For twelve years after that awful year when both Scruffy and Mutt went away, I refrained from being owned by a dog. There were some transient guys and gals that passed through my care. The most memorable one I called Dog, or more properly D-A-W-G. She was a boxer mix, 100% knucklehead, but she loved me in spite of the fact that it was too soon after Mutt's death for me to really bond with another dog. Her biggest claim to fame was being the only dog I have ever owned who chewed on the EXTERIOR of the house.
In about 1990 I made a stab at recreating what I had known. I went to a local shelter and adopted a black lab mix. I had an idealized notion that I could give it a home and in return it would become a great dog. That little dog (for it was only about 30 pounds or so) was probably the oddest one I've ever known. She had no decernible personality, an almost total blank. As someone who had always had dogs with distinct personalities, it was shock to me. I frankly did not know what to do with her and after six months of trying to find a spark I had to return her to where I got her.
Then in 1991 Mitzi and Fortune arrived. Mitzi was a stray that someone told us about. She was a small terrier mix (I think) who never had much use for me. Fortune was a Toy Poodle, apricot in color and as willful a dog as I've ever owned. These two made a good pair although Fortune was forever getting snapped at by Mitzi for invading her territory. One day Mitzi didn't come back to the door and I went out to find her. She was laying beside our garage looking pitiful. Somehow she had managed to break a front leg. $450 later she was good as new. Little dogs are fine in their place and can be fun to play with and they are always glad to see you, but I am a mid to large dog guy when all is said and done.
In the Spring of 1993 a customer of mine mentioned that they had a litter of lab mix pups. I decided to try again, this time with a very young puppy. Little Mutt as I quickly dubbed her was a neat little dog. Exceptionally smart she was 8-9 weeks old when I got her and in less than two weeks she was house trained. Shortly thereafter I noticed an odd wound on her side. It was an almost perfectly round hole that a tube was extruding from. As I inspected the wound, I felt that there was something IN her side. There appeared to be a tiny head that would bob above the surface of fluid present in the small wound. I really kind of wondered if I was seeing things but decided she definately needed to see a vet.
The vet diagnosed her as having an infestation of "wolf fly larvae". He had to cut it out of her side. She healed up and seemed good to go. She was a sweet little dog who chewed on one of my books but otherwise was an excellent animal.
The day before we were to leave for vacation I noticed that Little Mutt seemed to be breathing with difficulty. I took her to another vet, and he said she had a bad case of pneumonia. He said she needed to stay there overnight and be medicated. The next morning I called and was told she had died during the night. She had never really recovered from the wolf fly attack. So once again my heart was removed with a claw hammer and I had to endure "vacation" with the death of another beloved dog foremost in my mind.
When I returned from vacation it was with a determination to try again. This time I would purchase a purebred black Lab. I had always been around "mutts" (except for Dutch and Sadie) but decided my chances of getting a healthy and sound animal were better from a breeder. It was the best decision I ever made.
From an ad in The Washington Post I located a breeder in the next county and went to see his current litter. The litter was six black and six yellow and five weeks old. I sat down on the floor amidst a sea of squirming puppies not really knowing how I might choose one. One pup came over to me and climbed into my lap. Choice made. I put down the deposit and left impatient for two weeks to pass so I could take her home.
Two weeks later I picked her up and held her on my lap as I drove the 35 miles back home. Along the way she got my pants leg quite wet. It didn't matter. I had a Mutt once more.