The Road to Fargo

2 Jun

In the summer of 2001, Veronika and I were a newly married couple with a problem. You see, Veronika really wanted a dog, but I was terrified of dogs.

Which is a strange thing because growing up we always had dogs around. Irish setters, springer spaniels, cocker spaniels, 4-legged dogs, 3-legged dogs… Probably because my mom loved animals so much and my dad just went along with it.

There was one dog that was a bit “off” from the start, though. The first warning sign was when he tried jumping out the window while driving home from the pound. He actually made it halfway before my dad pulled him back in – and rolled up the window.

I think I was ten when it happened. It was a sunny day in the Black Hills of South Dakota. My sister and I were outside playing in the grass. I leaned over to pick something up and BAM! I must have surprised the dog because the next thing I knew he took a big chomp out of the back of my head. Blood gushing everywhere, a nine mile drive to the nearest hospital, seven stitches and a permanent scar later – VOILA! – I’m terrified of dogs.

JasperSuddenly, though, the books started showing up on our coffee table. “The Art of Raising a Puppy.” “The Big Book of Dog Breeds.” “How to Convince Your Spouse to Get a Dog.” OK, maybe not the last one, but the signal was loud and clear. I’d lost this one. We were getting a dog.

As Veronika was flipping through the dog books one day, she stopped on a breed we couldn’t pronounce and read the following. “The Viszla is better with people than a Golden Retriever.” OK, that’s the dog for me!

Next thing I know we’re on the road to Fargo to check out a litter of new puppies that had just been born to a respectable Vizsla breeder.

Veronika was in heaven. Me? Yup, still terrified.

“If I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, won’t the dog think I’m a burglar and bite me?”

“No, silly.”

The breeders were pretty hardcore. We had to fill out a five page survey (seriously) proving that we’d be good dog parents.

Then one night I had a dream. I saw the puppy with the blue collar. The next day, the breeder calls up and before we can mention the dream says, “I’ve been thinking about it. The puppy with the blue collar is probably best for the two of you.” Whoa! Probably helped that he totally flunked the hunt test – not interested in bird wings – and thus was branded the “perfect city dog.”

Jasper 7
When he turned nine weeks old, we were back on the road to pick up our little puppy.

Everything was going fine until we got him in the crate in the car.

He whined and howled and whined some more. I thought, “What are we doing? We have to take him back to his mom and siblings.”

Veronika reminded me that we were his “pack” now. That sounded strange but comforting.

On the ride home we stopped at every rest stop between Fargo and Minneapolis. At the next to last one, he played in the grass and came running to us when we called his name. We were thrilled! And at that moment I knew everything would be OK and nothing would be the same again.

First thing we did when we got home (after another potty break, of course) was change his name. “Levi” was now our little “Jasper.”


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