Charles Schulz was right: Happiness is a warm puppy
What can you say about a man who waited 71 years to get his first puppy? It took me that long, but I maintain that the result is that the joy is all the more intense. What have I been missing all these years?
As I write, asleep at my feet is the newest member of the family, a 10-week-old Goldendoodle puppy, the result of a pairing of a miniature poodle and a "real" Goldendoodle, half-golden retriever and half-miniature poodle. Her name is Fawn, and the happiness she has brought in the seven days since we picked her up from the Delta Airlines cargo facility at San Francisco International Airport is intense.
Here is a picture of Fawn on her first walk:
And here is Fawn eyeing her favorite chew toy:
And here is Fawn gnawing on something even better than a chew toy: my shoe.
Our beloved pet dog Scotty, a poodle mix, died last August, and we have been suffering from canine deprivation syndrome ever since. Scotty was a stray, probably abandoned by his owners (because he was house-trained), picked up by the dog-catcher in Winters, California and sent to a dog rescue facility. His age was unknown at the time we adopted him, but in the months before his death, he appeared to be weakening and aging rapidly. Blood tests indicated that his liver was failing, and we think that is what did him in, peacefully his sleep.
I had never had a dog before, because I am allergic to animal fur. When I discovered that poodles do not affect my respiration, I began searching for a house-trained poodle to adopt and found Scotty. My wife and I rapidly became dog-lovers – really intense ones, at that. Scotty charmed us with his loyalty, his joy at seeing us when we went out and returned home, and his desire to sit on laps and cuddle.
After Scotty passed, we searched for another dog to adopt for months but could not find the right one. Eventually, we decided that, expense be damned, we would spring for a puppy from a reputable breeder (no puppy mills!) and steel ourselves for the task of house-training. Searching the web and asking around, we decided that a poodle/golden retriever mix was most promising, because they have delightful, affectionate personalities; are intelligent and trainable; and are hypo-allergenic.
We eventually found Fawn, born November 2 on a farm in Pennsylvania, to a breeder with an excellent reputation and recommendations, who was able to make travel arrangements.
We had some trepidation about flying Fawn across the continent, but it turned out that Delta Airlines specializes in shipping pets and is well set up to accommodate them safely and care for them en route. If you go to the Delta Cargo web page, you see this at its very top:
Delta connects all pets in Atlanta, where it has a special facility for animals held between flights to keep them indoors and properly looked after. When we got to the cargo office at SFO, the staff there were great, very used to dealing with anxious owners awaiting their new pets' arrival. I was impressed and grateful for their care.
In the past week, I have given Fawn priority over work, I must confess. The other editors at AT have been generous in supporting my shirking of duty. She alternates napping with periods of intense exploration, sniffing and chewing everything. That warm puppy on my lap is indescribably wonderful.
As far as house training goes, I have taken the simplest approach: observing her cycle of eating and eliminating and getting her outside when it is time to do her duty, and then promptly rewarding her with praise and a puppy treat. It only took about three times before she started looking eagerly for her treat when elimination was complete. It is clear that she grasps the concept now, and it is only a matter of time before she is able to hold it in and let me know when it is time.
Politics is important, and money is necessary, but when it comes to happiness, a puppy is much better.
Silly me, waiting all these years.