The boys went back to school on Monday the 3rd, which meant that we wouldn’t have to worry about keeping them distracted when we went to pick out a dog on Wednesday. So I got up on the 5th, had breakfast with the boys, then drove them to school before coming home and meeting up with Maya, Robert and the crew to go to the animal shelter. There was a meeting the day before about what kind of dog we were going to look for, although that was gonna depend on what kinds of dogs the shelter had on the day we went. And this was the only shelter Sandy could find that was nearby and that would let us bring the camera inside. (Apparently they said, yeah, it’ll probably drive the dogs berserk…but it’ll also make a dang good commercial for the shelter.)
It was a cold day (for Southern California), so I put on jeans, a Dodgers hoodie and a ball cap. And of course a dang mask. Maya looked great as usual, but she always goes through hair and makeup before a shoot. Robert was in a buttondown shirt and a really nice leather jacket, so I reckon I looked a little sloppy…but we were going to pick a dog, not go have lunch at a fancy restaurant.
When we got to the shelter, we were met by its director, a super nice dude who cooperated with nearly everything we asked him to do, which was awesome. Not everyone is as cooperative when they have a reality TV camera in their face.
“Did you give a thought to what kind of dog you want?,” he asked us before the cameras got switched on. “Did any of the pictures I sent you yesterday talk to you? All those dogs are still with us.”
I didn’t know about the pictures. I guess they wanted me to help pick the dog live. Turns out there were a few pictures that Maya and Robert did like, but they were all of pretty small dogs…and that wasn’t what I had in mind at all. They were nice dogs (actually one of them didn’t seem to like any of us, not just me…and I was the one who got on his knees to let the dogs smell him), but none of them was “talking to me” like the shelter’s director said. I know it sucks to leave dogs in a shelter, and I guess you do feel like you’d like to take all of them home with you…but that’s obviously not an option.
Maya explained to the camera why we came to pick out the dog without the boys. Her argument – it no longer seemed like such a bad one after I’d had ten days to think about it – was that, if the grown-ups picked the dog, it would be a dog we felt we could manage…and there’d be no problem of Jacob liking one dog and Matteo liking another.
There were a lot of cages and a lot of barking dogs, probably because there were so many of us in there at one time and these dogs probably weren’t used to being filmed or anything like that. I suspected that what was going to happen was that we’d each have a favorite and Maya would decide which one was going home with us. There were a lot of factors to consider – you have to be realistic when you’re on a reality show. Yes, they wanted the dog for the boys…but the dog was also getting a TV role and we needed one who was intelligent enough to face the camera…and, maybe more importantly, not be afraid of the it. That was the one good thing about our having taken the crew inside the animal shelter. A dog that was going to be traumatized by a TV camera just wasn’t going to work for At Home with Maya and there were quite a few dogs who went to hide in the back of their cages when the camera was on them. (They didn’t keep the camera on dogs who didn’t want to be photographed, of course. But we did have to try to get the dogs’ reactions.)
The dogs were all shapes and sizes and colors, from a very traumatized-looking purebred Yorkie (like the dog we pretended to give Keaton for his birthday two years ago) to one simply huge dog that I kinda liked, but who was just too big, especially if we wanted him to be inside the house. I wasn’t sure what kind of dog he was, but you could tell he had a lot of character.
I could tell Robert kinda liked the dog too.
“Too big,” Maya said. “We just can’t have something that size running amok in the house.”
So much for her, then. (The dog, I mean. Not Maya.)
We were in there for over an hour (with a break so everyone could relax a little.) It was actually during the break that we found our dog, or, rather, he found us. Or, rather, he found me. His cage was a couple cages down from the really big dog, although he was pretty dang big, too. He looked a lot like a german shepherd, except for the face and floppy ears, which reminded me of a beagle.
“Is this a shepherd/beagle mix?,” I asked the director.
“That’s what we think. They breed them that way, although I don’t know what happened to this one. They’re expensive dogs when you buy one from a breeder, but some people just abandoned him. There were no signs of neglect or abuse when we found him, and you can tell he’s outgoing…”
That’s when I felt something cold and wet up against my hand, which I guess was close to the dog’s cage. He was sniffing me…and I reckon I smell good to dogs or something, because this one clearly liked me.
And the camera, too. He seemed interested in being photographed, although he couldn’t possibly have known what a TV camera was.
But mostly he liked me. Like he couldn’t take his eyes off of me the whole time we were in front of his cage.
“You’ve definitely made a friend,” one of the volunteers in the background said to me.
