My wife and I have been thinking about getting her a companion dog (and for me also) since we have seen the cute little Bichon Frises while visiting our daughter in Pennsylvania. She had a Bichon for years, and her daughter has one now. We like the non-allergenic and non-shedding characteristics, and also that these dogs are bred to "do nothing but be nice and cuddly and loving." As someone said, "They are bred to do nothing."
To make a long story short, I started two weeks ago to look in the papers for a Bichon here in Austin, and found nothing. Someone sent me a (dated) note on Craig's List, or something like that. I called the number (in San Antonio), and the man said their dog had been sold "weeks ago," but that he had a number in Houston for me. I should have recognized right away that for a special dog like a Bichon, I needed to stay with the professional breeder line of people, but I called the number. The lady who answered seemed VERY knowledgeable, but talked a blue streak. I could not shut her up. She went on about her mother, who traveled with a Rolex watch, and "knew the difference" between a Rolex and a "regular" watch. She mentioned a place "out in the country," where presumably she raised Bichons along with other animals. She said she was a real-estate broker, and she seemed to interview me like I was a totally clueless (this turned out to be true) person who was not qualified to consider a pet like a Bichon, but she softened and did sort of relent since the dog would be a companion to my wife Diana, who would benefit so much.
By the time our marathon call was over, I was putty in her (garrolous) hands and was almost pleading with her to allow letting us come to Houston to her ranch or her estate so look at her dogs. It was almost like we were the dirt of the world and would she please be so kind as to even consider selling us a dog. In a two hour phone conversation, she had talked one hour and fifty minutes. She said she would think it over. Oh my, what a relief! I told her that we were free on Saturday and Sunday (the phone call was on Friday morning). She said she would call back and that perhaps, just perhaps, we could come and "meet the family." She added that it was up to the Bichons, as "you don't choose them, they choose you."
She called on Saturday about 2 p.m. and after another one-hour conversation of multiple tangents, I finally pinned her down and said we needed to know, and that we were free Sunday, the next day. She let me know that the dogs were expensive, mentioning $1,500. I gulped and said we could handle that if "it was a match." I tried to give myself a little lee-way. She then managed, at the end of the conversation, to let me know that all deals were cash deals. Of course I had maybe $75 on my person, and said that the best I could do was to tap the ATM at the bank, which I had never done since I like to walk in and see the tellers. I'm old fashioned that way. She mentioned that perhaps I could get roughly half (of the presumed $1,500) by tapping the ATM here on Saturday and then on Sunday in Houston. Then she would consider a check for the remainder.
If this sounds like a strange story, then just stay with me. I'm adding all this background, so you know what a terrific negotiator I am. Bottom line, I do feel like a Bichon would be good for Diana.
So on Saturday after that second conversation, I drove to our local bank and attempted to tap my local account for $600 . It was the first time I'd ever tried to use an ATM, believe it or not. "Amount not permissible." Tried for $500. Same thing. Tried for $300. Voila! Got $300 in six $50 crisp bills. But the receipt indicated that the particular "pocket money" account had only an additional $41 balance. Most of our local banking money was in my "author's business account" at that Wells Fargo branch, and would easily have covered the amount, but it was for checking only, and I did not have an ATM card for the other account. (Or did not, and still do not, know how to do that.) Committed to follow this thing through, I called my very good friend, a ham radio buddy with whom I have lunch every Tuesday, and he agree to front me another $300 in cash when we stopped by his place, out in the country, and a significant distance out of the way. So I called the lady back and agree that Diana and I would drive to Houston and at least "meet the family" of the Bichons. She suggested a group of four or five females in an age range from 1.5 to 6 years old.
At 11 a.m. Sunday, we left the house and drove out of the way to my friend's house where we talked a bit and he slipped me a sealed envelope. "Aren't you going to check the amount?" he asked. "You know that only mobsters and scammers never count the money. All honest people count it to be sure," he laughed. So I opened the envelope and there were three crisp, new hundred dollar bills inside. I put the bills into my wallet along with my six fifties, and not used to carrying any cash around, felt that I must be on some strange sort of journey when Diana and I pulled out of their rural location with five large ham radio towers and left for Houston. (Doesn't at least one of your friends have large radio towers and appear to be an NSA listening station?) Now with $600 cash and my trusty checkbook, we now would be able to do a deal if the conditions were right. And of course, if you ever have looked into the eyes of a cute little Bichon, you know that we had one and a half feet already in the deal.
