Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Puppy Love

“I want a puppy,” my four year old Lucas whined. I was prepared to respond to his request. Wise moms attempt to stay one step ahead of their little ones. I knew that adopting a dog meant I would be washing, feeding, and picking up poop for the next ten years. I was already doing those fun-filled, laborious jobs with Lucas’ baby brother.

“When you turn ten, you can get a dog. That way YOU will be big enough to take care of it.” From there I started describing the many needs of a dog. Blabbing on, I noticed I was talking to myself. Lucas’ short attention span worked in my favor. My three year old's interest shifted quickly.

When he was a potty trained, preschooler, “ten” felt eons away. I couldn’t focus on what might happen in 7 years. In time when Lucas made the same puppy request, I repeated that when he reached the ten year milestone he could have a dog. Every birthday the countdown was noted, “Only four more years until you get a dog”. A year later, “only three more years until you get a dog.” You get the idea. Suspense mounted with each passing birthday.

When Lucas was 9 ½ years old, my past pledge was close enough to nip at my ankles. I would have to produce a dog. There would be no wiggling out it. Months before his tenth birthday, the dog dialogue started.. Lucas wanted a big dog, think German Shepherd. My husband felt okay with getting a “horse dog”, as I called them. He would be at work all day when this horse dog needed a long walk to tire him out. I would be the one to carry ginormous sized food bags, filled with heavy rocks of kibble, to the car. It would be me dragging horse dog to the vet. I resisted, lamenting that big dogs have big needs. My executive powers were flexed, and I endorsed a small to medium sized pooch. Lucas was in charge of picking out anything but a horse dog.

National Geographic “Kids” magazine ran a fabulous article on different breeds of dogs. We looked at mug shots of many canines and Lucas pointed to the picture of a daschund, with its round black eyes and floppy ears. Yes, a small dog! I ran with his suggestion because I knew this small, odd-shaped, dog might be a perfect fit. Our search for a young daschund began. Due to lack of funds, we had all agreed to rescue a pooch from the pound, which we visited weekly. There was a dapple colored, short-hair daschund that would not be available for adoption for another week.

Did you know that Daschunds are one of the more popular types of dogs? I did, the hard way. The day of the “lottery” for adoption rights on this adorable daschund, no less than twenty five eager owners crammed in the Animal Shelter hoping to claim the prize. Thinking ahead, I had brought along 4 other eligible adults to enter the lottery, to increase our chance of taking home what had to be Lucas’ weiner dog. My husband took Lucas to the cardiologist, as his appointment was the exact same day and time as the Pound Lottery. It was the first time in 10 years that I had missed a heart appointment, but we all agreed I needed to run the Dog Campaign.

Suspense mounted as all eligible contestants dropped their name in the bucket of luck. The Lottery Officials, or animal regulation workers, would call three names. This was probably their favorite day of work, sucking up all the power they held for 20 minutes before going back to cleaning animal pens. If the first person called decided not to adopt the daschund, then priority fell to the second, then third runner-up. I prayed to God to let us win this dog. We just had to win. Please hear my prayer, God.

The first name was called and it was no one in my group, nor was the second, but the third name called was my Aunt Linda. There was hope, well not really, because the first winner absolutely wanted our wiener dog for her 8 year old son’s Valentines Day gift. I wanted to gag.
I pushed closer to the winner, shouting, “That is MY son’s dog, he waited 7 years for this daschund”, and I grabbed the ticket from the blonde mother’s hands. Okay, I didn’t really do that, but my motherly instinct made the suggestion. I felt defeated having to tell Lucas the results. We all felt let down. Prayer: Unanswered.

Next, we contacted The Sunny Oasis Doxie Rescue, located in Southern California. I learned a lot from the kind woman that ran the shelter. Unfortunately, young doxie’s are not the type that end up in a “Home for Unwanted Wieners”. The many that were available we part blind, not good with children, gray, old or deaf. This whole dog scenario was not playing out how I had anticipated.

Talking to my In-laws in Kentucky, I told them about our Doxie Hunt. . I mentioned that our search had been fruitless and Lucas’ birthday was 3 weeks away. My father-in-law offered to buy Lucas a daschund puppy for his tenth birthday. Wow, what an offer! Of course we accepted his generous gift and again our house was abuzz with exciting puppy business. This time it felt like my prayer had been heard and answered in an unlikely way.

A breeder was located in beautiful Lancaster and we took the boys out of school early to make the trip out to the desert. There had been a litter of 3 female miniature daschunds, and 2 pups were left. We anxiously pulled up to a dusty dude ranch. There were many horses, and at least ten barking dogs, that yapped at us behind the gate as we walked to the porch.

