A new puppy to bring hope, optimism
By Mitch Mode
Special to the Star Journal
We woke them from their naps, mid-afternoon on a hot July day. They came outside, eyes lidded with sleep, unsteady afoot, moving slow as if the earth they walked on was shifting or had become as a boat in choppy water. They looked puzzled at the turn of their day. What, they seemed to wonder, was the problem? What reason to wake them from a deep and much needed slumber? What, in all this, was at hand?
“To look into a puppy’s eyes is to see the tomorrows and remember the yesterdays.”
Five of them. Chubby as butterballs, salt-and-pepper gray with splashes of chocolate on backs and faces, legs too short for their bodies, feet too big for their legs, eyes looking as if for guidance; tails wagging. Puppies.
Five weeks old. Five weeks into their lives, five weeks of stumbling and fumbling, of eyes opening and over-sized feet to trip over. Five weeks to have their world expand from whelping box to outdoor patio, to, this afternoon, a rare foray into the backyard which for them is the extent of the world as they know it.
Five weeks to charm all who see them, to prove once again that there is no such thing as an ugly puppy, five weeks and counting, growing every day. Five weeks for us to anticipate this day.
Sally and I have come to visit and to observe and to evaluate and, in another month, to take one home. Five of them, females all. The five others, the boys, stay inside on this day. We wanted a girl dog. We have the five-pack to pick from.
We watch the pups on this hot summer day, watch them climb up a small ramp and play with the scattered toys, watch them wrestle one with the other, watch them as they watch us. They seem singularly unimpressed with the two of us.
We observe them as if in a two-hour visit we can divine some inkling of what they will be as adults. We watch them and we play with them as if in doing so we can fathom the reach of their fast-beating hearts and know from that what they will become. We take them all in as if we have any clear idea of what we are doing.
We do not. We do not do this often enough to have a clue at what we are doing. We lift the pups up to observe temperament and body posture. They all are fine. We put toys at their feet; they regard us with a total lack of interest. We query the breeder. We do the dance of all prospective owners of dogs. We play the game.
In truth, there is not a dog among the five that we would not take. There is not a single superstar nor a dunce. No pup too big, none too small; no amazon in the making, no runt.
We lost two dogs in the past 13 months; two pieces of our hearts taken away. Two companions gone, two hunters lost, two of our family pack gone to memories. Two dogs no longer with us and every day we think of them, Sally and I and Fenway the Boston terrier who is only now getting over the loss of Thor, the big boy dog that Fenway adored. We have all known sadness. We have all lived in loss. We have all felt the ragged hole in our lives that the Riika and Thor had filled.
After Thor died we started to think about a new dog. Started to wonder about a hunt dog that would double as a family dog as Riika and Thor. Looked at the places in the house that no longer held a dog and wondered what dog could fill those spaces.
We circled around different breeds like a collie circles the flock of sheep, read volumes, talked to people of field and forest who knew dogs. Names and accolades of various breeds rose up for consideration. In truth there was never only one crystal clear choice. The world is full of good dogs that would do what we wanted. And the overarching reality of it all is that a dog is only as good as its trainer and in that arena we come up short. We’ll do what we can; the new dog will do what they’re able; we’ll work things out.
The world of possible breeds narrowed; a dozen, a handful, a couple. All would be fine.
We pondered and considered. In the end, one: a wirehaired pointing Griffon. The decision made; the contact with a breeder, the wait for pups.
The puppies romped at our feet. We picked them up, held them as if we were savvy judges of puppy temperament. The pups seemed fine with it all, their fat little bellies overlapping our hands, turning eyes upward at us, indifferent to it all.
We let them run across the grass of the yard, Sally and I on our bellies coaxing them on. The pups ran in joy and delight. At ground level we could see the world as the pups did, smell the grass as they could, see the rise of the yard to taller grass on the edges to trees lifting to blue sky and cloud. The world of the puppy.
To hold a puppy in your hands and to feel the bump-bump-bump of their heart on your skin and to look them in the eye, to do that is to connect with the pup on that day, at that moment. But more: To look at a puppy is to imagine the future; warm summer days and frosted September mornings, hunts to come and shoes to be chewed to shreds, to imagine headaches and joy, autumn birds on the wing and winter days at rest. To look into a puppy’s eyes is to see the tomorrows and remember the yesterdays, to see hope and optimism and purity of soul.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800.