Avery Monchito, aka Monkey the MonkI never was much for Bad Boys. I’ve always been attracted to the aloof chin-scratchers who fight with words and not fists or intimidation. But unwittingly, I fell for one, and I fell hard.

Avery Monchito, street name: “Monkey,” was a special kind of dog. And when I say special, I mean in all meanings of the word.

He was a beautiful dog – golden haired, soft to the touch who felt exactly like a premium Gund stuffed animal . . . the ones you pay top dollar for. He also had a feminine look about him. One of the reasons we adopted him in 2001 was because he reminded Brent of Seiko the Watchdog, a dog we rescued from the busy street behind our house when she escaped while her parents were away for the weekend. Brent fell in love with that dog in the very short time we had her and thought, “Well they look the same, they must be the same.”

He could not have been more wrong. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, Avery was trouble from the get-go.

The shelter told us that he had been adopted and returned four times that year. We said, “Bad pet owners.” The shelter told us that he was returned once because he growled at the lady who adopted him. We said, “Clearly an inexperienced dog owner.” The shelter told us that he didn’t really like other animals. We said, “He’ll get over it in our house.” So, it was really our fault when everything that the shelter said came to pass.

That first couple of weeks (indeed 3 or more years) was trying. He viciously snarled at Brent when Brent tried to move him off of the bed that very first night in our house (result: a life-long ban on furniture sitting). He chewed through 2 steel kennels out of panic, nervousness, or boredom (result: drugs, counseling, and lots of money spent on training books). He picked on (read: attacked) the other animals in the house (result: a life-long practice of getting everything last – food, attention, having the door opened for you when you need to go outside, etc.). By Day 3, Brent wanted to return him to the shelter. Over my dead body, I said. We were warned about this behavior, and we made a commitment to him. Animals are not disposable. So, over his enthusiastic objections, we kept Avery, thus starting an new life with a new set of expectations.

The Journey of Discovery

Avery, Lord of the ElvesLike most shelter animals, you never know their true history. Avery was no exception. One of my first memories of him was when we first brought him home and let him loose in our enormous backyard. He ran the most exuberant figure-8s around the yard that I had ever seen. It was not a tear, but more of a sustained Sunday-drive kind of a run. Like Pepe Le Pew chasing after the cat with love in his heart. Head up, chest out, eyes half closed, feet barely in motion yet gliding along the ground. It was so joyous.

I remember thinking that maybe we were giving this dog something he had never experienced before — freedom. For, you see, there were signs that at least part of Avery’s first 5 years without us were spent solely as a Yard Dog. While our other dogs scrambled to get out of the rain and snow, he would stand outside in the worst weather without a second thought. Especially in the first few years, he would not pass any dish of water without trying to drink the entire dish dry, whether that dish was a puddle on the ground or a gallon-sized container. This dog had been deprived of something or neglected, to be sure. But untangling those issues would both try our patience and teach us patience.

We discovered his unexplained fear of power tools. During the construction of our neighborhood, he would tremble at the sound of a nailgun a block away. When Brent worked in the garage, Avery would be curled around the backside of the toilet in the bathroom on the other side of the house. When he jumped off of the second-story balcony at my brother’s house many years ago, we thought he was just stupid, until we found out almost 5 years later that my brother was using a power drill on that same balcony with the door to the house closed. Avery jumped 2 stories off of the balcony to get away from the drill.

Some discoveries were fun, though. Like the time was I was dancing around the house and being goofy, clapping my hands and singing some made up song. For no reason at all, I jumped and yelled “SIENTASE!” Avery’s tush hit the floor. In all the time we had him, I often wondered why a 5-year-old dog didn’t know any basic commands, like Sit. But it never occurred to me that Avery spoke Spanish. So, we started learning some basic commands in Spanish (abajo, venga), and it felt like we were finally coming together as a family.

The Monkey is in Day Care

Avery, by any definition, was not a smart dog. He was like the teenager that every family loves to complain about who never seems to learn his lesson. Avery was our problem child.

But he was also, quintessentially, my dog. He followed me around the house. He pined in the entryway for my return when I was away (whether to the mailbox or on a week-long trip). And he listened to me when I corrected him, where he often gave Brent the middle claw and the cold shoulder.

I think (or at least I hope) this was because I understood him better than most. Monkey was tough, but when you broke through the crap, you found that he wanted what we all want – someone to lean on and who would be there for him no matter what. He learned not to trust, but he trusted me (and eventually Brent, though that took longer). That trust was earned, to be sure, and it was a great badge of honor. 5 homes in 1 year would take a toll on any foster kid, and who knows how many before that. But once he found that we weren’t going to give him away for his bad behavior, he loosened up, if only a little.

After a long battle with unconfirmed and undiagnosed illnesses (not for lack of trying, mind you), we had to let our Monkey go tonight. It was as painful a decision as anything you could ever imagine. And it was made all the more painful by the fact that we spent gobs and gobs of money on specialists that told us, yes, there is something wrong with him, but, no, we don’t know what it is. Finally, in the end, it came down to tumors in his liver, but we know that wasn’t what has been causing him so many neurological problems all these years. It doesn’t really matter why, though, does it. The tumors and the infection were enough. He felt like crap and there was nothing more we could do for him. I held him and kissed him and apologized to him and told him that I loved him. He was a rotten scoundrel of a dog, but oh God am I going to miss him . . .

In the Beginning

That Funky MonkeyI’m not the first to say it, but it is true that when you come to the end, you think about the beginning. The first day I met him, the first day we laid eyes on each other, I was sitting on the Petsmart floor after I reluctantly agreed to see this dog. He walked right over to me, turned around, planted his butt in my lap, and growled at the neighboring dog at the mobile adoption. This, in a nutshell, is Avery. The street-punk Momma’s Boy. Brent was the one who initially just had to have him, but in the end it was me who had to have him. And letting him go is a kind of sadness that I cannot begin to describe.