I missed getting one of the first original Cabbage Patch dolls for my daughter in the Austin, Texas Sears by two days, and my father would NOT pony up money for white go-go boots in 7th grade. My hairstyle will never find its place in a coiffure magazine, and the walls of my house don’t reflect any hot new Sherwin Williams colors. Trendy I am most decidedly NOT, so when I read recently in The Washington Post that puppy sales and pound adoptions were through the roof during the COVID quarantine, I was astounded to discover that I am at last…trendy! We were unknowingly part of a swarming sea of Americans who flooded pet stores or shelters in search of a canine companion to counteract the effects of anxiety and isolation imposed on us by the COVID virus.
In all honesty I have to step out of that sea and admit that I have been puppy hungry for at least four years—ever since our 15 year old Shih tzu, Mugsy, took his final resting place in the corner of our English garden. My pinterest file is bulging with dog pictures; my bookshelf fills over with dog books (treat yourself to The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs)—you’re welcome. So a puppy was not a quarantine-induced idea.
We were passively looking when along came Molly—a diminuative King Charles cavalier/Maltese mix—a minky-haired little black and white vixen of a dog. She leaped into my arms, and things have never quite been the same.
Becoming a puppy owner has often been compared to becoming a new parent. I take issue with that comparison. My new babies never followed me relentlessly (at least at first) 100% of the time or bit at my ankles or nibbled at house plants (regurgitating shortly thereafter) or chewed on my shoelaces, or methodically patrolled the kitchen floor looking for scraps. Nor did my newborns leave little Tootsie roll lookalikes anywhere but in their diapers!
Molly raises her button black nose into the air in a heart-rending howl if I am out of sight. She greets me as if I have returned from the Hundred Years War even though I may have only gone to get the mail. Her body contorts in a joy dance, her tail twirls out of control, and sometimes she even leaves a complimentary little puddle! I don’t think I’ve ever elicited such enthusiasm in another human—even those to whom I gave life!
Molly may have a future in agility. She leaps to high places where she teeters masterfully, tears around at lightning speed, and of course, we think she is of above average intelligence because she processes the world around her so swiftly—except for when she is jumping on strangers, sinking her teeth into the vacuum cord or ripping a hole in a sweater. In other words she is a perfect mix of perfection, frustration, terror and irresistibility. And like new parents everywhere we find her perfect and completely adorable.
The value of dogs in the lives of humans is not under recorded. Quite the contrary. Their virtues have been heralded throughout the history of mankind by scientists and poets alike. Having a dog supposedly extends lifespans and increases good health. Dogs have been proven to raise endorphins in their owners. They have graced palaces and courtyards through the centuries and pranced as heroes through countless wars. Dogs rescue, detect, warn, comfort, and provide pleasure. In other words, concluding that a dog is a superior lifeform is probably a gross understatement. But then my bias is showing.
Molly excels at lap warming. Do I think she has Lassie heroism in her future? Probably less of that than lap warming, but I’m okay with that. I have so few expectations of her, but what she does she does so completely. Do I think she’ll prolong my life? Maybe she’s good for my heartbeat, but most likely I’ll outlive her. And that will be a very, very catastrophically bad day.
In the meantime, I’m content to feel a warm ball of fluff breathing at my feet as a type this. I’ll take great delight in tossing countless ragged stuffed chicken legs or Tigger dolls or floppy sloths across the room to retrieve. I’ll take diplomatic lessons from Molly each time she adoringly greets strangers EVERYWHERE she goes. I’ll be happy each night when she finally plops heavily between our legs on the bed as her last conscious effort. I’ll reach to just therapeutically lay my hand on her heaving chest. I’ll just completely love her with chambers of my heart obviously consecrated for helpless puppies. And it will be more than enough.
As trends go, more dogs in more homes is a step in the right direction as I see it.