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Driving Miss Daisy

Keeping up with a new pet can leave a person dog tired.

That's me driving a Honda Odyssey around Syosset with a small golden retriever-looking dog in the passenger seat.  That's Daisy—white with carmel-colored highlights and distinctive amber eyelashes.

That's me picking my daughter up from religion class at St. Edward's church, or circling Shop Rite's parking lot once, twice, three times to find a spot.

Daisy looks left then right, seeming to point her snout in the direction of an empty parking space. She's smart, too.

"Good girl," I say. "Now, stay here." I pet the scruff of her wrinkly neck and gently push her back into the minivan, soft shaggy fur curling in wisps, tail happily wagging. "Stay!" I often shop for quick items with her, leaving the window open a crack to breathe, worrying like she's my child. Daisy rides shotgun when buying coffee and muffins at Dunkin' Donuts, deposits in the bank and McDonald's drive-thru with the kids.  She holds her head high in a regal pose, watching the cars go by and howling hello to people.

I'm a dog person.  Both my husband, Tom, and I grew up with dogs: corgi, black lab, collie, chihuahua, toy poodle, Yorkie poo.  We felt it was time for our family to get a serious pet, one that could keep up with three energetic kids.  More than a decade ago, I used to work in public relations for Pedigree Dog Food and drove around the country touring with Air Bud the golden retriever, who played all kinds of sports.  You might have seen the Disney movies about him.  It was a portent of things to come that I'd again be driving a minivan with yet another dog.

I swear she knows English.  Where's Robert?  Daisy climbs up onto the back of the couch like a mountain lion wiggle-wagging like crazy, excitedly watching out the living room bay window as our son comes home from middle school.  Get the chicken!  We throw her rubber toy down the den stairs endlessly, and she retrieves it every time.

We adopted Daisy from Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) out in Southampton last March 7.  Tom and I surprised the kids, our quest to find a dog disguised as an adventure out east.

Our friend Mark was a fund-raiser at ARF, and he e-mailed that there were spaniels coming in.  Hurrythey go fast.  I'm a mutt, my husband and children are mutts—and we're all loyal companions.  So, we thought, why not adopt a mutt-i-gree puppy? I kind of wanted a small dog.  Big dog—big poop—you know.  But when you adopt, you take a chance on just how big they'll grow.

Her temporary name was Tracy, and she had a brother, Jude. He had a stunted tail and was wild and made our 6-year-old daughter, Melanie, cry.  Daisy/Tracy hid in the corner of the room to get away from Jude.

"Pick one," Daddy said.

We all agreed on quieter one.  "How about the name Candy?"

I think our daughter Kelly said "Daisy."

Again we agreed. Yes. It fit. Daisy, a delicate flower, that's her. She shivered and whimpered all the way home on my lap, and we bought a crate and soft bedding at Petco.  The kids were enamored with her every move.  "Look,  she yawned."  "Aw, she scratched her ear."

"She's a beauty," folks say as we walk her anywhere—to the bus stop or around the block. "Is she a golden puppy?"

No, her paws are too small and her legs are spindly long. No, we don't know what she is. The vet says, it could be a beagle/golden retriever or a spaniel/golden.

The third week, our delicate flower went Cujo nuts. Daisy's inner personality transposed from Mozart to Day-ZEE the gansta rapper. She'd tear through the house, hats and gloves went missing, she ate paper napkins whole. She would bite at our heels when any of us walked up and down the stairs, or would gnaw on the edge of the cherry wood coffee table. Her favorite delicacy became Webkinz toys.  She seemed to take exceptional pleasure in sinking her teeth in the soft synthetic material. Then, she destroyed my favorite shoes.

We held a family meeting. "Kids, maybe, just maybe, we might have to bring Daisy back."

"NO!" they cried in unison.

The vet said we gave her too much control of the house all at once.  One person has to consistently feed her. One person should walk her. Daisy needs to know who the Alpha being is in the house. We should have let her out of the crate or kitchen slowly, exposing the dog to other parts of the house in increments. Or, even leash her in the house to make the dog know her place at our heels.

Hmmm.  Doesn't seem like a fun dog's life to me. I was thinking I'd teach Daisy how to drive.

That's me buying new shoes at Marshalls.

Wave if you see us!

Note: I'm humbled by the many kind words and wonderful responses to this column and only hope I can do justice to Syosset. I'm thrilled by this opportunity to be sharing my stories. E-mail me your memories. We'll talk.  

TL March 08, 2010 at 02:06 PM
Fun stuff! We'll keep an eye out! Hey, does anyone recommend any good dog run/parks nearby?
mark fich March 08, 2010 at 03:08 PM
Awww that's too adorable. But how did Daisy go from Crazy to Sane?
Wendy Heppt March 08, 2010 at 03:31 PM
Some dogs just can't resist shoes no matter what. The rule in our house is, if you leave your shoes out the dog will eat them, so don't do it. This did create problems when my kid's friends came over and didn't follow the rule and Babe ate their sneakers. I revised the rule: sorry but if you leave your shoes out the dog will eat them. Since we provided fair warning we will not take responsibility and no, we will not offer to buy you a new pair.
Stacey B. March 09, 2010 at 02:38 AM
I met Daisy when you first got her in the pet store. She has grown!!! I hope to see you and Ms. D. out and about as I am often driving Mr. Rex around Syosset. He is usually barking at everyone so maybe you will hear us before we see you....

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