“He does seem to like you,” said Robert. “Is there a chance he could come out of his cage so we can get a better look at him?”
“Sure,” said the shelter director, signing to the volunteer to open the door. “Just wait until we put a leash on him after we open the door. And be prepared for anything. We never can judge how a dog will react to people at first…and we want to match the dog to the family. It’s unfortunate that your boys couldn’t come with you.” (That last comment got edited out of the show, of course.)
So I guess you’re already imagining the scene and what happened next. The dog was super excited to get out of his cage at first and jumped around, making it hard for them to get the leash on him.
Then he jumped up on me and nearly knocked me over. Standing on his hind legs, he had his front paws on my chest and started licking me. He couldn’t quite lick my face (that was a good thing in my book), but let’s just say that, if the dog knew he was trying out for a TV role, he couldn’t have done it better.
Finally they got him down off of me, and then he went around and sniffed Maya and Robert and the crew.
“He’s bigger than I imagined the dog we’d choose would be…,” Maya said.
Y’all can probably guess that the beagle shepherd (that’s apparently what they’re called) had won me over completely.
Maya went back to looking at other dogs, but I think the people from the shelter had made up their minds, too. They didn’t put the beagle shepherd back in his cage, but, instead, gave the leash to me to hold.
He looked smart (I think german shepherds are supposed to be very smart)…and I thought that he’d be fun to play with outside. I had a feeling I might be able to teach him to catch a frisbee, and, for some reason, I was fixated on getting a dog who could do that. And it’s not like we didn’t have plenty of backyard space for the dog to get exercise.
Ok, so by this time I was down on one knee and kinda playing with the dog already. Then I remembered what was really the most important question: did he look like he’d be the right dog for Jacob and Matteo? He was big, but he was also super friendly, and I didn’t think Matteo would be afraid of him, especially as he had that super cute beagle face with the floppy ears.
On the other hand, I could see Jacob getting into the fact that this was clearly a dog who was going to need a lot of exercise: the shepherd part would really appeal to him, I thought. So it was kind of like a best of both worlds thing: half the dog was suited to Matteo and half of it was suited to Jacob.
And, ok, he really liked me, too.
And then you should have seen how he looked up at me. It was a definite ‘please take me home’ look, and I’ll be honest and say I would of been super sad if we had to leave him behind.
Maya still wasn’t entirely sold, although Robert was onboard.
“Look at how friendly he is,” he said, giving the dog his hand to smell. “And he clearly likes Hunter.”
“But he’s so big…”
“Usually we try to match the dog to the family, as best we can and within our limited resources,” the director dude said. “But every once in a while the dog picks the family. I think that’s what’s happened here with…it’s Hunter, isn’t it?” I was surprised that she knew my name, then I thought he must have watched a couple episodes of the show before we came to invade his shelter.
“Yes, sir,” I said. “And he does seem to like me.”
“Do you think the boys will like him?,” Maya asked me. I could tell she was beginning to soften.
“I reckon so,” I said. “I think Matteo will like the beagle half and the shepherd half seems tailor-made for Jacob. He couldn’t be friendlier…” I was still kneeling on the floor next to the dog.
“And he’s definitely handsome,” said Robert.
“I don’t know…,” Maya said. “He looks kind of funny to me with that head on that body, but…ok…I guess I’m outvoted 3 to 1.”
Me and Robert looked at each other.
“Who’s the third vote?,” Robert asked.
“The handsome dog, of course,” said Maya, coming over so the dog could smell her hand. I know I may be imagining it, but I got the feeling that the dog really liked Maya’s perfume. Beagles have super sensitive noses, so I’m sure he noticed it, although I don’t reckon the perfume has the same effect on dogs that it does on me and Keaton lol.
At this point me, Robert and the dog were all looking at Maya, waiting for her to pass judgment.
“I guess we found our dog,” she said. “Wrap him up and we’ll take him.”
The dog clearly knew he was getting adopted and jumped up on my shoulders while I was still kneeling next to him. He almost knocked me over (but I’ll admit it looked great when I saw the film.)
“Whoa, boy,” I said, trying to calm him down. I didn’t think that Maya would have appreciated getting jumped on and having her face licked by a dog she already thought was too big.
We brought a leash and collar with us, but the collar didn’t fit. So he went home wearing his shelter collar.
“You’re going to need a sturdier leash with a dog this big, too,” said the volunteer who pretty much turned the dog over to me. “I’d stop at Petsmart on the way home.”
