Who Saved Who?
“Get a puppy.”, was the prescription. Not by a doctor, but my therapist. The therapist I was seeing to work through my post-divorce emotional struggle. My biggest issue being removed from a 20-year life as a hands-on father of 3, care-giving my #1 purpose in life. To my 3 children, my 2 King Charles Cavaliers, the countless number of youth sports teams I coached, the community I was dedicated to as a volunteer, my 5-bedroom home. All of which were sideswiped from my life quite suddenly, like a rug pulled from under my feet. (Details on all that could make its own soap-opera, or a self-help book that is in-the-works…..)
Sleeplessness. Mind-spinning. Sadness. Confusion. The roughest, most challenging days and nights of my life. “Get a puppy.” Right. I’m a grown man! Men don’t get puppies, and big boys don’t cry, right??? Riiiiiight.
Indeed, being 51-years old and suddenly living in an apartment by myself without kids and pets, and neighbors, away from the kids’ schools. The daily smiles and waves of community folk and friends. My entire life I’ve either lived with parents, siblings, roommates, a spouse and and/or kids. The silence. The emptiness. The loneliness was all too new and literal. “Get a puppy!!??”, I thought to myself, “is THAT the professional guidance I was paying $250/hour for?!”
But I jumped at it. Alas, she came into my life. She was a Maltese-poodle mix, aka a Maltipoo. Within hours, I was returned to my familiar role of care-giving. She was 8-weeks old and like every single puppy in this world, she was the cutest. I was joined by my then 10-year old daughter for the morning to go pick the puppy up from an elderly woman in a nearby neighborhood. We named her “Peanut.” That experience in itself, having my daughter join me, was a memory to last a lifetime.
Peanut presented immediate challenges and needs, yet my goodness was there a sweeter, funnier, cuter creature in this world? Certainly not in my new world. Now, obtaining said puppy was its own eye-opening experience as I have experienced both ends of the dog acquiring process: I've bought lab puppies for $25 from Mrs. Johnson around the corner, paid $2,000 for Tommy the King Charles and all his papers, rescued a greyhound, Ian, for $75, paid $600 for Charlie the King Charles from a Vet, taken over care of Nigel the Fox Hound for free, and so on. This one evening, I Googled "puppies for sale" and encountered this new world of "official" (official b.s. it turns out) online breeders. Qualification forms to fill out like I was applying for a home loan, fake stamps of certification on these web sites making potential customers think they were dealing with an integral operation. All b.s. Disgusting. (I have come since to learn about the "puppy-mill" scams, the overpriced, the mistreated, the abused animals in these operations revealing the sour and bitter sides of humanity all to make a buck on the ignorance of other humans and abusing these innocent canines. More on this in later blogs.) Frustrated and feeling disrespected by the online breeder/adoption sites, I went to Craigslist and eBay and found this particular photo of a Maltipoo. It was love at first sight, as I immediately called the phone # and confirmed that this photo was indeed of THE puppy that was available. No forms required. Just a meet and greet setup the following morning. Off I went and found her.
At 8 weeks, with almond-colored ears, she was just as the she appeared in the picture. My daughter was in love immediately and suggested we call her "Peanut." She was ours swiftly. The exchange was sincere and a bit emotional for the woman as I gave her some contact info, cash, and promises to take great care of Peanut and send her updates. The process was similar to the good-old fashioned "but lab puppies for $75 from Mrs. Johnson around the corner." Indeed there was a true "feel-good" aspect compared to the online breeder, form-filling b.s.
"Get a puppy." It was transformational for me. Immediately there was a little creature needing me for everything. My lonely apartment turned into an energized and dynamic playground, as well as a safe-haven for puppy slumber. My head-spinning loneliness was instantly fixed! I was now occupied with my little puppy-partner's needs, playfulness, curiosities, accidents, destruction, and undeniable LOVE and reliance on me.
So, Peanut was my medicine. My cure. Just as the doctor ordered, she alleviated my pain. Brought laughter and smiles. Required care. It was a mutually-beneficial relationship from day 1 which continues to this day, 18 months later. She has traveled with me up and down the Western U.S., seen Yosemite, Crater Lake, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Pismo Beach, (she LOVES the sand and ocean), and overall is one smart, social, and friendly dog. Unconditional love and support going both ways. There have been some less-than-jolly life-altering and disruptive challenges and lessons learned with her in my life, including the expose' on service animal ignorance and laws, and the soon-to-be shared problem with my landlord's "cats OK, no dogs" rule. "Get her registered as an ESA and your landlord has to accept her.", I was told by a stranger at the coffee shop. "Go online and order the ESA kit. Its easy. Anyone can do it." Off I went to secure my puppy and my tenancy. Wow. What unfolds when we operate on tips and the internet! Next blog on THAT mess...