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Authors: Dave Nasser and Lynne Barrett-Lee

Giant George

BOOK: Giant George
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To my wife, Christie

CHAPTER 1
Life’s Mistakes

Arizona Daily Star

Offered: Pets

HOME NEEDED FOR GREAT DANE PUPPY

Four-month-old blue Great Dane puppy needs

a home now. Call Dave at 555-0123.

Sometimes in life you make mistakes. It was the end of March 2006 in Tucson, Arizona—a particularly beautiful time of year—and open in front of me was a copy
of the
Arizona Daily Star
. It was carrying the ad I’d placed there a week back, for the ridiculous sum of $40.

I did a quick calculation in my head. I’d already laid out $1,750 for our puppy, plus the cost of around six weeks’ worth of special puppy food, an extra-large crate, a leash and a collar, dog bowls—both food and water—and now this ad. We were a cool $2,000 out-of-pocket by now, I figured,
but I didn’t care. I
was out of patience. I was seriously stressed. I was at the end of my rope.

The ad had already attracted about a dozen phone calls, and two of them seemed to be genuine possibilities. One was from a woman who worked at the local animal organization in Tucson. When I explained to her that George had become a lot more than I could handle, she reacted excitedly. It was obvious
right away that she was a serious dog lover, and she wanted our puppy pretty badly. The other call was from a guy who lived a couple of hours away, up in Phoenix. He said he already had a couple of Great Danes in the family, and would very much love to have a third.

So, job done. With my wife’s very reluctant agreement, I had one decision left to make: who should have him? Whose home should he
go to? George, who was never far from Christie and me—ever—was sitting on the floor beside my chair while I was thinking about this, as if he knew that, right now, it was the best place for him to be. I glanced down, and saw the sparkle in his intensely blue eyes. It was the same sparkle that had first attracted us to him, the same sparkle that had Christie fall in love with him on sight. Did he
know? Was he already preparing for the worst? Was he already resigned to being put in yet another crate and shipped off someplace else?

But George didn’t seem to be thinking about himself. While I mused about how much had already happened in his short life, he seemed more concerned about me. He lifted himself up, tipped his head to one side and looked at me with
an expression that I’d already
come to know. “Hey, Dad,” it seemed to say to me. “What’s up?”

He then did something that would be appropriate if you were writing a scene for a movie. He got up from the floor and put his head in my lap, then looked up at me with those enormous blue eyes.

I looked back at the ad, to the two numbers I’d scribbled down, and I realized that, actually, I couldn’t let him go. He was part of our
family, and no matter what the hassle, no matter what the pain, one thing you don’t give up on is family. It was time to step up and be the bigger man.

I balled the ad in my fist and launched it inexpertly toward the garbage can. It missed, but what the hell. It was time to make the calls. Sometimes in life you make mistakes.

And often in life you make compromises too, because relationships
are all about compromise. My compromise, made one day in the summer of 2005, had been a pretty sensible one, I thought. I wanted to move back to Tucson, Arizona—my hometown—and it was clear that my then wife-to-be was less keen. We had already agreed—sort of—to move there soon, and she was busy looking for a job, so it wasn’t a case of “wouldn’t,” more a case of “would, grudgingly.” I wanted the move
to be special for both of us, hence the conversation. It turned out that she could be bribed.

“A dog?” I asked, seeing her determined expression and realizing this was probably a nonnegotiable part of the deal.

Christie nodded. “Yes. When we move to Arizona, I want a
dog. After all, we’ll have a house. We’ll have a yard. We’ll have the space…”

This left me pretty much out of excuses.

Christie
had always been a dog lover. I, on the other hand, wasn’t, though we did have dogs in the family. Growing up, my brother and I had two toy poodles. They were named Apollo and Sugar, and both of them had plenty of character. Had Apollo, in particular, been entered in an
America’s Funniest Home Videos
contest, he probably could have won it. He would get up on two front legs, then walk along and
pee at the same time—not a skill with an awful lot of practical application, but one that would have everyone in stitches.

