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Illustration by Raz Latif

Since the pandemic has landed upon us, causing such isolation and distancing, my wife and I have been thankful to have a dog because he gets our rear ends off the couch and away from our screens and Netflix reruns. But walks to the dog park are more than just poop-n-scoop duty. Now, I must admit, I strut, with good posture, chin up and head held high. I am the proud caregiver of a purebred “studmuffin.”

The hunt for our pup began last year when we found that – for the first time in our lives – we were without a pet in the house – we missed that living, breathing, cuddly presence in the room. We couldn’t see our grown children or grandkids so we decided to find a dog.

We perused pet adoption websites and all the pet-for-sale ads that we could find. Boy, the prices of puppies for sale was high! Obviously, lots of people were looking for something to care for while cooped up and away from everyone. The search went on for weeks. And we checked the ads daily in order to be at the front of the line. One day, bingo! An ad appeared on Kijiji showing a good-looking smallish purebred poodle. Hmm, hypoallergenic, house broken and eight months old. How perfect was that? But the ad came with a warning to read all the details carefully. So we did.

First the kids, then the dog: at some point, everyone leaves home

Although the asking price for the pup was less other purebreds, there was a condition: he came with a breeding contract.

Step No. 1 was an interview, in fact, a “meet and greet” with the dog and the breeder. Well, the dog was a knockout, friendly, cuddly, cute and smart – and he obviously loved us big time. He was everything that a pair of retired folk needed and wanted.

Step No. 2 was understanding the six-page legal document defining our responsibilities in legal terminology. It covered diet restrictions, holistic veterinary care rules, insurance needs for health and life, and on and on. The nuts and bolts of the contract specified that the pup was to be made available to the breeder “on demand” in order to ”service” selected females who will have come into heat. He could not be neutered until his breeding responsibilities were complete. We, therefore, would be the dog’s guardians and not become his owners until his breeding days were done.

Undeterred, we signed up as soon as we were approved suitable. And soon, Diesel moved in. He took over immediately. He decides when to nap and when to play and when to go outside. He even sleeps on the bed with us. Who knew that 12 pounds of dog would dominate all that mattress space?

Here is how it works. I receive a heads-up text from the breeder about a week in advance of the day when Diesel will be needed. We are, for all intents and purposes, on-call. During this time, the female is being tested by blood samples in order to determine the day of optimum opportunity for conception. On the chosen day, both dogs are delivered to the chosen veterinarian, whereupon they retire to the back room and are probably given some degree of privacy. I say probably because I have never been allowed in that back room.

My job is to go away. I do some errands and drink a bunch of coffee and pace back and forth like I did when our kids were born. Later, I am summoned to retrieve our hero.

Apparently, Diesel was selected for this role in puppy production because of his good bones and willingness, – well, eagerness – to respond keenly when called upon. So far he has not been in need of either instruction or encouragement. At two years old, he has sired several litters of healthy puppies. The past litter was 11 puppies and the breeder has lost count as to precisely how many pups our little man is responsible for.

When I arrive back at the veterinary office, I sit and wait in the waiting room until I am informed that he has punched the time clock and is free to go, as his work here is done. There is usually a bit of a wait, as the two dogs, having done the deed, are probably having a cigarette. On the way home in the car, he sleeps. Another day at the office, another litter, no big deal. I, on the other hand, strut with chest puffed out, from the car to the house. My boy, the studmuffin! Just saying.

After all, a stud is not just some sort of lap dog, is he? I mean, just to be given the title of “stud” carries with it an aura of pride and a feeling of achievement, if not a bit of a swelled head. Certainly, a reason to make one stand tall and puff out one’s chest.

With the stifled and limited interactions dictated by the pandemic crisis, my chief role in life has been redefined, redacted and simplified. I have been transitioned from an active, engaged human being to becoming a full-time escort for the studmuffin, and I could not be more proud. In five to seven years his stud services will be curtailed by neutering. At that point, we will be three simpatico retirees. Picture us on the couch watching old dog movies on Netflix.

Peter Brown lives in North Vancouver.

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