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.

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