Happiness is a warm puppy. — Charles M Schulz
We have puppies. Taffy and Jesse are 12-week-old golden retrievers, a sister and brother from a litter of 9. We brought them home 6 weeks ago and they have turned our lives upside-down — in a very good way.
I observe in people of my age a certain unseemly selfishness about life. The kids are grown and gone, and we finally have the house and our lives to do with as we please. We settle in to a series of choices and routines that all revolve around what we like or dislike, want or don’t want. If we’re not careful, we lose the sacrificial, Christ-like generosity that was so much a part of our lives when we had other little people in the house needing, wanting, hurting, depending on us.
Are we tempted to wrap ourselves in self-love once the house is empty of others on which to focus our affections? Perhaps.
Like people, dogs are very social animals. It may border on insanity, adopting 2 puppies at my advanced age — the jury is still out — but the theory is that because of their strong social needs, Jesse and Taffy will be more emotionally healthy because they have each other. When Jesse is excavating a hole in the back yard, Taffy wants to be right there helping. When Taffy has found an interesting toy to play with, Jesse wants her to share it with him. And when one of them is relaxing and there is a hint of boredom in the air, the other creeps up and pounces. Their playing is very physical and wonderful to watch. They roll, leap and wrestle, biting legs and tails and ears and necks. They chase each other around the yard and tackle each other on the run. And when they wear each other out, then lie down side by side and take a nap.
We’ve been busily puppy-proofing the house, of course. Like young children, puppies want to get into everything. Their curiosity is endless, their ability to create trouble from the most innocent of situations is remarkable. I fenced in a large area of the back yard to keep them safely penned in, and dangerous animals (javelina, coyotes, bobcats) out. I’ve been worried about snakes, however. The dogs’ curiosity and fearlessness might get them into trouble if a rattler came into the yard.
A couple of nights ago I came home from work and took a shortcut through the carport to the backyard to see the dogs. I rounded the corner of the house and a western diamondback rattler wheeled around, coiled up and began buzzing at me about 5 feet from where I was standing. He was a very healthy adult, beautifully marked and about a meter long. If it weren’t for snakes, the desert rodent population would be completely out of control, so I don’t like to kill them.
We stared at each other for a bit, and when it was clear that he wasn’t being aggressive, just defensive, I carefully reached for my snake-catcher. I caught hold of him around the body. Then, with my son’s help, I lowered him into a big plastic ice chest with a secure lid. We put him into the truck and transported him into the desert about a half-mile away, where we set him free. Happy ending, but I know now that I need to stay vigilant.
There are cat people and dog people, I guess. Cats are aloof and independent. They will cuddle when they feel like it, then ignore you when they have had enough of you.
Dogs love giving and receiving affection. They enjoy our companionship as much as we enjoy theirs. These two in particular have a boundless enthusiasm for having fun. I have a feeling that Taffy and Jesse might rescue me from becoming a dour old curmudgeon. One can only hope.