“We need to get him a bed, too,” I reminded Maya and Robert.
“Good thing we didn’t get one when we thought we were getting a smaller dog,” Maya said. “So I guess our next stop is Petsmart.” She turned to Ethan. “Do you think they’ll let us bring the cameras inside?”
“I’ll get on it,” he said, heading outside to make the phone call. So it was just the cameraman, sound man, me, Maya and Robert filling out the paperwork. Maya and Robert were the official parents, of course, but they had me sign some papers too.
“We want all the primary caregivers to acknowledge that they’re going to take good care of the dog,” the director explained. That seemed fair.
“What are we going to name him?,” Maya asked as she was filling out one of the forms. “Does he have a name?”
“Not that we know of. He didn’t have a collar when we found him. And we don’t give them names here, since it will confuse them when their new owners choose names for them.”
That made sense.
“Maybe we should let the boys name him,” Robert suggested. He looked up at the manager to see if that was ok.
“No,” Maya said, “what if they can’t agree on a name, then we’ll have a whole mess on our hands. Better to name him ourselves and present it to the boys as a fait accompli.”
“Any suggestions?,” Robert asked, looking at everyone in the room.
No one spoke up. I didn’t have a clue what to name the dog who was on the other end of the leash I was holding; I doubt that anyone else had much of an idea, either.
Then Maya said something that sounded like sneezing.
“What was that?,” Robert asked.
“Gechitzik,” said Maya. “It means ‘handsome’ in Armenian. I wanted the dog to have an Armenian name anyway…and you all said that he’s handsome.”
I guess I gotta explain how it’s pronounced, although we go into it on the show. The first syllable is GEH followed by that sound they have in Hebrew that I never could pronounce, the “ch” at the back of the throat, CHI, followed by TZIK, with the accent on the last syllable.
Yeah, it sounded to me a lot like “go get sick”…but Maya’s the boss, and I reckon it doesn’t sound as funny in Armenian as it does in English.
I got down on one knee to tell the dog his new name. He pricked up his floppy ears, so I guess he figured out that’s what we were going to call him. It might not have been his first choice of a name for himself, but, well…as someone who gets called el guapo all the time, you get used to it lol.
We got outside and, of course, the first thing that Gechitzik did was what Meemaw would have called ‘his business’, but I was surprised at how well he walked on his leash. The dog I had growing up would always pull at her leash and choke herself. Somebody taught Gechitzik to ‘heel’, I think. So maybe he was trained to do other things too. Or he was just trying to make a good impression on his new owners.
When we were in the Maybach on the way to Petsmart, I asked a very logical question:
“What are we going to do with Gechitzik until tomorrow morning? You want the boys to be surprised…but it’s not like it’s going to be easy hiding a dog this size.”
“Oh,” said Maya, “we have a plan for that. He’s going to spend the night in the pool house with you.”
“But the boys are in and out of there all the time,” I said. (If you ask me, they’re in and out of the pool house a little too often, but I reckon that’s what happens when what people think is your front door is sliding glass.
“That’s easy. We’re going to tell them you have to COVID and have to quarantine. You’ll pull the drapes and lock the door, Belen will bring you your meals…and we’ll text you when it’s time to open presents in the morning.”
I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said “oh”. It wasn’t my idea of a brilliant plan, but no one was asking me. They could just have said I was spending the night at Joyce’s while I hid out with the dog. Lying about my having COVID seemed a little like tempting fate…or maybe that’s just me being a superstitious ball player.
We did go to Petsmart, and it was pretty cool letting Gechitzik pick out his own bed. Although the closet in Sandy’s office was already full of dog supplies, we still got a bunch of things we didn’t figure we’d need until they told us at the shelter. Then we drove home, and I was super careful to unload everything dog-related from the Maybach so the boys’ surprise wouldn’t be ruined.
“But who’s gonna sit with Gechitzik while I’m picking the boys up?”
“Oh,” said Maya (I was starting to dread it when she started sentences with ‘oh’ lol) “we’ve worked that out. You tested positive for COVID this morning…so you’re already ‘in quarantine’. Robert will go pick the boys up this afternoon.”
I was kinda wishing that I’d gotten to be at the meeting (or meetings) when all this got decided, but there wasn’t much I could do except pull the drapes in front of the sliding glass doors and hide out with the new dog until the next morning…and hope two things: (1) that Gechitzik wouldn’t bark too loud and spoil the surprise; and (2) that he wouldn’t do his business (Keaton: “you mean piss and shit”) all over the pool house.