puppy gratitude

sophie on the deck

I started this on Sunday, but didn’t finish — so here we go!

Good morning good morning. How are you morning-ing so far this day?

Right next to me, sprawled out on the carpet, the puppy is gnawing on a rubber ball, sending a wet squeakiness into my morning quiet. It’s pretty great. She’s got her face right near the heater vent, maybe unintentionally — but as soon as it kicks on, she’ll get the first warmth.

According to the dates on the paperwork from the vet, Sophie was a year old this past Saturday, on Dec 10. A year! Happy birthday, Sophie Star Cross White!

I haven’t done a puppy post in awhile. Two things happened recently that reminded me to reflect on how far we’ve come, this little family that Sophie found.

First, the other day, the Mr came home to find Sophie was right there, all waggy and excited, to greet him at the door — now, when he left earlier that day, she was safely ensconced in her crate, just where I’d put her for her breakfast, with the door locked. So it was a bit of a surprise for him that she was both not in the crate and that the crate door was still locked. That morning, I’d only locked the bottom of the two slide-locks on the crate door, not knowing that the Mr was heading out right away. Sophie has Houdini-ed out of the crate before when only the bottom lock was closed — I don’t know how she does it — so this wasn’t without precedent.  Still, she’d been alone for quite a few hours — the longest, in fact, that she’d been alone in the house not in the crate.

And she’d done no damage anywhere.

I couldn’t stop celebrating. Our girl is big, now, and can stay by herself out of the crate. So on Sunday we left her for a couple of hours alone in the office, which attaches to a deck, the deck that gets the most sunshine. We left the deck door open, so she could go in and out. She scratched a little at the door as we were leaving, but then she came out to the deck and watched us go. I scrunched my hands up against my mouth, watching her back, and felt proud and sad and worried — would she cry or bark? She just watched. Then when we returned she was right there, heard the car, her whole body wagging at the sight of us.

(Now Sophie wants to play with the puppy in the mirror. She paws at the mirror, gives a little cry. Why won’t you play?)

graffiti of a yellow star containing a fist and a dog pawThe second thing that happened is that our neighbors recently adopted a new puppy from a shelter — she’s just under a year, fluffy and adorable, maybe a lab-golden mix. My neighbors are good and gentle with her, and they’re terribly worried. The puppy does some submissive urination (which is, of course, no concern much at all, at least to outsider-me, and at least when I meet the puppy in the driveway and not in the neighbors’ front hall) and she’s chewing on their leash sometimes and she’s still getting her bearings. What I see when I meet this dog is a very happy pup, scared some, figuring out where she’s come to — and, too, I see her parents who care very much about her, walking her in the frosted early quiet, teaching her a sit-stay over by the sheltered side of the building (where all the plants have been tramped away by dogs), keeping her protected until she has the all-clear from the vet to meet other dogs. What they mention, when we talk about how she’s doing, though, is what’s going wrong, how she needs to improve.

And I remember feeling that way after Sophie came home with us — someone would tell us that she was doing great, and I’d think, Oh, really? Have you seen her lose her mind when she’s near another dog — like she wants to have it for dinner? Or how she eats so fast she throws up? Or how she doesn’t come when called? Or how she chokes herself pulling at the leash? I didn’t have any perspective — how could I? Here was this enormous change that I’d brought into all of our lives — mine, the Mr’s, this little puppy — and all I wanted was not to fuck it up. I desperately wanted not to fuck it up. And now she’s been with us almost 7 months, and I can’t quite remember what it was like before she was here.

My neighbor asked how long it took for me to feel comfortable, or settled, with Sophie, I told her that for the better part of the first month, I hardly slept and was afraid we’d made the worst decision ever. But then it got better. She didn’t look terribly relieved at this — oh, no, a month?? — but as I was saying it, I remembered how bad I felt, how deeply scared, how certain I was that I wasn’t up to this dog-companioning, and from this new perspective, borne of time and work and patience, I was able to see how much more comfortable and pleased I feel now, how much I love this pup, how grateful I am for her and for how we three have been able to work together.

On Sunday, Sophie and I went to a field near the dog park in Sausalito. It was in the 40s, we were bundled up (no, only I was bundled — she was licking and slipping on the grass, still learning about this frost stuff) and she bounded off to play with another dog who wanted to get her ball. I talked with a couple of other owners, who were impressed with Sophie’s training, and were also able to give me some good advice about the fact that she barked at a dog who wanted to get her ball (“it’s good she barks,” they said — “better for her to warn than to just lash out!”) and I could relax just a little bit more. She started playing too rough with another dog, and then came easy when I called her. Another dog got her ball, and she just looked kind of confused — like, where’d it go? Oh, there! Wait, didn’t I have a ball? — but didn’t get crazy or upset. She was happier, though, when the other dog’s owner got her ball back for her. She made friends, and I felt proud of her, of us. I hope she feels her version of proud or comfortable with me, with us, too.

It reminds me of how much work just happens with and over time, and how infrequently I stop and reflect — and how important that reflection and gratitude is. See how far we’ve come? It used to feel like this — and now it’s shifted. Even if only slightly sometimes, it’s shifted.

An idea for a prompt for today might be to look back on this year and write about something you (or your character/s) have been doing or learning, work you’ve been engaged in, maybe personal transformative work, maybe craft, maybe you’re building something new — maybe you (or they, those characters) have found yourself plunged into something, and haven’t been sure how to swim. Think back in your writing — how was this process for you when you began? How did you feel when you began the process? What were you afraid of, or certain would never come to pass? How does that compare to how you feel/work/experience things now?

Thanks for your patience for yourself, for the ways you take deep breaths and wait and trust in time, even when it feels like you’re doing the opposite. Thanks for your care and concern for those parts of yourself that are growing and learning. Thanks, every day, for your words.

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