We got a puppy!
I suppose it’s sort of crazy after a dog-less, 27 years of marriage and 20-plus years of cyclical getting up at night with our babies that I would, during the (finally and blessed) peace period of being able to determine my own nocturnal habits, voluntarily put myself at the mercy of an energetic, furry, non human being’s wake/sleep pattern and to be at her beck and call 24/7, at least for awhile. But I did.
Puppy house training requires multiple and consistent “catching” (as opposed to “reasoning” and “convincing”), sitting not on the bathroom floor as you do with a toddler, and which I might add is relatively comfortable, but rather standing, shivering in the cold, often rainy, November nights in excursions to a special place outside, hoping the coyotes don’t see you with this laughable excuse for a dog, which the wind could literally knock over, and which would be an easy first course nighttime snack for them.
Instead of cajoling with M&Ms and reasoning with a human toddler, I, and my oldest daughter, have been traipsing outside every hour during the day and every few at night with a teeny little two-pound mind-of-her-own Yorkshire terrier canine, reasoning with no one, simply shining a flashlight at her behind and encouraging and praising “success” when we see it. It goes something like this:
“Was that it?” I ask my daughter, not sure, “did she go?”
“I don’t know,” she says, “I think so.”
“Do you think we should wait a few minutes?” I ask.
“Probably,” she says.
And so we do, two smart women, two college graduates, standing in the misty freezing night, watching a dog’s behind, and trying to figure out the right course to keep the puppy dry until morning.
When we finally decide it’s safe to go in, we walk Little Miss Puppy toward the door, wipe off her little paws and behind with a baby wipe (I’m just that way), then dutifully mark down the events in the “Dog Log,” a binder with an Excel spreadsheet, which we keep on the cupboard. I put her back in the crate until the next hour.
Why? Why? Why did I do this?
I will tell you why —
I did this because we have a little eight-year-old girl who has been begging since she could first talk for a little brother or sister, and when she realized that wasn’t going to happen, she said, “Well, can we at least get a dog?”
I did it because the older kids are moving up and out and it’s nice to know this little one will be around for the next 12 or 15 years. She’s sort of insurance that I don’t smother the older ones. Plus, she’s cute and she follows me around, and — best of all — she doesn’t argue with me.
And finally, I did it because the circumstances were right. They just unfolded in a very comfortable way: My husband, on trip to the furniture refinisher with our dining room chairs last summer, sent me a picture of a puppy so cute (the refinisher was breeding them) that I swooned in the cluttered basement, which I was cleaning at the time I received his text. Amidst boxes and laundry and children’s toys I started to think what it might be like to have this teeny, little, cute dog.
I did it because after we had a hug-and-snuggle session with the puppy when we went to pick up our furniture, nobody reacted allergically. You see, some of my children have allergies so bad that I keep Benadryl in my purse and Epi-pens on hand always. While one daughter needs hospitalization if she so much as touches a cashew and my own eyes puff up and swell shut if a cat so much as enters the room, this little creature didn’t elicit so much as a sneeze from anyone.
And she liked me. I could tell.
My husband looked at me. “Do you want her?” I nodded. That was it. …
The girls were thrilled. My husband loves her. He named her “Dino,” and thence began the events at the beginning of this column.
I’m not going to tell you that Dino is adding some huge, big message to our lives, or that she makes us holier or better Catholics. She’s not. But by having her we are learning about receiving God’s little gifts and appreciating more of His creation. Dino’s presence is stretching us in new ways. Making us patient. Helping us calm and slow down. She has been inconvenient, and sweet, and loving, and causing us to grow and relax, individually and as a family.
And those things alone make me glad we have added this puppy to our lives. Joy. Peace … and learning a little more about God through His creation.