To make a long story even longer, the drive to Houston from the radio maven's impressive Voice-of-America-like location was along US Route 290, one of two main roads between Austin and "H-Town." There was a "yuuuuge" (to quote our new Great Leader) lengthy stretch of detour in a construction zone as we approached Houston, and two streams of traffic roared along at 70 mph on a narrow road section parallel to a new freeway yet to open. It's a tribute to both the newer automobiles and the skill of the drivers that we all navigated the tricky roadway without accidents.
If you have never been to Houston, it's a totally unbelievable frothy bubble of never-ending housing construction, factories, shopping centers, etc. without zoning ordinances. A junkyard might be next to a gated high-end community of million-dollar homes. I've never seen anything like the development in that city, which seems to be under perpetual construction. Welcome to Texas, the growth center of the world, and apparently of the new America. Ain't this country great or what?
We had the address in the car's GPS and finally got into Houston's central series of major freeway loops, now nearly all toll roads (mostly built by foreign companies) since the Republicans don't believe in increasing gas taxes so all major new roads here are toll roads so those with money for tolls can go fast until they hit the bottlenecks and get into stop-and-go like everyone else. But back to my story.
The GPS kept leading us into neighborhoods that, to be charitable, I had not expected for the woman with "a ranch and a mother with a Rolex watch." The commercial signs on businesses started appearing in Asian languages including Viet Namese, Korean, and Chinese. Not that there is anything wrong at all with these fine immigrants, but clearly it wasn't a ranching or horse-country area, yet one of the many fascinating ethnic areas of increasingly diverse Houston. We passed through this congested area, and gradually entered an older part of town, probably built in the 50's and 60's. The houses were not large, but reasonably neat and orderly.
We were getting close, within one mile to go according to the GPS. I felt that the scene was not quite as I had anticipated, but we kept on. Finally, we were within a quarter mile of the address, and then on the street itself! These homes were smaller and in less-good outer appearance, in fact one could say some were "run down." Two pickup trucks were parked in most of the small driveways, and things of various sort were strewn around. I parked our car in front of what I thought was the house address (there were no house numbers visible) and told Diana to stay in the car while I checked. The first house I went to had a doorbell, so I rang it. No one came to the door. There was no sound from inside. Then I noticed that the address number was different. I walked one house over; it was the correct address. There were several boxes of junk laying outside the closed garage door, and the doorbell was missing ... there was a hole in the wooden frame where the doorbell use to be. So I knocked several times. A young man came to the door.
"Is this the residence of XXX," I asked. "Yes it is," he answered, and a lady in her mid-sixties came to the door. We introduced ourselves. Her resume on the Internet had indicated she was a commercial and residential real-estate broker and was an AKC breeder of Bichons, but there were no details. I went in. The house was small and very cramped. The living room looked to be about 10 x 15 feet, and was over-filled with sofas and chairs, old things, well worn, except for a child's playpen about five-by-five feet in the one open spot. Inside that playpen were four of the cutest little Bichons you ever will see. They looked clean and lively-very cute, but the whole thing just seemed to be so "down low" that I immediately told her "I think we will pass on this thing," and walked out.
There might be a time and place for us to get a nice little Bichon, but by then I had lost confidence in the lady, and didn't want to go on. She had led me on in so many ways what no telling what we would have been getting.
We got in the car, found our way out of the little neighborhood, and eventually got onto Interstate 10 heading west towards San Antonio. I was tired and disappointed, yet strangely relieved. We stopped for a bite to eat at "Tony's Family Restaurant" in Sealy, TX, an older restaurant that has seen its best days by far. I got the Sunday turkey special and Diana got a veggie plate while we watched the two televisions on the wall, which both were tuned to the Fox News Channel of course. God bless Fox News!
We got home at about 8:00. I was asleep in a chair soon after. What a day! Maybe next time. As a close relative mentioned to me, "Dog stories are universal. We've all had one."
Please feel free to post a comment here on the blog, or mail me directly at <firstname.lastname@example.org> with any comments. Please do recommend “Contact Sport” and/or "Reunion" to your friends. Also, I would be happy to appear at any book club or radio club within two or so hours from Austin to discuss either book.