Wednesday, February 26, 2014

There's Just Something About Puppy Love

As I settle fully into 2014, the perspective I have of 2013 sharpens and clarifies itself and offers me some depth to its context. I made it through 2013, day by soggy, weepy day, pressing on, life requiring of me to continue in its comfortable, if not monotonous, schedule. A few people around me were aware of my situation. I tried to hold it close to me, somewhat ashamed, and somewhat wanting to hold my feelings secretly to my chest, like a rare and valued treasure. What I can fully own now and proclaim is that it was one of the hardest years yet that I have lived in my life. And I am not out of the woods yet. The second launch looms.

There were many wonderful moments last year and many blessings, too. We were all healthy, we were all together, fun times happened, good things came about. Many could look at the data of the year and wonder over my petition to call it a hard year. Let them wonder. Hard times are really only defined internally and sometimes have nothing to do with the events going on around us. And as I fully take in 2013, I will say that, all good moments banked and remembered, it was still one of the hardest years of my life. {I did not say it was my saddest year. I said it was my hardest.} I press on. I remember and tell. I ponder and query. I press on.

Of all the events that occurred in 2013, I will say that one of the bright spots for my heart had its seed planted on February 15...and that seed quickly sprouted to bloom on February 23. {I have never professed to be a slow mover or a patient planner.} But, to be truthfully honest, I guess the seed took root in 2006, and was probably planted back in the '70's.  

Having grown up in a family of 6, with 3 siblings, we were the traditional busy, full house of the '70's, living simply in a 3-bedroom house built in the '50's. Space and time and privacy were hard fought battles and seldom won. I know of only one instance where my mom firmly put her foot down and came out the victor, round after round after round. Working and raising the kids and cooking all the meals and doing all the laundry were enough for her. And so she held her toe at the line firmly on life with a dog and life without a dog.

There were a few marked exceptions. They were somewhat akin to prison breaks: defiant to the rules, freedom hard earned, little ground gained, a brief sense of a different life, and a dismal return to where you started. My dad was a dog breeder early on, and I have no recall of the Besenjis that were around. A black and white border collie followed and her name was Sissy. She was not "my dog" and I am not sure exactly what happened to her, although I can guess, given she was a yard dog and our back was not properly fenced. She was not around in the years after I started kindergarten, so the memory of her is more of a name paired with some photographs.

The one exception that I remember was truly our Christmas miracle. One year the gods deigned to bestow upon us kids for Christmas a puppy. A little floppy eared, wrinkly skinned, soft pawed Basset hound. It was probably 1975-ish. I will concede that my older sister Pattie was probably the proactive pleader that year and had really been angling for a family dog, that she would of course secretly work to make her dog. :-) Dad, always having a soft spot for her, somehow struck a deal with mom to allow it. 

I can still recall the utter excitement of that morning, of watching my sister jump up and down as all 4 of us fought to purchase some of that real estate on the dog's skin. Sister's exclamation during the excitement named the dog. What was meant to be some other name came out as Corky and the name fit and stuck. Corky was a wonderful dog and the only pup I had in my childhood, the only time I watched a dog grow up and bond and witnessed firsthand how they can impact a family. Sadly, Corky did not live for many years, but the memory of puppy breath and weight at my feet and warmth by my side was put away into my vault. He was our one and only failed attempt at a family dog, so my memories of him were all I had for many years.

All four of us kids now are dog families. I chuckle inside when I think about it. I guess the beauty of adult life is that you get to cross the lines drawn for you early on, and learn for yourself what your lines are meant to be. Steve and I got our first puppy early on, probably before our second anniversary. I fell in love with a Cocker Spaniel and Teddy came home to live with us until the boys were born. Teddy was discovered at that point to be a biter, so we fostered him to a family with a farm and began the days of diapers and Cheerios, when Fisher Price offered up the only dogs we had in the house for many years.

The year that Andrew started kindergarten, I knew the house would ring too hollow if I were rattling around in it by myself.  Six weeks before he started at Milam, we purchased a Yorkshire Terrier puppy, which I adored and named Harry and promptly spoiled. Harry was my buddy for 11 years and when we had to put him down in May 2012, I felt like my insides were folding down and my heart ripped away a little at the ends. And as 2012 folded into 2013, and the first college launch appeared on the calendar pages of the year I was actually living in, my heart pronounced it had healed enough and was ready to adopt and love and spoil another fur baby. There's just something about puppy love.

In 2006, on a visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico to visit family, I went for a walk outside my sister-in-law's home and saw the two most beautiful white dogs, sitting there beside their owner as he read a newspaper. I found out what breed they were and did research on and off again on them, knowing I could never bring in a "second child" against my Yorkie, Harry. Nonetheless, my heart knew someday I would hope to have a Westie. And someday arrived in 2013. As the winter gave way to spring and the weather began warming up, I started my internet search engines and found the pup I wanted.

A few email exchanges during a workday between Steve and I, and a few email exchanges with the breeder, along with some research on her dogs and talks to her dog adopters, I was sending in a contract, making a deposit and arranging a pick-up day. {I have to pause here to fully acknowledge that I am gifted with one of the most wonderful and loving and supportive men that God ever created. He knows my heart, loves to nurture it, and enjoys my own pursuit of happiness.} I think the only thing that surprised him about my petition for another pup was how long it had taken me to formulate it. 

Pick-up day dawned, oldest son bribed to accompany me on the round-trip 11 hour drive, gas tank loaded, pup accessories packed, and Saturday, February 23 found Philip and I headed out. Our destination was the Little Rock airport, where my wonderful breeder, Nancy, would meet us and I would get to pick up the most beautiful little fluff of white fur I have ever seen. It was love at first sight and a wave of puppy heaven washed over me as I watched his little wiggle-dy bottom prance around on the pebbles while he stretched his legs, got to know us, and prepared for the long ride home to Texas.

I knew when Philip asked if Truman could ride in the back with him, that he was equally enamored with the little fur ball, and it was a sign that our Truman would be more of a family dog than the lap pet Harry had been solely to me. Truman has won each of us over in his own way with his playful antics, his sweet love, his bull-headed terrier west-itude and his desire to be right where we are, in the middle of any and everything. If anyone doubts a dog can communicate, they have never met a Westie. Truman has no trouble letting us know exactly what he thinks and needs and expects us to do. 

I know that while we celebrated his first birthday on December 23, it was on February 23 that I commemorated that he has been here with us now for one full complete year. He has been the bright spot of many a day. He has been by my side for all the tough days. {Yes, he even went with us on the dreaded college drop-off...a culmination of Steve's and Philip's desire to include him and my sense of needing him for the attention diversion he would offer all along the long way from Texas to Tennessee and back to Texas.} He has proven himself to be the best little buddy and has added laughter to so many dark moments. 

Just like my brief moments with Corky over 30 years ago, and then again with Teddy and Harry, Truman has worked his way into my heart and offered unconditionally to me a little heart that in return accepts my love, that greets me warmly every time he sees me, that follows me everywhere, that unconditionally wants to love me back. And that little white fur ball, that little being that I nickname Boo, because he's like a little ghost of a person, makes me so very happy. There's just something about puppy love. And it just might have rescued me once or twice.

Truman ~ Remembering Gotcha' Day ~ February, 2013

Paper: Bella Blvd., Imaginisce

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