It had been almost three years since the passing of my first dog, a Golden retriever I was deeply in love with named Hope, when I developed my first symptoms of puppy lust. My family had adopted Hope when I was in the seventh grade. She was two years old. In my eyes, she was irrefutably perfect. In reality, she never could walk well on a leash, didn’t ever understand the concept of giving the ball back during a game of fetch, and during her final few years, had horrid gas that would sometimes cause her to jump in the air in surprise and then turn around to examine the smell, as if to say, “Who in the world did that?” In the ten years that my family had Hope, she never once had an accident inside other than the first day we met her (that I recall), when she raced into my brother’s bedroom and emptied her bowels onto his carpet out of sheer joy. She was simply too ecstatic to hold it in. She never left us after that day. She slept in my bed each night until, for reasons I can’t recall, she was told not to, after which she slept on the floor beside my bed, my hand draped over the side onto her stomach.
Hope died of aggressive bone cancer in March 2006. At first, I had to wear sunglasses any time I was out and there was a chance to run into a dog. I would burst into tears at the sight of a Golden. It was embarrassing, but I couldn’t help it. I never thought I’d want another dog again, and for a long time, I didn’t.
Then, very slowly, my pain faded to that dulled absence that follows the death of someone irreplaceable in one’s life. I found myself frequenting the website The Daily Puppy, and reading those happy little paragraphs of people with their new dogs. (You had to wonder, where did all these people find such perfect puppies?) Over time, and to my great surprise, I developed a case of puppy lust. Or to be more precise, dog lust. It wasn’t a puppy, per se, that I wanted. If I was honest, I wanted Hope back, but since that wasn’t possible, I was jonesing for the next best thing, another dog.
B handled this well. We joked that least I wasn’t pining away for a baby, which neither of us felt (or still feel) ready for. I’d point out the well-behaved dogs we’d run in to now and again, and slowly but surely, B came around to the idea. We were both very honest: Neither of us wanted a puppy. Too rambunctious. We’re boring people, book and movie people, quiet people. Our cat fits this perfectly. Zoey has grown lazy at four and a half years old. She much prefers to nap on our laps than to run around. Kitten-like energy pops up once every two weeks or so, and then passes.
Fast forward four years, and we’ve welcomed Scout into our lives. We obviously fell for the puppy route after all, and believe me, it’s as hard as people say it is. Maybe even harder, at times. As much reading as we did, it could not help us summon the calmness and patience that we would need in the moments Scout is pushing us most. Scout has a cycle, a good day followed by a trying day. I have to imagine that this is the way of children, too, as they learn the operate in this new world.
I’ve found I sometimes go back to a series of articles published by the New York Times called The Puppy Diaries. I loved the series when it was running and read it religiously. (The dog in the articles is also named Scout.) On a whim on Monday (not one of Scout’s banner days), I went back and read a little, and found this quote,
“The puppy months can almost kill you. And then, in the blink of an eye, they are fully grown and completely attached to you. It is impossible to quantify the amount of love and work that goes into this human-dog transaction.”
Love and work. The two seem inextricably linked. Sometimes, when you are down in the muck of the work and feeling its tole, it is nice to find solace in those who have been there, done that, and survived to find the love in it. It helps to remind me that, though I may not find Hope in all of this, I will find love, and after four long years, I’m alright with that.