She was behind the closed kitchen door when I paced down the warn hallway. As the owner turned the handle a frantic set of paws raced across the lino floor and under the large plastic table.
Eyes wide; frightened, imploring she had backed herself into the furthest corner. She was the most beautiful puppy I’d seen. A black face with a careless streak of white running from the top of her head, down past her nose. A huge pointy German Shepherd ears, four white socks and one tiny lopsided body.
The owner couldn’t look after the eight-week-old puppy anymore. She didn’t specify what exactly, but she’d soon be spending a lot of time in hospital. The entire kitchen spoke of the puppy. Floor mats, dry food, one or two toys; there was nothing to identify the woman. I was dreading the moment we would take the dog away, but they both accepted it with a brave resolve.
She didn’t fight the journey home; just sat, nestled into my chest with her heart pounding and eyes still so alert. She wouldn’t look directly at me; just stared out the window. What was it like to have so little control over your journey? I honestly couldn’t remember.
It’s six months since we brought her home and not much of that timid puppy remains. I wonder if she remembers her old life because I don’t think back to mine much. Not since she arrived.
I’ve never wanted children, never even had a dog before so please excuse the gush but she’s changed my perspective on how I view the world; my fellow humans and earth creatures.
Here are five puppy anecdotes that have made me think back to humanity and the complexity that lies within each of us.
She hated her old lead. She’d follow me around the house gleefully but as soon as I’d pick up the lead to take her out her eyes would widen fearfully and she’d back away from me.
She loved the park but the walk there was tiresome. She didn’t like the roar of the traffic and wanted to be picked up and carried all the way there. I’d put her down, and she’d run beneath my legs to hide, not moving when I have her a gentle tug.
With the lead off, in the park, however, she was excellent company, especially in the early weeks when she didn’t see the deer, runners or other dogs as things to chase and play.
Then one day I left the lead in the park and had to buy a new one. I didn’t think much of it until I put the new one on her — no sad eyes, no frightened child, a waggly tail; looking forward to the walk — a total transformation.
Now when I pick up the lead, she bounds over, sits in front of me for its fastening and her tail smacks on the ground excitedly. Whatever the history with the old lead; it’s gone.
Lesson; all humans have baggage. Sometimes the stories will come out, other times they won’t but if we take on board that we’re all complicated and bruised creatures maybe we can be more empathetic to each other.
Those soulful eyes carried on for a week. I didn’t blame her: she didn’t know where she was, she hadn’t asked to go there. She was cautious and alert, but I noticed from early on that the one thing I could do to get her to do what I wanted was to get super excited.
I wanted her to come outside, come and cuddle me, go into another room or down the stairs I just had to raise my pitch when calling her. I would laugh, smile, call her, clap my hands — show big helpings of fun and it would work every time.
Lesson: humans like to hang out and be around fun people. A little bit of excitement and shared happiness goes a long way in business and life.
When she first came home, she was too little to climb up the stairs. I’d carry her down in the mornings and in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
Little puppies don’t like to be alone, even at the bottom of the stairs — so each day when I’d need to head up for something she’d stand at the bottom; looking soulfully up at me.
Soon enough, she couldn’t bear it anymore. I heard those little paws bounding up one, then two before the fear set in and she’d go back down.
“I’ll be down in a second” I peered down to her to see a funny expression on her face (and ears).
Doof, doof, doof, she was halfway upstairs. I joined her at the top.
“Come on, Nyxie, come on.”
She stopped for a breather and bounded up the rest of the stairs. She took a running dive at me in celebration.
Lesson: you can’t let anyone else carry you up the stairs for long. Sooner or later, you’ve got to figure out the road yourself.
She’s nine months or so now, and we’re very aware of each other. We go to the park for at least 2 hours each day. It’s as essential for me as it is for her.
Sometimes, usually on the way back when we’re on the path on the busy road, she’ll turn to look at me while trotting along. I stop, I look back, and she carries on.
Other times I’ll bend down, and she’ll run into my body for a hug for a moment.
Dog or animal experts may say that she’s hungry or needs a pee or something, but I choose to take it as a gesture of love and affection. It’s how I give it back.
Lesson: it’s not just us humans in the universe. We think of ourselves as superior; we talk, communicate, trade, but in nature and all around us, things are communicating in others. If we stop once in a while to listen, we might discover something transcendental, even if just for a second.
I was upstairs working on something when I heard a banging sound downstairs. It was a medium continuous bouncing noise; like fast feet hitting the ground. Oh dear.
I’ve stopped leaving anything of interest to a puppy on the table where she can get it, but my boyfriend forgets now and again, and his headphones, phone charger cable, hat end up with a big chewed hole.
In the kitchen lay a large plastic bag, ripped to piece and 2.5 kilos of free potatoes bouncing around the floor. She was playing football with the vegetables and kicking them back and forth with her front paws.
Lesson: a bag of potatoes to me is a bag of footballs to her. The world is full of different perspectives on the same thing, and we were both right.
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