April 2018

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ode to Joy

There’s a shoe-brown dog treat on my bureau in a milk bone shape. On the living room floor lies a menagerie of puppy toys: a grey bear that squeaks so it’s a little scary, a red mouse that’s bigger than the bear and squeaks but isn’t scary at all, and a shag bright green frog with a red tongue but no other facial feature. In the kitchen where the garbage can used to sit is a blue mat with pink and blue bowls for Dosey’s food. Salmon treats spill onto the chair-side table, and freeze-dried beef liver sits on our butcher-block table. The house smells like sweet cardboard (a description my friend Mary might use for her wine). Dosey has taken over our previously tidy house, and we love it.

Last week, my partner Ann, our dear friend Ellen, and I took the car to Spokane, a five-hour drive, to pick up a 4.6 pound puppy, Dosey. Ann and I had been on a waiting list for this cavapoo, a smart, affectionate, small, hypoallergenic child of a King Charles Cavalier and a miniature poodle, since last October: nine months. She was worth the wait, and we needed the time to get ready.

In that six months, we hired builders to put a fence around our backyard (though she’s digging under it already), read three books about raising a puppy, and watched several videos. The author of one book, the “The General” scared us about how easily in the first few weeks we could mess up this puppy for life. Were our puppy to pee or poop on the rugs inside (both of which she has done), we were instructed to roll up the newspaper and spank ourselves (which we have not done). Our badness in training her would have led to her badness; thus, we would need self-flagellation.

Sunday morning, we met her breeder, Jennifer, in a hotel parking lot and watched one of her brothers being taken away, tale wagging, by someone else who had a long drive ahead of him. When Jennifer handed little Dosey to me, she was willing to be held by me, a stranger, but she did not yet wag her tale. 

Dosey rode in her crate in the backseat beside one of the three of us all the drive home. She was remarkably mellow for the first four hours, but there was heavy traffic, and she was tired of the ride and her own patience for that last hour. She’s sweet, but she has her limits.

She has limits, and she can establish limits. We saw her ability to establish limits when we took her to a puppy play day nearby. Some of the puppies were more the size of ponies, so she and another small puppy played under the chairs, protected by the people sitting above them. Each time a rambunctious, pony-sized puppy approached and tried to smell her butt (a dog’s version of “How do you do?”), she barked once at them to back off, and they did. She approached a gentle giant of a puppy, one who dozed the whole time we were there, and said her own, “How do you do?” He just rolled over, but not on her, thankfully. She’s brave and not stupid.

We saw this combination of courage and caution when she met the vacuum cleaner. She didn’t squeal, but she also didn’t go up to smell its butt. (Where is its butt, anyway? How can you trust a noisy thing without a butt?)

Dosey’s tried to set limits with us as well, as we have with her. I’m not sure who’s winning to contest for alpha female. Sometimes, Ann says, “Dosey, you’re the best dog in the world.” Other times, Ann calls Dosey “Princess.” This is not a compliment.

Because Dosey is in the socialization period, we introduced her in her first week to as many dogs and people as possible. Last week was a busy week. Friday I counted 35 people that she had met at our home: over the weekend, she started visiting.

She went to church with us Sunday, and was a hit among the young and old alike.  After church, she made particular friends with Susan and her son’s Australian Shepherd, Rainie. Though Rainie’s much bigger and boisterous, the two dogs bonded. Susan took photos of them hanging out on the carpet, at one point nuzzling nose to nose.

We love this puppy already. At the beginning of the week, Ann (who is not given to hyperbole), kept saying, “We have the perfect dog. ” Since then, Dosey has peed and pooed  on the carpet a few times, chewed on Ann’s shoelaces and learned to voice her displeasure in a very high octave when we lock her in her play pen. So she’s not perfect (she fits in!), but she’s pretty darn fabulous.

I bastardized a song for her from my childhood camp, Seafarer. You can sing it to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”:
Good morning, Dosewallips, how are you? (clap, clap)
Do you know that Ann and Mary love you, true? (clap, clap)
It’s time for work and play
In this urban scene today,
So let’s get started:
We’ve got lots to do! (clap, clap)

Music seems appropriate for the joy this puppy brings, but perhaps something less campy and more symphonic like Schiller’s "Ode to Joy" would be more dignified.

I sang the campier ode when I woke up around 10 am one morning (I even practiced), but Dosey and Ann had already been busy for hours. Ann took her outside for her morning constitutional and then for a walk down the block. Ann says Dosey stopped often along the way, sat down and looked up at her like, “What exactly is the point of this walking?” Dosey tried going up each set of stairs (she loves to visit people, and could understand a walk for this purpose.) When they reached the end of the block and Ann let Dosey turn around to head home, Dosey sprinted. I do that, too, in my run-like-a-drunk-person-who-uses-a cane kind of way.

True joy elicits music as well as poetry, but I haven’t had time to write any of my own yet, so here’s Mary Oliver’s  “The Sweetness of Dogs” with slight revisions:

What do you say, Dosey? I am thinking
of sitting out on the lawn to watch
the moon rise. It’s full tonight.
So we go
and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself: one iota
pondering heaven. Thus we sit, myself
thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Dosey, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.

I would read this lovely poem to Dosey, but she is dozing at my feet. Which reminds me of Glenna Luschei’s modern haiku “Home”: 

Dog at my pillow. Dog at my feet. My own toothbrush.

I’m home. (There is actually no dog at my pillow. I love Dosey, but she has her own pillow.)

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