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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Writing Is On "Paws". . .

My oh my how time runs away from me these days!

When I was younger, I had it in my head that as I as got older, time would slow down and I’d have more of it to do the things I wanted to do.


Instead, I feel like the cartoon where a tiny snowball starts rolling downhill, but then it starts picking up speed, careening faster and faster as it goes out of control down the hill, getting fatter as it goes. That’s me. 8-)

Things at my job have finally calmed down a bit – in outpatient clinics, things are typically slower between Christmas and New Year’s, so I’m thankful for that blessing. But I bought myself a peck of trouble. Trouble on four legs. Yep. A puppy.

A few days ago I posted about my beloved Cody, on a day when I was especially hard hit with his absence from my life. But I have turned a new page in life.

I love the lab breed and wanted another one. I’d gone to the Humane Society about a month ago to look at a black lab mix of about a year and a half old, and he was sweet and affectionate as could be – only he was already exhibiting very obvious signs of hip dysplasia and I knew it wouldn’t be long before he’d need surgery, so I opted not to take him. If my life circumstances were different and I could have shelled out that kind of money in advance, I still would have taken him home. But I had to pass and pray that he would find a home with a family who had more resources available to them then I did. And by the grace of God, he was adopted to another interested family, so far as I know.

But now I was doubly heartbroken – missing Cody and missing out on a chance to bring a new dog home. I routinely surfed the shelters and breeders, but only very rarely did a dog’s photo click with me. So I continued searching. Then on Friday, December 14, I came upon the picture of a chocolate lab mix named Captain Morgan, about a year old. He was at a no kill shelter and I was in love with his picture.

I didn’t know until I was on my way to look at him that he was named for some kind of rum. I thought some kid named him after a cartoon or something. 8-) So I went to the shelter and was disappointed yet again. Oddly, Captain Morgan had no interest whatsoever in people – completely indifferent to humans and it broke my heart – I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to him in his young life to make him that way. But I knew, once again, that I had neither the circumstances or the ideal set up to work him through his trials, so I had to pass, beautiful dog though he was (and marvelous with other dogs!).

But all was not lost. My friend pointed out another dog there – an 11 week old pup of golden brown. She was listed as an Australian Shepherd mix, which made no sense to me because she looks nothing at all like an Aussie. But I fell in love with her and brought her home.

Boy oh boy have I forgotten how much work a puppy is! Truly, it is like having a newborn human infant to look after. Rising at all hours of the night to take care of their needs, having to watch them every single second for their safety and the safety of your furniture. Never a moment’s rest. And writer’s life? What writer’s life? I hope I can remember what my novel's about when I finally get to get back to it! There is no room for any coherent thoughts except “The pup got quiet. What is she into now?” and chasing down the hall to find out.

But it is so good to have a dog in the house. I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “A house is not a home without a dog.” Amen to that. So absolutely true. There is a warmth and liveliness missing from a home that has no dog.

I’m so thankful to have her. And to cover the exhausting days of little sleep and constant watchfulness, I look forward to when she outgrows her puppy phase and can move about independently without so much fear for her well being.

But you know something, she’s been with me for one week now, and while I’m glad to have her I’ve noticed two things. First, she doesn’t alleviate my mourning for Cody, and second, I still want a lab.

And of course those thoughts make me second guess myself. Did I let my heart run away without my brain? Did I jump in and move too soon in getting another dog? Am I just over-reacting because I’m exhausted from the constant puppy-watch mode I’m in right now?

And I’m also aware I have to be careful in my raising of her. She’s walking in a long shadow – Cody’s shadow. I feel a bit like those annoying parents who are constantly telling their younger son or daughter, “Why can’t you be more like your older brother/sister?” Cody was such a terrific dog. But she can’t be Cody. She has to be Aztec. With all the faults and benefits that come with being her.

And, because none of my friends can figure out what kind of dog she is either, I’m looking forward to seeing her grow up and (hopefully) figuring out at last just what kind of Heinz 57 she is. She’s smart (though I don’t think as smart as Cody), she’s cute. Playful. Affectionate. Willfully stubborn (please Lord, let there be no terrier in her!) and though her coat length and color have nothing in common with collies, she does have the face of a collie puppy. But I can’t figure out her breed for the life of me. She has the crinkly forehead like a Basenji or Rhodesian Ridgeback but seems to share little else in common. I do know she’s going to be a good size dog – I figure she’ll weigh about 60 pounds when she’s grown, at least if her thick sturdy legs and good size paws are any indication. It will be fun to train her and watch her grow.

But we’ve had a very rocky road this first week. As much as I harp on people about being responsible with pets, I failed to take serious stock of my life and consider just how much work a puppy was. To have a puppy, you must by necessity give up any semblance of having a life for the first several months, particularly if you are the primary care-giver. I admit, not having a pet to care for most of this year has made me lazy, so having to rush straight home from work to let the dog out without any stops on the way home has been a splash of cold reality. My renewed commitment to go to the gym has fallen through, as I can’t leave her alone during the weeknights too after she’s been home alone all day long, despite her pet-sitter visits. If I want to go out to dinner after work, I can forget it – no time. Have to get home to give her a potty break.

And her willful insistence on chewing furniture, boxes, and other inappropriate things, despite having TONS of toys to chew on, has grieved me to the point of despair – thinking I was going to have to admit my mistake and that I could no longer handle having a puppy. On Saturday and Sunday this week I was very depressed, wondering if the best thing I could do was confess I’d made a terrible blunder and return her to the shelter where a big family could adopt her and keep her busy.

But then on Sunday night she surprised me by giving me three glorious blessed hours of peace. She calmed down considerably. I didn’t have to keep constantly getting up and going from room to room to check and see what she was doing. She actually played quietly then slept quietly on the living room floor while I took a nap on the couch (I think she sensed I wasn’t feeling well). I wish there were words to describe how that helped the black cloud of despair to lift off of my shoulders, but even as a writer, I can find no adequate words.

That three hours gave me a glimpse of hope. About the dog she will be when she grows out of infancy. Of the warm, close, relaxed companionship we can have as we both grow older.

I’m not wearing rose colored glasses. I know she’s going to tempt and try me many more times in the coming months. I will have more bouts of despair when we butt heads. And I know she can never be Cody.

But I’m so thankful to be back among the dog world.

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