When giving thanks this time of year, the big things come to mind – good health, the safety of loved ones, a happy marriage. But sometimes, it can be for something smaller – in this case, a spotted puppy.
A new puppy has joined our extended family, and the joy he brings is just infectious, even if I am enjoying him – for now – from across the state.
I have written before about our grand-doggie Ellie, an Old English sheepdog whose adventures have brought her near and dear to our hearts – visiting us after travel across the state in one of those terrorizing-for-her modes of transportation, known to others as an automobile, only to survive a rollover wreck unscathed; sitting on my lap and smothering me with a faceful of kisses; and consuming nearly a pound of chocolate and (happily) surviving that, too.
There’s nothing like a dog for companionship, unconditional love and just darn cuteness. Sorry, cat people, dogs rule.
My son, Sam, and his fiance, Ryan, have shared a small one-bedroom apartment with Ellie and knew they couldn’t get a much-desired second dog until they moved to a larger place. That move took place last spring, and once they settled in, got used to new commutes and figured out some logistics, they began to look for a younger sibling for Ellie.
A rescue dog had been the goal, but for a variety of reasons, that wasn’t working out, so they started looking at other options. Ryan said, “what do you think about a Dalmatian?” Sam’s eyes lit up. You see, a Dalmatian had been the dog of his early childhood. Bonnie was the first dog Bruce and I got a few years after we married, and all of Sam’s earliest memories have a Dalmatian in it.
When Sam and Ryan got together, it was a package deal. Ryan and Ellie had come to Seattle together from Dallas. She had been a rescue and was his roommate, best pal and companion through the changes in his life, including relocation, new job, new friends and – eventually – falling in love. Happily, Ellie allowed as how Sam could be a part of her life, too. Had she not, I’m sure it could have been a deal-breaker, which, as an appreciator of all things canine, I can most definitely understand.
Now, Ryan is not just a lover of dogs, but he would cheerfully bring home every stray pot-bellied pig, llama, ferret, pony or other critter needing a home. He’ll often post a picture of said needy or cute animal on Facebook, sometimes, I think, as a trial balloon to gauge Sam’s reaction. Frequently there will follow a post from Sam simply stating “nope.” Their home would be a refuge for all unwanted animals without some restraint, and Sam has often had to be the guy pulling back on the reins.
So the delight was almost unmeasurable that a puppy would finally be joining the family. A litter of Dalmatians had been born in Duvall, Washington, this summer, and in October Sam went to pre-select a puppy, who would then be theirs after a bit more growth and the first puppy shot. It was decided that Ryan would remain home, as they both knew he was likely to gather up the entire litter and not leave without them all in the back of the car. So, in due course Roger Dodger the Dude came to his new home with Sam, Ryan and Ellie.
It’s been a bit bumpy, poopy and a definitely joyful new adventure. At first, as queen of the household, Ellie wasn’t so sure about sharing the spotlight with the spotted flash that seemed to inhabit every nook and cranny of the house and who zoomed around the place as only a new puppy can. And how dare he commandeer one of her chew toys. Much attention was focused on her, and after a week Her Majesty seemed to warm up to the idea of having him around, even joining him in play in the yard.
I have been enjoying the experience of the new dads integrating a puppy into the household, dealing with poop patrol (happily, they have hardwood floors), figuring out sleep, adjusting and alternating schedules and trying out one technique after another to find what works.
I suggested a few things, but, while I wasn’t rebuffed, I was assured that there are YouTube videos that cover everything and that they’d be fine. Good thing they couldn’t see me smiling over the phone.
They’re trying crate training and would like Dodger to sleep in it at night. The first night he cried and cried, so Ryan slept on the floor next to the crate. The second night, they took him into their bed. The third night, I gently offered that perhaps they might move the crate’s location, throw some of their not-yet-laundered T-shirts into the crate and then cover the crate with blankets.
Next-day text from Sam: “Moved the crate downstairs and covered it. Also put in an old shirt from the hamper. Made all the difference. Thanks, mom.” I smiled.
But then, that’s what puppies are about – smiles and delight and love. Sure, I am thankful for a warm home and all the big things. But right now, my thankfulness is focused on a small spotted bundle of happiness. Welcome to the family, Dodger.
Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.