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I have heard that housework is like stringing beads without a knot at the end.  I remember the days when my very small offspring followed me around to un-do the work I had just finished.  Exhausting to recall, and yet, somehow I think back nostalgically on the days when my kids’ toys always cluttered the floor.  You love your children, so it’s really no sacrifice.  Time gets away from you and eventually you have to think pretty hard about the last time toys were strewn about the house.DSC00733

Just when it seems that your beads can be neatly strung, and “stay put” with a reasonable amount of effort, the unthinkable happens:  A PUPPY moves in!Christmas 2008 064

You asked for it, and you’ve got it:  toys scattered throughout the house again, and that’s not even the beginning of what you have gotten yourself into.  The clichés are true.  I discovered first hand that a dog will chew holes in your furniture, your carpet, your shoes.  They’ll scatter your trash and the stuffing from plush toys.  A puppy is a baby without a diaper or bib, but with opportunistic stealth and speed unlike any human child.  They’ll proudly present a rat as a gift (just once, thank you very much!) or climb up the kitchen counter to devour an entire stick of butter or half a pan of rising bread rolls.  (The bread dough cost us a late night emergency vet hospital visit and not a small amount of cash!)  You may wonder, as I do on occasion, what possessed you to do such a thing.  Well, I’m just about to tell you how it happened to me.

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The kids were pre-teens and along about the middle of November we were visiting with their cousins, who were (unlike myself) what you would call “dog people.”  They had recently made arrangements to adopt two hybrid mix (Pug/Bichon Frise) puppies in an attempt to remedy what they considered the totally unacceptable living arrangement of being a dog-free family.  Since moving into a small apartment the previous year, they had been mourning the loss of their two full-sized, purebred Presa Canario Mastiffs.  The “Puchon” pups were hardly their equals, but they anticipated that they’d fill some of the void and all of the space they could afford to spare for pets.  The pups were going to be old enough to leave their mother two weeks before Christmas.

IMG_0133While our kids were in the other room with their cousins, my sister filled us in on her plans and showed us pictures.  They really were–almost–irresistible.  A strange feeling stirred as the thought first occurred to us that maybe a puppy would answer our family’s concerns:  Christmas was coming, ideas were few and our budget was tight.  For just $20–to cover the cost of first shots–we could bring home the one available littermate.  We wondered and worried about having the commitment and resources to make room in our lives for a pet (not a goldfish).  Other concerns loomed larger–one child with a growing unsubstantiated fear of dogs, the other with an unreasonable aversion to being alone.  A puppy might address them both.

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But, no. . Maybe if. . .? No! I definitely couldn’t share my home with an animal.  They were never allowed indoors when I was a child (lots of kids, no space) and although I’ve always had a little soft spot in my heart for baby animals from a distance, I would never have considered myself a “dog person.”  I couldn’t live with a dog; I just never had imagined it.  My husband had always wanted one but had been denied.  His parents got a cat once he left home.  Now he wasn’t sure he could do it either.  But, there we found ourselves imagining the possibilities.  Dogs, I know, are good for teaching kids responsibility, and it would be good exercise for all of us to take her for walks.  We started going through a mental checklist of “puppy proofing” the house.  We learned about the breeds and considered our willingness to adapt our lifestyles.  We were inexperienced, but decided that we were up to the task.  In hind-sight, we had no idea what we were getting into, but we’re also 100% convinced that heaven intervened.  We were suddenly giddy with anticipation and about to burst, forcing ourselves to hold it all in until Christmas.Cookie in the Car 2

I put my niece up to calling our daughter on the pretense that she was going to “visit” their puppies and wondered if we wanted to go along to see them.  My sister set it up with the breeder and, winking and nodding we made our deal right under the noses of our kids, who were drunken with the joy of puppy love.  Even our fearful one couldn’t resist the sleepily calm, innocent nuzzles.

We could tell she was special.  They told us that she was the Pick of the Litter, and first to have been spoken for.  She possesses the best combination of her purebred parents’ features, and a really sweet disposition.  She could probably have been a show-dog, representative of her hybrid breed.  But for some illegal abuse of the classified ad, the breeder had refused to go through with the original sales agreement.  Lucky us!

DSC00732For about 4 weeks we endured the guilt of deceit, even in the face of our own children’s tears for wanting that sweet little pup so painfully.  We told them that we’d just have to enjoy playing with their cousins’ puppies when they got them.  We feigned apathy.  In a way it was easy to pass off the lie–our children knew us and really couldn’t imagine our family having a dog–but in another way it was heartbreaking for us, too.  The secret had to be kept; we justified, since it was the only surprise they would have for Christmas.

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We visited the day three little puppies were brought home to the cousins’ house.  Sworn to secrecy, my niece and nephew drew our kids away to a bedroom to adore their two new babies, while the adults stole away to another room to fawn over ours.   For two weeks the nameless little guest boarded in my sister’s home until early Christmas morning.

