The bear of a man looked at the tiny brown and white puppy in his arms, and I thought for sure he was going to cry.
“Aw,” he said, “I was kinda hoping you were gonna take Cowboy. Gus here has become my teevee-watchin’ buddy. Haven’t ya?”
He tickled the corgi under his chin and the puppy’s big brown eyes came up and met his. The breeder blinked and thrust the little dog into my step-son’s waiting arms.
A massive snow storm blew in as we made the long drive back down to Columbus. I focused my eyes on the twisting country road ahead, peering through the snow and headlights. Part of me was nervous about the weather but the other part of me wanted to just stare at the adorable bundle of fur that sat between my two step-kids in the back seat. The children giggled and fawned over the dog.
“So,” my wife turned around in the passenger’s seat, “what are we going to call him?”
Neither Logan nor Melea had any ideas. I was shocked. When I was a kid and we got our dog, I was loaded with names. And I certainly had ideas ready that night in the car. I had been dreaming about the moment for months.
My wife looked back at me. “Baby, you’ve got some ideas, right?”
Despite the treacherous weather, I smiled. “Well, corgi is Welsh for ‘dwarf dog’, and with Logan being such a fan of dwarves, I thought maybe we could call him Gimli.” In the rear view mirror, I saw Logan laugh. Gimli was the first name I thought of, mainly for Logan, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to name the dog. I cleared my throat. “However the first time I ever saw a corgi, its name was Chaos. And that dog was such a bundle of energy that the name seemed perfect to me. That name has stuck with me and that’s another name we could give him.”
Both the kids turned back towards the puppy and assailed him with another round of scritches and belly-rubs. As they did so, they tried out the name, each in turn. The dog seemed to respond.
“Or we can keep calling him Gus,” I said.
“That might be easiest for him, since that’s what they named him,” my wife said. “So you’ve got three choices, guys. Gimli, Chaos, or Gus.”
It was time for my closing argument. “Here’s the thing. When dogs listen to people, they mainly key in on the last syllable. Chaos sounds real similar to Gus, so if you don’t want to call him Gus, Chaos might be easier for him to get used to. But it’s your call, guys. We will name him whatever you want.”
Logan voted, “Chaos”.
Melea followed suit.
“Are you sure, Logan? I thought for certain you’d want to call him Gimli.”
“No, I like Chaos, and it will be best for him.”
“Alright, Chaos it is.”
A round of cheers erupted from the back seat as the kids fell upon the dog, anointing him with his new name. The dog however, didn’t seem thrilled. By the time we reached home hours later, it had started crying.
“Maybe we made a mistake,” I said. Guilt was growing in my gut. After all, we’d essentially just taken a child away from its mother, father, and brother. “He’s crying so much, maybe we should take him back.”
My wife looked up from her task of prepping the kennel. The glare she shot me may as well have been a slap. “Baby, if we hadn’t taken him, somebody else would have, and he’d be just as sad. He’s gonna cry for a few days until he adjusts. Of course he misses his mom and dad. And Cowboy. And every other member of his liter that had already been bought by other people. Nothing you and I can do can change that, but he’s part of our family now.”
Yet Chaos continued to cry through the night. His howling got so loud, that none of us were able to sleep. The only thing that calmed him was my wife’s touch. So she laid down on the couch next to his kennel and put her hand through the bars. He fell asleep cuddled around her fingers.
The next night she slept in the living room alongside to the kennel, and Chaos didn’t cry. By the end of the week, he was sleeping all by himself. He was part of the our family.
Nine years and six months later.
Chaos burst into the living room with a toothy grin across his fox-like face.
“Hey, Chaos!” my wife and I yelled in unison from the couch.
Chaos responded with a massive sneeze. He’d always had terrible allergies during the late summer months. Still with a prance in his step, he moved across the room and rubbed his snout alongside the love seat and then the floor.
“Do you got an itchy face, Chaos?” my wife asked.
Chaos walked towards us. He laid his head on the cushion next to me and rolled his eyes in my direction.
“It’s okay, buddy,” I said. “You can come up.”
With that, Chaos backed up three steps and then made a running leap up onto the couch next to me. He circled the cushion twice before flopping down onto this side with a huff. He then pawed his snout with his stocky little paws. It was adorable.
“Are you being cute?” my wife called out next to me.
Chaos rubbed his face again.
“Are you being cute?” I asked, matching my wife’s tone.
Again, he pawed his face. I leaned over and hugged him.
“Daddy loves you, big guy! You’re such a good boy.”
In the nights that followed, the scene replayed itself. Chaos would come in from outside, hop up next to me on the couch (only after being invited) and then proceed to rub his snout. After each time, my wife and I would ask, “Are you being cute?”, and he would repeat the pawing.
And that was how we turned my dog’s first cries for help into a cheap trick.