history with the police. We use her as the poster child of what not to do with your life. But I still wonder what happened to her. What signs did the parents miss? What mistakes did they make? How did she go from bright, bubbly toddler to living in her car and homeless? How did that happen? And what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen to our daughter?

So, what does the future hold for our daughter? Will we prepare her properly to succeed in the world? I’m in no hurry to find out.

Protecting my family is one of my greatest challenges

My wife and had a little tiff at dinner tonight.

The source of our discussion and tension happened while I was at the reclaimed lumberyard this afternoon (and getting my hair cut, but the lumberyard part of my errands sounds more manly). While I was gone, several losers came to the door. I’ve talked to my wife about what to do, or not do, when someone we don’t know comes to the door – don’t open the door. This is L.A., not Mayberry.

If you come to my door to sell me something, scam me, or harm my family, this is what you have to look forward to. (A handsome model with a shotgun – scary.) © auremar – Fotolia.com

So, here is a shortened version of the conversation:

Wonderful wife: We never have people come to the door anymore but we had a few today. 

Evil me: Really, who?

Wonderful wife: Two kids. I opened the door . . .

Evil me: You opened the door?

Wonderful wife: Yeah, I thought it might be UPS with my sunglasses?

Evil me: Why didn’t you look in the monitor first to see?

Wonderful wife: I don’t know. I didn’t think of it.

Evil me: Why did you open the door?

Wonderful wife: I don’t know. The dogs were there.

Charming 10-year-old daughter who always takes her mother’s side: Yeah, Daddy, the dogs were there. She only opened the door a crack.

Wonderful wife: I made a mistake. Sorry, I’m not perfect. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Evil me: Why did you open the door? You could have talked to them through the glass.

Wonderful wife: I don’t want to talk about it.

Evil me: Why did you open the door?

Now if my wife were writing this, she would have added, “in an angry tone,” next to all of my lines. And she’d be correct about that. I was pissed because I tell both my wife and daughter never to open the door when I’m not home. I don’t even open the door anymore. I talk to the assholes who invade our privacy through the glass or window. The police told us most of the time it’s either a scam or someone casing the house. There is no reason to open the door for anyone you don’t recognize. It’s why I’ve considered gating in the house.

Most of the people who come to the door are creepy, with crazy-ass stories they’ve perfected while smoking meth day after day in the back of the Scooby van. Their stories require instant decoding to understand and sort the bullshit from the truth.

They’re the “door-to-door” equivalent of spam emails asking for money.

(Hello, good Sir, I’m Herbert Harold Henningsworth the fourth, and I’m here at your door today to give you share of 1 million dollars in Spanish bullion discovered off the coast of Florida. But I had the bad fortune to park my van, which holds the gold, illegally, and your local constables towed it away. I need $500 and a share shall be yours when I retrieve my transportation from the impound lot. Cash is preferred, please.)

My favorite scam is when teenagers arrive at my door and say, “I live over on [insert street name of your choice]. I’m Ron and Mary Wilson’s son. Ronny Jr., Hi, and I’m working to earn enough points to go to China to help orphan children learn to read and assemble iPads. I’m hoping you can help me, a good local kid, save the world. Cash is fine.”

Oh, the Wilson’s son, because I know everyone in a 10-mile radius around my neighborhood. Yeah, Ron and Mary. What the heck?

These little scum artists try to knock you off guard because your brain is trying to make out if this is a real neighborhood kid, which means you don’t want to tell him to F off, lest his real parents show up later with baseball bats and pitchforks and a little payback for Ronny’s Jr.’s humiliation and trauma, all caused by you.

I know I’m overly protective. But there are only two people I value above all else in this life, and protecting the two of them isn’t always easy, especially when they are nice and loving and caring females. I, being the complete opposite in sex and temperament, try to keep the lions and hyenas away from them.

But some days, it ain’t easy. Nope, it sure isn’t. But every day I try to figure out new ways to do it better.