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Archie and me: Meet the newest Kelly, a skinny rescue dog with a tennis ball habit

Everybody’s gaining weight during this pandemic. My Lovely Wife and I just gained 60 pounds. They’re curled up behind my chair as I type this, and they’re named Archie.

Archie is a dog: a 7-year-old yellow Labrador retriever whom we drove down to Yorktown, Va., to pick up last week. The paperwork said his original name was Marley. Marley 3, actually. It’s a popular name for dogs. The vet practice that first saw him already had two Marleys in its records.

Marley is a fine name, but as far as columnists’ dogs go, it’s already taken. They say it’s bad luck to change the name of a boat, but apparently changing a dog’s name is no big deal. Say the new name in a singsong voice while you’re offering a treat and soon the dog will be eating out of your hand. Literally

Why Archie? Well, he’s supposedly a yellow Lab, but he’s actually sort of reddish — “fox,” the man from Lab Rescue LRCP said. Red hair put us in mind of Riverdale’s Archie Andrews, from the comic book. We anticipate high jinks at the malt shop.

Is Archie really a Lab? He’s Labbish but seems to have some hound dog in him, maybe Great Dane, maybe Weimaraner. He’s long and skinny. (Too skinny. We have to fatten him up.) He has a skinny tail, too, not the rudderlike appendage of a true Lab. A friend from South Africa said he reminded her of a breed from her part of the world called an Africanis.

Archie is a mature dog. He’s a little white around the muzzle and has the weathered face of a veteran character actor. Archie reminds me of Harry Dean Stanton.

Archie has expressive, caramel-colored eyes that sit under an often-furrowed brow. Friends who have seen photos keep asking us why he’s so doleful. I think Archie just has resting sad face.

But who knows what Archie’s life has been like? It was five years ago that we lost Charlie, our late, lamented black Lab. We adopted him from the same rescue group when he was 18 months old. We never knew Charlie’s backstory, and we don’t know the history of Archie, who has a much longer tale to tell.

We know he came from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I don’t think he was mistreated there, but I think maybe his family couldn’t afford to care for him properly. His ribs show, his spine, too. He has a few health problems we’ll need to address — along with adding 10 pounds.

You never know what you’re getting into with a rescue dog. The first few nights I wondered whether I’d walk downstairs and find Archie staring at the water heater pilot light or sitting at my laptop, transferring our savings into an offshore bank account.

He probably wonders about us, too. Are we humans he can depend on?

We’ve known Archie for barely a week, so we’re still figuring each other out. We know someone taught him “sit” but not “stay,” that he eats his food fast and is crazy for a tossed tennis ball. He knows we don’t allow him on our bed, but we do allow him on the couch.

It’s been five years without a dog for us. Five years where we could work late at the office without wondering who would let the dog out. Five years we could nip off for a long weekend away without worrying who would take the dog. Five years free from the fear of not having enough poop bags in our pockets.

Now our house is suddenly filled with dogtritus: dog beds, dog toys, dog treats. We have towels by the door for Archie’s muddy paws. It is a good thing we don’t mind the warm, yeasty smell of a big dog or the drifts of hair that come off his body like canine corn silk.

A dog will change your life. That’s kind of the point.