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  • I was living in New York City. Josh, my boyfriend at the time, and I had just gone for a lovely Sunday brunch and were strolling along on the Upper East Side. We walked past a pet store on Lexington called “Raising Rover & Baby” and decided to go in to look at the cute puppies. Most of them were little yappy "purse dogs"- which aren't really my style- and then there was one little ball of wrinkles that was 6 times bigger than the rest of them and 10,000 times cuter. He was the only pup in the place not barking up a storm and I was instantly drawn to him- you might call it love at first sight. I sanitized my hands and leaned over the plastic crate to pet the magnificent creature. His fur was like velvet. He put his little paws on the edge of the crate and stood on his hind legs to reach toward me, with his little wrinkles collecting around his curled tail. He started chewing on the ends of my hair. I looked down at his handsome little ears and perfect puppy face and I fell in love.
    The owner of the store, seeing the emblazoned Neon "SUCKER" sign above my head, immediately rushed over.

    “What kind of dog is this?” I asked.

    “That’s Walter. He’s an Ori Pei. It’s a new breed. A hybrid between a Shar Pei and a Pug. We usually don’t name the puppies, but he’s been here for two months.”

    Walter was the most perfect name for him. He looked like Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men with all those wrinkles! I thought, “Poor Walter. Why didn’t anyone want this adorable specimen of a dog? Because he wouldn’t fit in their purse? I need to rescue him!”

    “And he’s on sale!” the owner exclaimed.

    “Really? How much?”

    “Fifteen hundred- down from twenty-three.”

    A rational person may have seen this as the moment to walk away, but me- never having had a dog in my life, never having researched dog prices, living paycheck to paycheck to pay my NYC rent off of my teacher salary, considering only how amazing it would be to have this precious dog with me at all times and knowing that I had just gotten a $2500 Americorps scholarship check, thought, “Wow, $800 dollars off?”

    Josh just shook his head. We stepped outside and talked for a little while and he tried to make me think rationally for a moment. So I compromised and went back in with a few questions.

    “I will need to travel home by plane sometimes. Will he be allowed? How big will he get?”

    “Yes. He’ll be under 20lbs. He’ll fit right under the seat” He walked over and picked up a travel carrier (with a price tag of $230 unbeknownst to me).

    “Will he shed?”

    “Not at all.”

    “What else do I need?”

    His eyes lit up as he promenaded around the store collecting everything I would “need” for my new puppy- eye wipes, ear wipes, wrinkle wipes, a plush giraffe, a light blue kong that looked like planet earth, puppy food, treats, the carrier, a squeaky heart, a bed, a crate, a harness, a Gucci lead, bowls for food and water, wee pads, bitter apple spray, etc.

    “That will be $2,300. Visa or MasterCard?”

    GULP. I handed over my card and tried to think only of how amazing it would be to take Walter for walks to the dog park and cuddle with him and teach him tricks. I picked up my new puppy. We hailed a cab and took him to his new home.

    A week later, I put Walter into his $230 carrier, hopped on the m101, and took him to the vet for his immunizations. It was a tight fit, which is probably why he threw up all over the interior- making it un-returnable. I told the vet that the pet store owner said Walter would be under 20 lbs and he laughed hysterically. Anyone who knew anything about dogs would know that a 12 week old, 12 pound dog with paws that were huge for his body would not be under 20 pounds when it was fully grown. Unfortunately I didn’t.

    Walter grew to be 45 lbs by the time he was 12 months old. He will be 5 in April. He has never flown on a plane because he can’t fit under the seat and it turns out that snub nosed dogs can only fly in the under carriage when the temperature is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which doesn’t happen often on Summer and Winter breaks between Cleveland and NYC. He has however thrown up for the entire 8 hour commute every time I’ve had to drive him back and forth. He sheds- a lot! It turns out an Ori Pei is just a glorified mutt- not even recognized by the AKC. Ori Pei puppies go for about $500 on puppy finder. Walter has cataracts and is now blind in one eye. (The surgery to repair it costs more than human LASIKS.) He has chronic ear infections. But he is still the most incredible dog. I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world.

    In the future, however, I will never buy a dog from a pet store. It’s embarrassing how gullible and misinformed I was. If you’re looking for a pet, do your homework! ADOPT! ADOPT! ADOPT!
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