In those days, we used to hitch up our covered wagons to the mule team, and walk 20 miles to work and back, uphill both ways, stopping occasionally by the cave down the street to see if Crag had finished his painting of the Jones' pet Tyrannosaurus.
But I digress. The point is that working at the university got me Internet access, and, in particular, access to the Usenet groups. These message boards were (and still are, if you can get past the spam) an enormous wealth of information. People post to the groups related to their particular interests, letting others take advantage of their knowledge and experience. It was a free-form, free-for-all, crazy, chaotic community, and I fell right into it, taking to it wholeheartedly.
When we got our cats, I went directly to the rec.pets.cats group to find out about cat behavior, cat physiology, cat nutritional needs, cat toys, cat litter (and whether or not corn cobs or clumpable were the best for the cat), and, perhaps most importantly, just exactly how funny it could be to get your cat hopped up on catnip and then follow them around with a laser pointer or to toss them at the curtains (kittens only, and gently, please) while yelling "Velcro Kitty!" I'm telling you, Usenet had it all.
So, of course, where else would I go for information on dogs but -- you guessed it! -- rec.pets.dogs. There was a FAQ for all different breeds of dogs. There was a FAQ for dog behavior. There was a FAQ about housebreaking and introducing a new dog into a home. There were FAQ's about dog nutrition and exercise and even fashion accessories. Each of these documents was at least 20 pages long (if not longer), extremely well researched, and chock full of everything you could possibly want to know about getting a dog and keeping it happy and healthy and in a non-floor-piddling state. The mind absolutely boggled -- it was a huge amount of information! Nevertheless, I was a graduate student. Pages and pages of reading material were second nature to me, so I dug in.
When I said before that we "picked up some dog food, dog dishes, and a leash," there was a bit more to it than that.
We decided that we'd start off by trying free-feeding, where you give the dog about 10 pounds of food in a sort of food dispenser thingy, and let them self-regulate their intake. We went for IAM's over Science Diet, after going back and forth through numerous posts on the benefits of both. (I'm telling you, for some people, getting them going on IAM's vs. Science Diet was like facing off some hardcore Windows versus Linux advocates.)
We bought this massive ten-pound food dispenser (guaranteed to be bacteria resistant so no harmful buildup for the puppy) after reading a 30-page dissertation on the dangers of plastic food dishes and bacteria buildup thereon.
We bought a dog crate after reading a 50-page dissertation on crate training.
We bought several appropriate dog chew toys (of course not the rawide ones) after reading a 20-page dissertation of the dangers of rawhide chews, including gory descriptions of what can happen when a bit of rawhide gets stuck in a dog's innards. (No, you don't want to know. Trust me. Still gives me the willies.)
We bought nutritious snack foods, and tasty tidbits, and comfy blankets and everything you could think of that a dog could need.
I'm telling you, rec.pets.dogs was the place to be. Those people knew everything. We were prepared, armed with the knowledge of the world of dog owners, fortified with vitamins and iron and bits of lamb and rice in a crunchy package Your Dog will Love(tm). Thus girded with all appropriate preparations, we were ready.
So, as I said, we grabbed the new leash and collar, and were on our way to the pound. This was it: this was the day. One of the puppies would have a new home.
The drive to the pound was relatively quiet. I spent the time in a bit of a distracted haze, taking mental inventory of everything we had on hand, making sure we hadn't left anything out, and picturing that cute little black dog (I wasn't giving up on the black one) curled up on my lap, sighing contentedly, as I sipped a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire.
(The fact that I don't drink and did not have a fireplace had no bearing on this vision, all right, so I'll thank you to stay out of my daydreams.)
We finally arrived, and approached the lady at the desk with no little amount of eagerness. But there was another shock in store for us -- one that I couldn't have anticipated.
To be continued ...