We were greeted and took a seat in the living room. I noticed that attached to the wall there was a spray deodorizer that automatically squirted fresh smells every few minutes. I was thankful for that. The breeder went to the back of the house and released the ten week old, red, shorthair pups. They raced out, their ears as long as their bodies. First they ran in circles, happy to be crate free, then straight to a basket of stuffed toys. They each grabbed a toy and darted around, teasing each other, running under the chair, then around the couch. Repeat. These puppies were both absolutely adorable; falling instantly in love was effortless.

How could Lucas pick one? They looked identical at first, but closer up, I could see one had black coloring mixed in her red puppy coat. The four of us watched the puppy show with laughter, giggles, and smiles. If only one could bottle up the joy that flows out when playing with puppies! These two girls reeked of energy, and plain dog glee, as they naturally did their Sister Puppy Act. They chased one another, tripping, falling and rolling, the whole way. Wiping the smiles off our faces was not an option. Love filled this room.

Lucas decided on the lighter colored dog, and called her Sara. Not Bella, Spot, Beauty or Lyla. Just Sara, like a girl in his fourth grade class. I felt like I was the proud mother of my first daughter. We tucked Sara into the Cat Crate, did our paperwork and started back home with Lucas’ little darling. Driving just a mile from the Dude Ranch Breeder, I called my parents to announce the arrival of their Grand-dog-ter, Sara. I described in full detail the harmony of the two puppies and the live show they naturally played out in front of us. I explained how Lucas pondered on which pup to pick, and how tough it was to leave the last of the pack behind. Having two sisters of my own, I imagined how sad it would be if someone simply took one of them away.
My father paused on the other end of the line and said, “Can you go back, and get the other Dog for Daniel?” What? My insides flipped. That offer sounded wonderfully generous and totally exciting, but a bit overwhelming at the same time. “I will buy the other dog for Daniel.” I motioned for my husband to pull off the side of the road while this curious phone conversation played out. “Let me discuss this with Ralph, and we will call you right back.”

Talk about being under pressure to make a big commitment, fast! There would be twice the vet bills and food needs, not to mention twice the poop to pick up. Then there was the issue of handing a dog over to Daniel at age seven, when we made Lucas wait until he was ten. Will we ever have another chance to have two pure bred pups in our family? How will we afford them? Is this all a dream? All these thoughts crammed our brains as we sat on the side of the desert rode, staring at cactus. It took us a solid sixty seconds to decide that we would turn around and buy Sara’s sister, despite not being mentally or financially prepared.

The car busted with more adrenalin than any speeding race car driver could ever radiate. All four of us were amped and unsure at the same time. The suspense was gripping. Would the Dude Ranch Breeder let us buy the dog with a personal check? The terms were cash only. Could we cram both pups into the little cat carrier? Were we making a huge mistake? Was this really happening? There were so many thrilling questions.

The Breeder was surprised to see the four of us back on her doorstep fifteen minutes after leaving. She agreed to our request, and 20 minutes later we were back on the desert highway leaving Lancaster with two doxie pups. Daniel did not hesitate to name his dog, Goldie. Yes, Goldie, like a fish. Sara and Goldie. Both of those names reminded me of little old Jewish ladies , but they came straight from the hearts and minds of my children, so they were just perfect.
The entire dog experience felt like an answered prayer that I never formally put into words because it seemed entirely too crazily impossible. Yes, I said, crazily impossible. I never allowed myself to clutch such a large hope for our family. God treated not only Lucas, but the entire family, to two of the best gifts in our life, and used my father-in-law and father as delivery men. It felt like the most wonderful, amazing high.

Weeks later, I reflected on life’s highs and lows. There have been times when I have been down, wanting to die because I felt so broken hearted. I had sunk to the lowest breaking point possible, without actually tearing. This was when my first baby walked next to death. I was down so deep; I forgot how to look up. When life drags you to a low, I realized that it gives the “high” a whole new vantage point. There is greater thankfulness and intense appreciation for rare situations that play out like, sweet, effortless music. It is amazing how perfectly unplanned Sara and Goldie were. This dog journey grew and mounted as each step took us a leap higher. It shows me how big my God is. Anything can happen. Sara and Goldie are my reminders that with life’s dreaded, low points comes the ability to feel, much grander, supercharged highs.

1 comment:

Rowdy and Bette said...

Thank you for sharing this fantastic story.