Saturday, July 16 was a big day for our family: we brought home a puppy. It’s a long story as to why we were where we were when we found her, but suffice it to say that when an adult hears a small creature whimpering and crying, it’s hard to just walk away and ignore it.
We should mention here that Mary and Abigail had been campaigning rather vigorously for a dog for several months. We had long ago concluded, though, that apartment living is not the best thing for a dog – that is, we, the parents, had come to this conclusion. So when we, the parents talked to each other about what to do with this tiny creature we’d just found… it came home, at least for a little while.
Yes, there are animal shelters here, but we were actually heading out the door for a cookout at the pastor’s house, so it was just easier in that moment to pack up the kids and the dog and think about the details later. In all fairness, though, from the first day, we talked about the fact that we were not planning to keep her permanently.
Isabelle, as we finally decided to call her, was so little that she didn’t have any teeth, slept a LOT, and wasn’t particularly steady on her little legs, kind of like walking around was rather new to her. The next day and half found us quickly learning a few basics, but we were, honestly, trying to get ready for the handicapped camp that was about to start a few days after that.
Let’s just say that a very, very young puppy is quite different, need-wise, than an adult dog. There are many similarities between a baby dog and a baby person: they need to be fed often, including several times during the normal human sleep span, bodily functions are a major focus of attention for the caregiver, and they sleep a lot.
It was all rather fun, to be honest, because she was just so small and so cute. Teeth started to appear after the first week, so we massaged gums and tried out various chew toys (note: baby dogs are like baby people – if you buy something specifically for them to play with, they will play just as happily or even more so with the wrapping or any other ordinary item than the thing you just bought).
We were asked constantly by any passerby – after all of the cooing and baby talk! – (we began to make frequent trips outside) what breed she was. Having found the dog, we constantly answered, ‘We don’t know’, but she did have some of the coloring of a German shepherd. Everyone – including those who saw her via Skype! – was very confident that she would become a rather large dog.
This brought us to the heart of our ‘dogs and apartments’ argument: an apartment, at best, is a small shoe box for a living creature that needs to really have the freedom to run around, and more than for a few minutes a couple of times a day.
Ok, we should be forthright: We did also see, very clearly, the additional work and responsibilities it would mean. For one, it tends to snow here. Then it melts. It gets muddy, for about, oh, three to four weeks. The snow is cold, and during those months, there’s not a lot of sunlight, especially before and after school. But the necessities of the dog wait for neither rain nor snow nor daylight…
Camp came and has now gone, and Isabelle did visit quite a bit the first week, spreading a lot of joy. When Mark got sick the second week, it made more sense for the dog to stay home, just because it simplified things. But the nighttime potty runs and feedings went on unabated and we were more than a little tired (Mark was very faithful during those first two weeks, which might have made him more susceptible to the virus he eventually picked up). Mary was doing a lot to help with the load, including taking up night duty, but still, it’s a big job to train a puppy.
All of us working together, we’d made some headway on the potty training, but not enough, and with the start of school a week away, the nighttime potty runs were about to become a more serious difficulty. Although only one person was on puppy duty, when she yelped and cried to tell us to get up, it did tend to wake up everyone.
We can’t say the elevator being out of order indefinitely made the decision for us, but with school about to begin and the ongoing urination training, we decided we needed to be more serious about finding a permanent home for Isabelle. (She had developed what they call a den instinct where she won’t make a mess where she sleeps, and that had been in the cleanable confines of the bathtub for the nighttime hours; we were feeling the lack of a back yard rather keenly.) So after some calls and a bit of driving around, today Isabelle took up residence at a local animal shelter that seems to genuinely care for the welfare of abandoned dogs.
Today is August 15th, only a month after God gave us our puppy venture. It’s hard to come to a lot of conclusions or anything right now, and it’s hard to imagine it was only a month. One thing we can say: it was a special thing to be given the opportunity to see another side of God’s creativity in this little dog.