By Holly Herring
I got a puppy about a year and a half ago. She’s made of drool and puppy farts.
She’s insanely happy and full of life. She lights up rooms. This is a really joy inducing addition to the family.
I have to tell you, though, it’s been a real experience raising a puppy. I’ve almost always had a dog or four. I rarely have had a puppy, though. I tend to get “used dogs” as I call them. Dogs that somebody picked out as a puppy once and probably invested a lot of love in, but for whatever reason, they wound up living with me and not with their original family. My last dog came to me at age 8.
Raising a bunch of older dogs did not prepare me for the trials and tribulations of puppy parenthood at all!
My old dog, Ally, was food aggressive. She also really hated birds and took every opportunity to try to gobble them up. Ally had lived with a person who was losing a battle with some tough demons and he yelled angrily a lot. If I raised my voice at Ally even a little bit, she would shake and cower. Once there was a loud commotion in the house and she ran to hide in my closet. The food aggression thing—I think that came from not having regular access to food. I have no idea what she had against birds, however.
The new dog, Berkeley, doesn’t have these issues at all.
She is fascinated by birds who come onto the patio and eat her kibble while she watches in awe of their ability to fly away. I don’t think Berkeley has ever heard any real, angry yelling before so if she gets in trouble she doesn’t shake; she just flashes me her “puppy dog eyes.” And, Berkeley loves to share with all the beings she encounters. In her eyes there’s more than enough kibble for everyone and she wants to share her snacks and food with a smile and a tail wag.
It finally dawned on me. My dog is well adjusted.
She’s only had a good life—free of adversity. She’s only known Lou and I as her family with our older dog since she was 10 weeks old. We have never run out of dog food and there’s been an abundance of chew toys to keep her entertained. Berkeley has had regular trips to the dog agility park and learned lots of tricks in the hours she spends with her people each day.
We moved to another state and she rode in the car panting out the window and sleeping normally in hotels the whole journey. She has shown no signs of distress since we have lived in our new home. This must be what it’s like to live a life without trauma.
I’ve read a lot of books and heard stories about people who live whole lives much like Berkeley’s regular life.
As a little girl I even fantasized about becoming a librarian and living in a house I had drawn on a pad of graph paper with a red crayon. I had decided I would have 11 children, all with names that began with a “J,” and my husband was going to have a very important job with a briefcase. We were going to live “happily ever after,” like in the stories.
Berkeley and I don’t have a lot in common.
Our origin stories don’t run parallel. But she loves me a lot. Just last night I was extremely frustrated trying to share a bed with her. She laid herself diagonal in the middle of the bed, then stretched until her hind legs punched me in the back. I rolled over and she took the opportunity to crawl up over my head and flop right down on my pillow. I gave up and walked out to the couch to get some rest out there.
Guess who followed me and slept at my feet peacefully? I love her too, even though she’s all sweet and eternally happy while I grouch about my lack of sleep.
Berkeley the dog is living the life that I wish for everyone, including myself. I didn’t start out with this stable, safe and loving life—but my husband and I came together and made this life for our dog. While creating this ideal environment for our dog, our “furbaby,” we accidentally created this life for ourselves as well.
I guess it really is possible to create the life you always wanted, even if you didn’t know at the time that’s what you were doing.
Now, excuse me while I go bake some dog bones….
Photo: Author provided
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