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Orchestrating her debut was a bit complicated.  My husband timed picking her up precisely, so that the kids were awake and anxious for the ceremonious Christmas morning gift opening, but unsuspecting that he had been “in the garage” long enough to drive across town and back.  We wanted to allow time enough for the squeaky toys and rawhide chews in their stockings to pique their curiosity, but not enough that our baby would get chilled in the garage.  In the end, my husband couldn’t wait for the kids to figure out that the squeaky toys weren’t intended for them, and brought in our little nameless Puchon ahead of her cue.  Even so, the surprise could not have been any more of a thrill.

DSC00759After the initial cries of disbelief and delight, the first business of the morning was to give our newcomer a name.  We agreed that we wanted it to sound cutsie, sweet, and petite.  After  brainstorming:  Cupcake, Twinkie, Tootsie. . . our daughter suggested “Cookie Dough.”  A bit long, we thought, but if we called her Cookie. . . well, that was it.  Officially, we decided, since she’s a  “deer” little fawn colored female, she would be known as “Cookie Doe“.

SunplusAt Grandpa’s house for our  traditional Christmas day gathering, Cookie was the center ring attraction.  She had a lot of admirers to get acquainted with.  She endured all the molly coddling, bamboozling, and nearly being stepped on by an overzealous 2 year old cousin with commendable longsuffering.  I would go so far as to say that she loved every minute of it.

IMG_0323I am happy to say that she survived (and we survived her first few nights of endless whining for her puppy brothers and sisters) and she has been part of our family for almost five years, now.  To her credit, she was easily and quickly housebroken. (That’s the one thing I really couldn’t have tolerated.)

Although I’ve been known to say that she might not have survived some of her antics had she not been so CUTE, she occupies a well-established place in our hearts and home.

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Cookie’s job description is as follows: guardian and child protector, mealtime taste-tester and kitchen floor clean-up officer, alarm clock, exercise-time monitor, emotional therapist, companion, foot warmer (and washer), mail carrier arrival informer, and over-all family entertainer.

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Cookie knows she’s loved, and she’s a loyal and unconditional friend.  She doesn’t play favorites, but has her own special relationship with each member of the family.IMG_0017

Eager to please, she’s equally willing to hang out with us when we’re sick in bed as to accompany us on a picnic in the park; or patiently wait beside us through hours of homework as to romp at the beach.  She wants nothing more than to be in the same space with her people.  Her little heart fills with joy and her entire body wags when we walk through the door after school.  She loves her walk so much that we have to spell it so she doesn’t get worked up about it if we’re not prepared to take her out immediately.  She finds genuine joy in catching and chasing nuggets of dog food around the room (a game we call “catch-a-foodie”) and she willingly practices repetitious commands that show off her tricks–up on her hind feet, backing up, going long for a catch, or rolling over for a bite.

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A dog is neither pretentious or proud–she doesn’t take it personally when we mock her for her “racing ears.”  We dubbed her “Density” in honor of the innocent look she gives us when we try to entice her to fetch her leash or play a game requiring her to retrieve a toy.  I honestly think she’s incapable of understanding the concept of bringing something back to you.  She epitomizes the stereotype, so we lovingly (of course) call her “Blondie” whenever she searches unsuccessfully for something that’s right under her nose or otherwise reminds us of the smallish size of her brain–very lovingly.

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Snow, leaves, sand or water; a treat, or the faint rustle of something going on in the kitchen–Cookie will be there to see what’s going on.  But the mere mention of a “bath in the tubby” (we have to spell or abbreviate that one, too) or a little whiff of hand sanitizer, well those things we call “Cookie Repellent” and can be used at any time to deter her from getting into the garbage.

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One day when we were discussing how we were going to come up with the money for an unexpected expense, one of us quipped in frustration, “what do you want to do?  Sell Cookie?”  Lying on the sofa between us, making it her business to stay out of ours, and yet, be on the ready in the case that her services could be useful, Cookie jumped to her feet and began wagging and licking.  Of course she didn’t understand, but it has become an often quoted reminder of her characteristic willingness to submit her will to us.  The mention of “selling Cookie” is always good for affectionate interaction.

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One of her favorite toys is her “baby,” a Webkins Pug.  She’s such a “tender” little mommy–having bitten the button eyes off, now she’s working on getting the stuffing out. She also loves (and has similarly treated) a stuffed bison toy from Yellowstone. IMG_1794

The decision to get a dog is long-term.  It can’t be taken lightly and must be thoroughly researched, but take it from me–it can be very fulfilling.  If I can make such a drastic conversion to “dog person”, I believe anyone can.   I love my dog, so it’s really no sacrifice.  I’ll take “stringing beads” and all the little inconveniences –shedding, repetition of commands (“get out of the trash!”) and the predictable 3 o’clock barking alert when the mail carrier arrives–in exchange for the priceless gifts of unconditional love and loyalty, emotional therapy, and devoted companionship of Cookie Doe.

Heaven’s gifts come in various surprise packages, sometimes even in the form of a dog.

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