When I was in the sixth-grade, Mom made me a promise: If I got straight A’s that semester, she’d get me a dog.
This should have been a safe bet for her. If you’d seen my fifth-grade report card, you’d have laughed at the mere suggestion of me getting straight B’s. Mom would look magnanimous for the offer, and I’d have no one to blame but myself for not having a dog from that point onward.
However, Mom learned a very valuable lesson about incentives that year, mainly that they can work really well.
A few months after that semester concluded, we went to a dog breeder to see the puppies. I’d had my heart set on a Bichon Frise, and Grandma Newberry had offered to pay for a pure-bred specimen of floofy white hair. The breeder brought us into the meet-and-greet room, and dumped a trio of puppies in my lap – and immediately I knew which one I wanted. It was a gut feeling, instinctive.
I made my choice – but the breeder warned me that puppy was a little odd. He didn’t socialize like the others, and the breeder warned me that he would be...atypical. Strange.
Headstrong Dan, then heading into seventh grade, couldn’t care less. I was following my gut and wanted that particular dog.
Tucker – my sister got to name him, since I picked the breed – was indeed a strange puppy. He always wanted to know where everyone in the family was, but did NOT want to be directly near anyone (save Dad, occasionally Tucker would sit on his lap, something he never did with anyone else).
If everyone was home in the house, Tucker would find a spot precisely in the middle of everyone’s location, equidistant to all the family members, and sit there.
Occasionally he’d run to check on someone, poke his head in the door, and then scamper back to his command center.
If you approached him, he’d allow you to do so, but if you began to pet him, he’d get up and leave the room. Anyone not in the family, he’d growl at and flat-out run away from.
He liked to play fetch, and loved hide and seek, and would come and greet you when you got home like any dog would, but after rolling around and saying ‘hey’ for a bit, Tucker would tire of the interaction and wander back to some place where he could be near everyone and no one at once.
He mellowed a bit with age, eventually becoming more tolerant of people petting him. Either that or he was too tired to move away, which is the much more likely option. Even so, up until he died that pooch was a weird one, with a strange way of showing affection. My friends always thought he was frosty – one even was adamant that Tucker was a canine sociopath. The definite consensus was that he was ‘not normal.’ But I never wanted a normal dog. I’d just wanted that one from the start, and never regretted the choice.