Even so, though Apollo and Sugar were very much part of the family, I’d never considered myself a “dog lover” particularly. Both of them died when I was in my teens, and I had no desire, once I’d grown up and moved to California, to get another, even had I lived somewhere
suitable. As a consequence, I’d spent my adult life in a dog-free—indeed, pet-free—environment. And that was just how I liked it. Dogs meant responsibility, commitment, hassle: all things I was happy to live without.

Christie, who’d been raised in Seal Beach, in Orange County, California—a beautiful place right on the coast—had a dog when she was growing up too. The dog was a Dalmatian–cockapoo
cross named Spot, who’d been in the family since before Christie was born. Theirs was a pleasant enough, but not
really loving relationship. Perhaps because she felt she’d been usurped by Christie coming along, maybe because she’d always hated the name Spot, or possibly because she was just a pretty grouchy sort of dog, Spot didn’t seem to like her a whole lot, Christie told me. They got along,
but they certainly didn’t bond.

Spot died when Christie was about fourteen years old and she’d always planned, once she had a home of her own, to have a dog of her own too—one who was
her
dog, and loved her right back. So meeting me wouldn’t have been the most productive move ever, in that regard, had I not seen the writing on the wall. My fiancée wanted a dog and I wanted to make my fiancée
happy: if it made her happy to have a dog join the family, then so be it.

“Okay, then,” I said, feeling this might be the clincher. “We move to Tucson, and we get ourselves a dog.”

When I met Christie, in the fall of 2003, I wasn’t really looking to settle down. I was free of commitments, and enjoying that freedom, so the state of affairs suited me fine. I was thirty-eight years old, and despite
my parents’ endless comments about how the situation needed to change, I wasn’t in any rush to get married. I’d left Tucson for Los Angeles in order to go to college and study economics, having been seduced by California and everything it had to offer. I’d seen no reason since then to return to Arizona. Sure, Arizona was okay, and Tucson was too, but I had a good life, and a good business—pretty
much everything I needed, in fact. What needed to change?

In one respect, however, I wasn’t perhaps as happy as I made out. I’d recently come out of a long-term relationship when I met Christie, and though I was over it and getting on with life, I was probably still a bit vulnerable deep down. And, I guess, I was determined to play things cool. We were originally set up by my sister-in-law, who
had logically figured out that since the person I ended up with would be related to her, it made sense to have a hand in the choosing. Also, Christie was her friend, so she knew both of us pretty well, and she felt sure we would get along.

And she’d been right. Christie was really attractive and fiercely independent—something I realized right away. On our first date, we went out to a sports bar
in Long Beach and had drinks and some food. We had a relaxed, enjoyable time, but when it came time to pay the bill, Christie toughened up. There was no way she was going to let me pay her half. I liked that. Not because I didn’t want to pay—I tried my best—but because I recognized that here was someone who wanted things on her terms. She was her own woman, and that’s how she’s stayed.

She was
also great company; she was intelligent and feisty, and we started going out all the time. Despite my initial determination not to get too involved (some might say this had become my modus operandi), I realized that Christie and I had something good going on. Pretty soon we were serious and it was becoming ever more obvious that life without her no longer seemed so attractive.

It took less than
a year for me to reach the decision that this
was the girl I was going to marry. Marry, that was, if she’d have me, and I wasn’t completely sure she would yet. I planned my proposal carefully. It was December and we’d arranged to go to brunch. I’d booked a lovely outdoor restaurant that was sited on a clifftop; the balcony overlooked a large expanse of water, and the whole setting was pretty romantic.
It was classy too—the kind of place that gives you a bowl of mixed berries to nibble on while you sip your drinks and decide what to order. Christie had no idea what I’d planned to do over brunch, and the ring was burning a hole in my pocket; I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been so nervous, and I knew I’d have no appetite till I’d popped the question. I was getting more antsy by the
second. Hell, this was something I had never done in my entire life, and I couldn’t stop rehearsing the words in my head. Will you marry me?… Would you like to marry me?… Would you consider being my wife?… I just couldn’t seem to settle on the right words. It was almost like a job interview—really stressful.

As it turned out, there was a short wait while they got our table ready, so they sat
us in this area with a fabulous view. It was private, too, with only one other couple waiting near us, and they’d been seated quite a ways away.

BOOK: Giant George
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