The Constant Companionship of Merf: A Love Story

A lot has changed since I was last on the dating scene in 1997, the year I met my husband. I’d like to think that in the almost 20 years since then, that I have grown into a mature woman who can spot poor relationship potential from a mile away. By this point in life, most women know that sociopathic tendencies in males are always wrapped up in boyish good looks and needy charm.

I had no intentions of entering a new relationship at my age, especially with a dependent, somewhat paranoid stalker who, despite his rugged handsomeness, smothers me with obsessive behavior and smells like a Dorito.

Meet Murphy, a shelter dog, who embodies all the red flags of an unhealthy relationship, and to quote Taylor Swift (another woman who falls prey to good looking strangers), “I knew he was trouble when he walked in.”

The Backstory

My kids started a new school one month into the school year (a whole other story). My son, who had enjoyed the privilege of popularity at his old school, was feeling the sting of being the new kid.

Since my husband and I survived a 1970’s and 80’s childhood – you know, where dreams never really did come true – we are trying to do the opposite with our kids. It’s a social engineering experiment, where we have no idea what the outcome might be. So far, the results are mixed.

Anyway, last week, my husband took the kids to go and look at water heaters when they wandered into Petco. It just so happened that the Hawaiian Humane Society was trolling the aisles with shelter pets as lures looking to catch a sucker.

Boy, did they ever.

Murphy Giaretto

Meet Murphy

I received a text with the attached picture and the question, “Can we?” I didn’t respond to the text. My cell rang and I was hoping that my flat tone would say it all. In a hushed voice, my fast-talking husband made the argument about what a wonderful companion this dog would make to our son, especially now, with the new school and the five minutes of friendlessness situation.

Sigh. Make that two suckers.

So, Murphy (or “Merf” as we sometimes call him) came home with the family instead of a water heater. (Due to my husband’s travel schedule, we still don’t have a new water heater.) I hope that doesn’t come back to bite me in the butt… (See what I did there?)

Now, sometimes I struggle with my allure as a woman. I mean, I’m okay, I guess. My features have hardened slightly over the years due to negotiating with small children all the time and I wear Bernie Sanders glasses that slide down my nose due to lack of a bridge (making those features just a tad more stern), but when I get dressed up and put make-up on to go out, I mean, I am not trying to brag, but I could totally pose for TUNIC magazine.

Truth be told, if a young man approached me in a bar these days, it would more likely be to tell me that I remind him of his Auntie Barbara, and that’s okay. That ship has sailed for me – or at least I thought it did – until Merf.

Love at First Sight (For Merf)

The door burst open and let in some squealing kids and a barking dog. Great. I got up from the computer to come and inspect our latest bad decision.

That’s when Merf first layed eyes on me – the object of his obsession. His soulful eyes locked with mine for a second of burning passion, then he leapt out of my son’s arms and came bounding towards me, and proceeded to perform a tribal sort of dance. His dance moves were erratic, kind of a jump with a hump, and then he whirled himself around, proving his manly abilities despite his small stature.

He kind of reminded me of the ONE time I saw my husband dance back in 1998 at his friend Joe’s wedding, where the Sambuca flowed – and it showed.

I realized that there was another pair of eyes watching Murphy’s tribal love dance to me and my amused reaction. For the past 16 years, we have had a lovely lady of a dog, named Molly. She was my husband’s gift to me on our first wedding anniversary. She is Pomeranian of pure breeding and has been a composed, polite, and helpful companion over the years. The kids love Molly and Molly loves the kids, but she is a senior citizen now, who spends her days snoozing in between meals. She does not fetch or play or even walk without a stroller anymore.

Suddenly, I was filled with remorse. After her years of service as my personal assistant, I was rewarding her by introducing a scraggily little mutt with no manners and tons of energy into her retirement home. I made a decision to keep a friendly distance between Murphy and myself, just so Molly wouldn’t think I was replacing her. Besides, he needed to bond with my son.

Murphy spent the rest of the day ignoring my son and following me everywhere. I drew the line when he tried to join me in the shower. No way, Murphy! (He didn’t even buy me dinner.) He sat outside the shower with his nose pressed up against the glass watching my every move. When I got out of the shower, he licked the water off of my feet and legs. I got back in the shower…

I intended to settle Murphy in my son’s (his rightful guardian’s) room that first night. I brought Murphy to his room and when my son and I were assuming the spoon position in our nightly cuddle, Murphy took a flying leap and wedged himself between us before our bodies locked. When I got up, so did Merf. I layed back down, so did Merf. I got up again…We did that little exercise in crazy a few more times before I gave up and Murphy followed me downstairs to watch me watch HGTV.

