Saturday, April 23, 2016

Things are finally getting back to Norman ... I mean normal

For those of you who follow this silly little newspaper column, you might recall that I recently had to bury Fireball, the old family dog. He just happened to pass away on the same day that I celebrated my 50th birthday. That was on Feb. 10, and I vehemently declared I was completely out of the world of dog ownership. I didn’t want anything more to do with it. I was absolutely, undoubtedly, done with dogs.

Exactly 64 days later, we traveled to Cordova, Ill., and picked up Norman, a little black and white puppy. (That’s 448 in dog days. Which in human days, is close to a year and a half. And if you round up from that, I almost made it two full years.) He sat on my daughter’s lap on the way home and with every pathetic little whimper he made, I cussed myself out for being weak and possibly soft-hearted.

Allow me to describe Norman to you. His mother is a smart and beautiful Chocolate Lab that goes by the name “Majestic.” The father is a Siberian Husky who lives a couple of houses up the street, and I’m guessing that his name is “That Darn Neighbor Dog Who Needs A Much Stronger Chain.” In doing a vast amount of research for this column, I read on the Internet somewhere the gestation period for dogs is in the area of 58-68 days. That means Norman’s parents “got together” sometime during the holiday season. I like to think the moment of conception occurred on an unseasonably balmy, late-December day with a chorus of “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band playing softly in the background.

As for the name Norman, that was my daughter’s idea. She had list after list of possible names up for consideration. I kept trying to sneak in Chicago Cub-related names like Rizzo, Schwarber and Ernie. She kind of liked Schwarber but I pointed out I might look like an idiot calling out “Here Schwarber!” if he ever got lost. I’ve seen “Homeward Bound” enough times to know that can happen.

Nope, she liked the name Norman. Now I’d like to tell you she gave him that moniker because of someone in our family’s lineage. Or that maybe she likes the famous American illustrator Norman Rockwell. Or that she’s a big fan of the prestigious author Norman Mailer. Or maybe even after Norman Fell who played the part of Mr. Roper on “Three’s Company.” Alas, none of those are true. The dog got his name from actor Norman Reedus who plays the scuzzy, redneck guy on “The Walking Dead.”

I have never had a puppy before, so this is kind of a whole new deal for me. I didn’t realize how sharp their little teeth are. Neither did the power cord to my daughter’s iPad. Or my daughter’s T-shirt. Or any of my sweatshirts, socks, pants, underwear, shoes, etc. Or the cats. Or the dandelions. Or the grass. Or the atmosphere in general. Biting and chewing are his hobbies I guess.

“No” is the main word used around the dog. When he chews on stuff, we say “no.” When he nips at your fingers, we say “no.” When he jumps uncontrollably, we say “no.” When he gets under your feet and trips you, we say “no.” When he whines at 3:30 in the morning, I pretend to be sound asleep and my wife mumbles “no.” As she creatively pointed out, “Norman” is just “No!” With an -rman on the end.

I was worried about how my wife would handle the whole situation. She has admittedly never been much of a dog person during her lifetime. It has something to do with when she was a kid and a neighbor’s slobbery, huge Saint Bernard named Bruno that traumatized her against canines. I figured out of all of us, she would experience the roughest period of adjustment.

She was put to the test last Sunday night when in the excitement of his new surroundings, Norman decided to stop in the middle of the living room and leave us a little present. I looked at my wife with trepidation as she raced to the kitchen to get the paper towels and the Resolve carpet cleaner. “Uh-oh Norman. You’re going to get it now,” I remembered thinking to myself.

When she returned, she cheerily picked up the “deposit,” spritzed some stuff on the floor and happily said something to the effect of, “Oh Norman, you silly little puppy! We’re going to have to work on your bathroom habits.”

I looked over at Chubby the cat, and we blinked at each other in wide-eyed astonishment. Neither one us could get away with that. In fact, not that long ago, I left a sock on the floor by the bed, and she wanted me court-martialed and dishonorably-discharged from our marriage vows. I can only imagine the extent of her disgruntlement if I were to leave anything even close to what that dog left lying on the floor. Norman must hold some sort of magical powers.

For a guy who vowed to never own a dog just over two short months ago, I sure do like having Norman around. He keeps me company; he listens to me jabber all day long; and he takes me out in the yard when I need a little exercise.

And as an added plus, when I experience those rare occurrences of odoriferous flatulence after a particularly spicy chili night, I’ve got somebody to blame it on. Good boy, Norman, good boy!

You can contact Wallace at You can follow him on his blog at

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