Puppy Time

Oh, my God, what have I gotten myself into? She's sleeping now, but I'm a wreck. Okay, not a wreck, but nervous. Look at her, so sweet and innocent, a whole life that I (and my family) am now responsible for. I haven't been this nervous since we brought our son home from the hospital.

But she's just a dog, right? Not a person. Not, that is, a human being, who will grow up, as my son is so rapidly doing, into an adult who can take care of himself. She, on the other hand, will always need me. Of course, being a dog, she is not going to live as long as most human beings, so in actual fact I will most likely only be taking care of her for about the same amount of time as I have already been taking care of my son. But even in that time, he has learned certain things--e.g. how to talk--that she will never learn. I can even leave him alone for whole evenings at a time, during which he can make himself dinner and entertain himself without tearing apart the apartment.* She is going to need somewhat more consistent attention.

Oh, but it will be worth it, right? What do we mean when we say something will be "worth it"? Worth what? Not sleeping last night because I was so excited to have a puppy of my very own such that every time she whimpered (all of three episodes, each, in fact, fairly brief), I came bolt awake? The expression on my husband's face this morning when she pooped not once, but twice on the tiles in front of the fireplace (actually a fairly good place to poop as far as clean-up goes)? Wondering how I am ever going to make it into work this week with her when the high is going to be hovering around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, much too cold for even a furry puppy to spend longer than a few minutes outside?

I know, I know, I am supposed to be flooded with maternal hormones at this point, not caring what difficulties having such a precious life in my care will entail. And, indeed, I'm not particularly bothered by the poop (surprisingly enough), and I don't really blame her for my sleeplessness; I'm also anxious about our kitchen remodeling and how that is going to go. But I am scared, which is interesting. I have managed, after all, to take care of my son for going on now fourteen years. And I have had many pets since college: a whole series of guinea pigs (Ophelia, Puck, Harold & William), plus two cats (Tom & Sophie--we still have Sophie). It's not like I don't have experience taking animals to the vet**, arranging for neighbors to feed them when I have had to go out of town, even transporting them transatlantically and putting them in quarantine (Harold & William). I am used to the responsibility for animal lives. And yet, this is different. Joy is a dog.

Which is, of course, what I've always wanted: a dog. Someone to take on walks (yes, even in the cold and rain; I'm worried about the weather right now mainly because she is so young; she'll be fine next winter when it's this cold); someone to come when I call (one of the guinea pigs, Puck, was nearly this responsive, but I'm sure the lettuce also helped); someone to sit next to me while I write (as she is now; and, yes, the cats do this, particularly Sophie, but cats are harder to take on walks); someone who is an animal but also, quite clearly, my friend. It's the one thing I still like about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials: the animal daemons that are the characters' other selves. Or maybe it means I'm a witch, longing for her familiar. I actually don't think it is that hard to understand, this need for a connection with an animal. Except that I seem to be having difficulty finding words for it, even as Joy twitches as she is dreaming little puppy dreams.

Perhaps we just don't know each other well enough yet. She seems marvelously comfortable with me, thank goodness, even though she had only in fact met me twice before I and my family showed up yesterday to whisk her away from hers. How trusting of her, to want to come home with me! This in itself blows me away. You couldn't take me away from my mother and siblings at eight weeks or even eight years and not have me in tears, pining for them. But Joy seems fine, perfectly happy to sleep next to me or to play with the toys that I have given her. Do I deserve this level of trust? Oh, God, how I hope that the answer is yes!

*Which is not to say that he is not capable of covering it in projects, never to be tidied up until Mom starts complaining about not being able to see the living room floor.
**Interestingly enough, vets are not very good with guinea pigs, despite their (the guinea pigs') reputation as the quintessential lab animal. Apparently, to judge from how little the vets consistently said that they knew about guinea pigs, they (the guinea pigs) aren't (the quintessential lab animal, that is, at least not in vet schools).


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