Column

Puppy Love

I had forgotten how hard it is to get any work done with a new little one in the house. When we first brought our new addition home, I learned I had to schedule my showers around her nap time, something I hadn’t done in nearly seventeen years. I had to play with her constantly to stimulate her developing brain, to keep her from getting into harm’s way, and to make sure she didn’t put anything dangerous into her mouth. My mornings were groggy as I gave up my summer sleep-ins for early morning feedings and pottying. When I did sit down to accomplish anything that required time and focus, I would put her toys and bed right beside me, only to become distracted watching her sleep because she’s so darn cute.

Getting a puppy was one of the many things I swore I would never do, but somehow ended up letting into my life, anyway. To be honest, I haven’t had this much fun since I first discovered ice cream or learned how to ride a bike. And no matter how much I try to blame my husband, I was actually the impetus of acquiring this rowdy new family member.

I’d always been a fan of adopting older dogs. They tend to arrive fairly calm, seem to know the word “out,” and are already in possession of adult teeth. Our sixteen-year-old daughter grew up with our other sixteen-year-old girl, Luna, whom we adopted from Dorchester Paws when she was around three years old. Luna’s current advanced age and dwindling health means we will soon be feeling a lonesome void in our household. While nothing can diminish the pain of losing a beloved pet, we figured that getting a new dog during the summer, while we had more time and our children were all home, would be a wise thing to do. So, I scouted adult dogs at the shelter­—and even fell in love with some—though this process ran counter to my husband’s desire to pick the next dog. Jim said he had always wanted a “fresh” one he could raise from puppyhood, so here we are.

As it happened, I stumbled upon a woman whose blue heeler had had a torrid affair with the lab next door. The result was a litter of eight squishy puppies with sleepy little eyes, round little bellies, and pudgy little paws. The owner was desperate to find loving homes for them as soon as they were old enough to leave their “unbred mother,” and the only problem we had was deciding which one to get. As promised, Jim (with help from the girls) ultimately picked the one he thought would fit best with our family. In the words of my grandfather, “he done good.”

The first day with Calypso was full of wonder. We might as well have brought home a platypus. “She makes little piggy sounds!” “She’s trying to crawl under the sofa!” “Look, she fits under the sofa! How do we get her out from under the sofa?” It was as if none of us had ever seen a dog before. Conversely, our other two household pets, the aforementioned Luna and a Chihuahua who makes Joan Crawford look like Mrs. Claus, were unimpressed.

When night fell, we realized we had to figure out what to do with our new puppy. We had agreed beforehand to crate train, though I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to be up with a crying a baby just sixteen years after the last time. Her crate was equipped with a cozy bed, and when she entered it willingly, we all held our breath. Shortly afterward, the first whimpers began and I had new mom flashbacks and feared I would never again be in control of my life. The next morning I ordered a “miracle” sleep toy, a plush dog that loosely resembles one’s own pup and had a pulsating “heart” within its polyester confines. The puppy was supposed to think this thing was her mother. I tracked “Fake Mom,” as she was named, every hour until Jeff Bezos, himself, delivered it to our door a few days later. I, then, immediately presented the imposter to Calypso. We watched as those puppy teeth tore into her mother figure, going straight for the beating of its hideous heart with the same terror and gusto as Edgar Allan Poe’s famed narrator. Sleep would not come that night.

I eventually did what all women with new babies do: I called my mother. She suggested we “just cover the kennel at night.” The next morning, following a full night’s sleep, I apologized to my mom for everything I had ever done because that puppy slept like…well, a baby.

Our family has loved every second of this girl, from her sock-stealing, food-gulping ways to her batting paws and trusting eyes. I admit to having a maudlin moment when I realized that Luna was the dog of our child rearing years and that Calypso would be the one to usher us into our old age. Then I remembered Robert Browning; I am honored to grow old along with this good girl.

Before we brought Calypso home, we had anxiety over whether or not getting a puppy would turn out to be disastrous. I had visions of ruined shoes and gnawed furniture, and Jim worried about being worthy of such a fine pup. As it turns out, she is exactly the right dog for us: active, funny, playful, and bone tired at the end of the day. Now, if we can just get her out from under the couch. AM

By Tara Bailey