Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why Did I Do This Puppy Thing?

It's not like I am asking this question out of desperation or any regrets. On the contrary, I'm literally amazed about what this "puppy path" has done for me. From my innermost place where there are no words, I finally began to form some coherent realizations to my "Why did I get a puppy?" question. After all, I'm more often a cat person. My disposition and life-style have demanded a less social and more independent friend and that has not changed.

What has changed?

It could be my age. I'm a mother with two young adult sons. Maybe since they don't need my attention so much I could turn my skills and nature toward another (and loving) being, to nurture and play, train and care for.

It could be my lifestyle. I'm a librarian who now holds three part-time jobs, and I have the blessed employers who are foresighted enough to allow some work from my home office. So I'm here more often than not and like the company. She reminds me to get up from my computer every couple of hours or so (we're house-training, after all). She's quiet, not yappy or wild, though she can get puppy-crazed at times. She likes routine as much as I do and she doesn't mind when I plan out the day as a schedule. We kind of let each other lead although really, I'm the boss and she seems to know and like that (maybe that will change during her adolescent phase).

It could be the puppy herself. I think this is the bottom line. Sophie is amazing. Her size (small, not toy), breed (Maltipoo), disposition, intelligence, and eagerness to learn are making this whole adjustment time work. She's the closest thing to a perfect puppy that I've ever seen. For the first time, I feel that I will miss her puppy-hood. Usually I'm drudging through the potty training, teething, mouthing, high energy, and initial training (sit, down) with a forced-upon patience.

This time, I'm laughing and playing and catch myself wondering what I did to deserve such a good friend. It's just what I needed to get me through this bleak recession and the winter months ahead.

I checked out a few books and did some research, of course. It took me about a year to come to Sophie after a couple of trials and errors. Books about the breeds, puppy training, and Dog 101 are essential and I'm a fierce advocate for puppy prep prior to bringing the bundle home. You just don't know what to expect, though.

Many people equate the new family member as similar to having a new baby in the house. I believe this is true to a point. Puppies grow a lot faster than humans and her needs are, in a sense, more basic. This little fluff ball is delightful, but there is no way I would confuse my daily interaction with her as anything more or less than the human-dog relationship. Yes, I coddle her some. I have to admit that. She goes with me just about everywhere I can take her.

But Sophie is no wimpy lap dog, either. The Maltese is a traditional royal dog, and I can see that in her. Her mix of Maltese and Poodle initiates intelligence and loyalty. She guards me with a growing love - and it's mutual. Her full white and apricot non-shedding coat keeps her from getting chilled during rain and chilly fall morning walks while we romp around the leaf-strewn paths.

And here's a bonus: Thanks to my Prius's GPS, I can see the park-lands in green with little evergreen trees identifying them, scrolling by while the map follows my car's route. Before, I had no reason to pull off my main errand-running ruts. Now, I say to Sophie "Let's go!" and her little tail gets a-waggin'. With leash and clean-up bag in hand, we see which way the path leads us. If a runner or another dog-walker approach, Sophie is delighted but is learning to also be polite.

Yesterday's revelation - that I would miss these walks in the woods, by creeks and riverbeds - hit me hard enough to bring tears to my eyes. This little being had brought me to places I really needed to see and be in. The early morning sunlight, fresh air, and exercise are generally a good thing. But combine that with a devoted look of love and delight from my black-eyed pup, and I am stunned.

This is why I have a puppy, and not just any puppy, either. This is why Sophie and I are friends forever. She is precocious and fun and challenges me to re-examine my wants, needs, and self. She is a gift as precious as any new found friend, and I am truly lucky.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Standard time resumed a week ago. It's one of those things that cause cyclical feelings, which never seem to be resolved. As a librarian, I look forward to the inevitable question(s), "Why do we have Daylight Savings Time?" and "What's it all about, anyway?" because I can't ever remember this one. I know it has something to do with farms, or maybe school-aged children and safety, or perhaps it is really a way to save electricity (Daylight "Savings" is my clue). None of this really makes any sense to me however I look at it. So, every year I find the answer through a very good source, pass it along to my patron, and promptly forget.

Where I live (Delaware), when winter approaches I end up going to work in the dark and by the time I return, it's, well, dark. So what is the relevance of changing from Daylight Savings to Standard Time? How does it apply to my life and to those around me?

It's mysterious, like a ritual performed for a long-ago and shadowy cause. There are so many other problems that are screaming for attention, like the current debate surrounding universal health care and the double digit unemployment figures, the unsolved wars and threats of new wars - domestic and abroad. When I recall this week's shootings in Orlando and Fort Hood, I shudder with worry, helpless as a bowl of Jello facing a tsunami. The whipped cream - the upcoming holiday season - doesn't stand a chance.

How does the U.S. measure our anger index? The strength of such an emotion is made evident in a variety of ways, from seething silence to loud destructive behaviors.

I recall President Obama's words while on the campaign trail:

One of the things I think the next president has to do is to stop fanning people's fears. If we spend all our time feeding the American people fear and conflict and division, then they become fearful and conflicted and divided. And if we feed them hope and we feed them reason and tolerance, then they will become tolerant and reasonable and hopeful. And that I think is one of the most important things that the next president can do, is try to bring us together, and stop trying to fan the flames of division that have become so standard in our politics in Washington.

— Barack Obama, You Tube

His message rang true and it fed the flames of hope in many of us. Fear is a short-term but effective way to control a nation. But where are we now? Why does my stomach still tense up when I face another month of bills and wonder if my and my family's health will hold on, our income will hold on, we need to hold on and get through this. It is a bleak time in America and I believe our complacency is wearing thin.

If only I could hibernate through the dark of our winter. Yes, a teasing and fleeting thought, but not this librarian's path.