When life hands you lemons, toss them in the trash and eat cake

First Love – Part 1

Bea: 10 a.m., May 26, 2000

She heard a ding. She had a new email in her inbox. It had no subject line.

 Indy died early this morning.

She ran to the bathroom, hid in one of the stalls and cried. Public crying was frowned upon at her high-pressure, male-dominated job at an equity research firm. She could hear someone in the stall next to her puking, no doubt a victim of last night’s raucous party hosted by the coke-snorting traders on the fifth floor. She crouched on the toilet seat and tried to figure out if she was more upset by her dad’s sucky method of communication or the death of her first love.


Bea: 1985

That spring, Bea started the great Push for a Dog Campaign with George and Mabel. She had already shown conscientious animal ownership by keeping a goldfish alive for nearly five years (unheard of among goldfish enthusiasts!) and nurturing her one-legged finch, Captain Hook, for seven years. And then there were the gerbils, which could go either way in the animal care plus and minus columns (but she was leaning more toward the PLUS side of things). It wasn’t her fault: Troy Henson swore the two gerbils he sold to Bea were females, but after 14 hairless, maggot-like creatures appeared in the cage two months later, Bea had serious doubts about Troy’s gender-determining abilities. She found out years later that he had become Tory Henson, after a sex reassignment operation, and was a hedge fund manager in NYC, having given up his/her dreams of being a rodent entrepreneur.

Once Mabel banished the gerbil breeding factory from the house, selling the surviving 12 to the local pet store (four were consumed by papa gerbil, a vision that years of therapy had yet to erase from her sister Meg’s psyche), Bea started campaigning for a dog. Dogs didn’t swim listlessly around in algae-encrusted prisons or hop around on one foot inside a tiny cage. They didn’t procreate like rabbits and then slap their young between two slices of bread and eat them for lunch. They were protectors of the family, tail-wagging packages of unconditional love.

Mabel and George did not want a dog; to them, a dog was a flea-filled, shed-a-holic germ factory that had no place in their home with its white-washed walls, gleaming hardwoods and expensive china. However, after incessant begging and pleading from Bea, they struck a deal with her: Do your research, find a low-maintenance dog and we may consider it.

Bea always played by the rules. She purchased The Encyclopedia of Canines and dog-eared the pages of breeds she suspected would meet Mabel and George’s approval: small dogs that didn’t consume and then defecate 40 pounds of kibble each week; dogs that needed less exercise than Greyhounds and Labradors; family-friendly, courageous dogs that would most undoubtedly save Timmy after he fell into the well.

Bea proudly showed Mabel the marked pages one afternoon, following a particularly long research session.

Bea, I just don’t know. After the, eh, gerbil incident, I have serious reservations about this.

But mom, gerbils and dogs aren’t the same. Dogs don’t eat their children.

Dogs are a lot of work, sighed Mabel. We had a Cocker Spaniel growing up, and he pissed everywhere, so grandpa sent him off to a farm and we never saw him again.

Sort of like you sent my gerbils off to the farm, Bea thought to herself. She huffed off to her room. Next target: George.

She cornered him as soon as he got home from work.

Look dad, I did all my research. I’ve narrowed it down to a Corgi or a Shetland Sheepdog. I used buzz words like “non-biter,” “intelligent” and “easy to train” to pique his interest and win him over.

Go ask your mother, said George, as he loosened his tie, shed his coat and headed straight to the kitchen to fill a tumbler with scotch.

Bea finally broke them. It required a formal presentation with white-boards and diagrams, and a signed contract stating she would be 100% responsible for training, grooming, taking the puppy out in the wee hours of the morning, and cleaning up any piss, vomit or crap that ended up inside the house.

Several weeks later, two days before Bea’s 12th birthday, she and Mabel drove to Skyview Shelties to pick out a puppy. Immediately, her eyes went to the largest one; at four months old, he was head and shoulders larger than the down-covered, 8-week old puppies.

His whole litter is gone, he’s the only one left, said the breeder.

Is there something wrong with him? asked Mabel, whose suspicion was punctuated with an arched eyebrow.

Most of these dogs are bred as show dogs. He only has one testicle, so he can’t be shown, snarled the breeder. He’s damaged goods.

Ding, ding, ding, ding: Magic words to Mabel’s ears. Bea’s family only dealt in the currency of damaged goods. A deal was quickly struck.

And so, Indiana Jones entered the O’Hara household, where he held court for 14 years. He was the first boy with whom Bea ever fell in love. When she left for college six years after she had picked him out of the herd of puppies, she cried. Not because she was leaving Mabel or George or even her sisters and brother. She cried because she was leaving her best friend behind.

To be continued

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