Now, we have a strict no dogs in the bed policy. Well, we did. When it was time for bed, I took Murphy back to my son’s room and went to check on my daughter. When I got back to my room, Murphy was already sprawled across my bed resting his head on one paw (and wearing leopard print mini-briefs). I took him back to my son’s room and ran back to mine, this time shutting the door behind me. I could hear him crying on the other side of the door; I felt a pang of guilt and then went to brush my teeth. Back in the bedroom, all was quiet. I hopped into bed, inhaled some clean linen freshness, and turned out the light.

Cue the creepy sound effects.

First, there was a thud and a bit of a howl and then another thud with a growl. Terrified, my husband and I looked at the door, which was now vibrating. With each thud, eerie light from the hall nightlight came spilling through the cracks in the doorframe. The thuds grew more intense.

What the heck? The papers from the Humane Society said he only weighed 13 pounds? It was like a horror movie, and the only thing standing between us and the gates of hell was a door made from particle board.

Tired and defeated, we let the demon in. My husband suggested that we let him sleep in our bed for just ONE night given all that he had been through in the past twelve hours. We let him in the bed and he claimed his spot right in the middle. I rolled over to face the other way and he spooned on my back. He didn’t make another sound, except for a little growl now and then if my husband reached for my hand or his foot touched mine.

I have never spent the night in a Frito-Lay factory, but after waking up with Merf attached to me all night, I am pretty sure I can tell you what it smells like.

We got up to go and wake the kids for school. Merf followed me to their rooms and jumped on each of their beds and licked them until they woke up giggling, a departure from their normal groans. Downstairs, he supervised the morning rush activities, then waited on the porch and entertained the kids until the carpool arrived. When the kids got in the van, he observed the boarding procedure and stood on the sidewalk and watched the van until it disappeared around the corner.

Back in the house he presented my husband with his harness and then brought him my daughter’s slippers. A walk was needed, point taken. When they got back from their walk, my husband started to pack for a three-week trip that would leave me alone with the kids and the brand new (to us) dog, because that’s how we roll.

My husband left on his trip and Merf has spent every second by my side. For some reason, in my head I can hear The Police singing “Every Breath You Take.” When I leave the house, I hear him crying mournfully inside. When I come home, he cries at my return while performing his tribal love dance. He even cries when I shut the bathroom door as if I have shot an arrow through his heart.

This dog, I swear. If he was a man and we were dating, I would run!

It has taken some time to get used to the constant companionship of Merf. I think it a blessing that my husband is gone because there is a feeling of security to having a dog (that can hear) while I am alone. Each night when we go upstairs after the kids are asleep, Merf jumps on their bed and sniffs them until they move, and then when they move or wake up slightly, he licks their faces. At first, I was really annoyed by this nightly ritual, but then it dawned on me that he is checking on them. This mutt from the pound is checking on my kids, and when he knows they are fine, he kisses them goodnight.

That night when I crawled into bed I made room for Merf, not only in the bed, but also in my heart. Our routine has changed and that takes some getting used to, but even Molly seems to have a little spunk in her steps these days. When Merf brings his harness for a walk, she also gives us the sign that she wants to go too.

Yes, He Won Me Over

As I type, he is barking his head off at the neighbor’s taking out their garbage. He watches, he listens, he warns, and he waits. He is part guard and part Casanova. I admit he has won me over. I only pray the water heater can last just over another week until my husband returns.

If you are considering a dog, please consider a shelter dog. The Hawaiian Humane Society has so many to choose from. Merf was turned in by his previous owners because they were leaving the island and they could not take him with them. Sadly, I think this happens all the time in Hawaii. The upside is that we are the beneficiaries of a dog that is smart, house-trained, and even knows a few tricks.


If you are considering a dog, please consider a shelter dog

Oh, and FYI, Merf was neutered by the Hawaiian Humane Society the same week that we took him home. Tomorrow he has the all clear for a bath, which should take care of the Dorito smell. Strangely, I have gotten used to it and a freshly cracked bag of Doritos will probably always make me think of Merf and our courtship.

My next post will be about real estate (I promise), but for this week, this is my Hawaii Life.

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6 Responses to “The Constant Companionship of Merf: A Love Story”

  1. Karena M Adams
    October 20, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    AWESOME my friend!! You have an incredible gift for making people feel like they are right there with you!
    Such witty and smart commentator! Keep them coming..!!

    Forever your fan,

  2. Lee Johnson
    October 20, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    LOL Erin. Enjoyed and amused thanks!

  3. Malia
    October 21, 2016 at 7:54 am #

    So funny! And congratulations on your new family member :)

  4. Anne Caron
    October 22, 2016 at 7:15 am #

    How fabulous!!! I hope Merf has made your son”s school transition easier!
    Congratulations on your new family member.
    Take care, Anne

    • Erin Giaretto
      October 25, 2016 at 11:18 pm #

      Thanks, Anne!

  5. Beth Thoma Robinson
    November 10, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    One of my favorite blog posts ever on our site! Keep writing!

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