Thursday, February 12, 2009

Love Letter to the Dog

I grew up on a farm in the Bible belt. We had many a cat, which are quite self sufficent, and several outside dogs over the span of my childhood. Never did we have a small inside dog. This was new territory for me and I was more than a bit nervous to bring a new dog home but after my wonderful exeriences during visits to the In-laws( who practically had a chihuahua farm!), I was ready to dive in.
Sweetie, a black chihuahua with white markings, came to us at six months old from my good friend Vivian's home. Vivian's husband at the time had a tendency to yell at the dog and had even thrown things at her so Vivian wanted to find her a safe home. Her original name was Negrita, which means little Blackie, but Cliff had a problem rolling the R's so we felt it would be best to give her a new name. She hid under the bed or behind the coach for much of the first few days and I began to wonder if she would be able to adjust to such a quiet home with two people who work a lot when she came from a home with 5 children and one parent who stayed home most of the time. She was also lost in translation, adjusting from a Spanish speaking home to English.
Sweetie became her new name( she ran around in a circle and wagged her tail when we called her this) and she adjusted slowly and timidly, eating on the third day and snuggling tightly to Cliff in bed that night. She was still a puppy though and with puppy times come puppy messes. She had to be taught to potty outside 100% of the time and had a habit of chewing things up. When it was discovered that she had two sets of fangs( the baby ones never fell out when the adult ones came in) a quick surgery at the Vet solved most of the chewing issues. She was lonely while we were gone during the day though, and I felt that she needed a companion.
The search for a companion was a fervent one. I was determined to find just the right dog. When I saw a newspaper advertisement for a chihuahua/dachsaund mix puppy, I thought I had found the perfect match and drove over to see the puppies. The house was cluttered, dirty, and full of dogs- but one in particular stood out to me.... although she did seem a little big for the breed..... She lay calmly on the couch and seemed unfazed by the puppies scurring around. I was a bit concerned by a small bulge on her stomach but was told that all weenie dog puppies have this and they grow out of it. I brought the beautiful brindle red and brown puppy home to my husband and her big sister, Sweetie, and hoped for the best.
3 things quickly became apparent with the new puppy. 1. I would never have my own pillow again. From day one she lounged across my pillow, leaving me with a stiff neck in the morning, or worse, finding myself pillowless or stuck in the crack between my pillow and Cliff's 2. The bulge on her stomach was not normal and was actually a hernia that would require surgery 3. Although she seemed calm she could be quite nourotic, developing a phobia for being left home alone. She chewed through a card board box that she was left in the first day, and never quite adjusted to being crate trained, crying and yelping and trying to chew the kennel door when we would leave. She chewed up a cell phone, my new glasses, shoes, and many household items. And she was getting big! She certainly was not a Chihuahua!
My inlaws wondered if she would be a keeper, telling us that she was thick skulled or dumb for all the troubles she caused. I learned my first few parenting lessons of perseverance with Bayer( she became known as Teddy Bayer for her velvety coat and cuddly nature).Cliff was on the verge of giving her up a few times when she could not seem to get house trained... but I believed in her and stuck by her, giving her more love, more one on one time, and firmer disipline( I certainly believe I have mastered how to spank a dog!) I began to worry and wonder and hope that she could make it through her difficult doggie teen years... and formed quite a Motherly bond with my dogs. I looked to Sweetie to teach Bayer how to behave and be a good dog.( all the expectations of a big sister of course) and I had many heart to hearts with Bayer as she lay on my bed about what the future would hold.
Over time and many obstacles, Bayer developed obedience and a strong sense of loyalty to both Cliff and I.
When it came time to prepare to bring our first child home, the dogs learned right along with us. We carried a cabbage patch doll around the house and spoke to it, putting it in the crib for bedtime and the bassinet for naptime so that the dogs could get adjusted. They were insanely curious of the doll we were talking to and followed us from room to room wagging their tails furiously as we talked to the doll.
As my belly grew, so did the dogs affection for the baby inside it. Sweetie would lay snuggled against the outside of my stomach, just where the baby seemed to be laying. Bayer became more docile and calm and would lay in the bed with me as I endured countless headaches and aching hips. They wanted to sit on the rug in the bathroom as I took my bath, resting with me as I tried to soothe my aches away.
When it was time for Ethan to come home they were affectionate and curious right from the start. They had been warned several times to stay away from the baby and had learned to keep their distance, but as he grew, they began to sneak in for an inspection, sniffing a poopy diaper as he played on the floor or sneaking in for a quick lick to his face as he drooled and banged away in his excersaucer. Soon of course, they learned to run and hide as he became mobile and sought to yank their tail or hair on their head.
We went throught the same excitment and mothering as we prepared to bring our second child home. Sweetie again resumed her post beside my belly at night and they were all too eager to get up with me during my nighttime snacks. When we came home from the hospital babyless, the dogs were confused. Sweetie continued her post by my belly for several weeks- knowing it was smaller now but not understanding what happened to the baby that had been growing inside it.
It was Sweetie and Bayer that would get up with me in the night becuase my grief was so strong that I could not sleep. They would lick the salty tears from my cheeks or look into my eyes with all the unconditional companionship that only a dog could offer. I began to roam the house quite a bit at night- looking at some of Faith's things for the hospital, pouring over my bible for comfort and wisdom, getting online to my support site, or perhaps crying in the kitchen or living room. As soon as the dogs would wake up and sense that I had left the bed, they would get up to come find me and sit with me for as long as I needed. Once I started working on the Memorial Garden for Faith, they were right beside me, digging for worms in the freshly turned earth or rolling in the warm sunshine on the grass beside me. They followed me outdoors on brightly moonlit nights and sat patiently beside me as I cried and prayed from the bench in the garden.

As my belly began to swell again, Sweetie once again resumed her post and Bayer embraced all the time I liked to lounge in the bed.... but this time they were more quiet, more attentive, and more motherly.
The dogs were elated when we returned from the hospital with our arms filled with Olivia and were a great companion during night time feedings.
I can't imagine the last 5 years of my life without my dogs. Some say that dogs are mangy, dirty, hairy, annoying... but all I can think of is the comfort and companionship they have given to me. They bark at the strange noises in the house at night, always faithful to investigate for me. They try to entertain the children and any visitors that come by the house, and they have given their full attention and heart to me. They have helped to comfort me in ways that no one else has been able to do.
I love you Sweetie and Bayer!


The Warren Family said...

I agree 100%. They are the epitome of unconditional love. Its amazing how much they pick up on huh?

And I TOTALLY get #1, the pillow thing.

And I LOVE your hair light! Its cute!! And your right that is funny :)

Fawn said...

i love this post! i have a new appreciation for sweetie and bayer!