Squatting in the number-two spot on my bucket list, right after pontooning down the Grand Canyon with 50 of my favorites people, was "a white fluffy puppy, preferably a Maltese." Due to my relatively itinerant lifestyle, I had never had a dog, nor was I sure I could handle the responsibility of one. In fact, I wasn't even sure I knew what that really entailed. It was starting to look like I'd never have that white dream.
My boyfriend Pat was full-on against it and couldn't have been more clear, telling me, "As soon as you learn to put the CDs back in their right cases, you can have a dog." He went so far as to buy me an annoying stuffed one that walked and yapped on a battery. "Walk this three times a day for a full year," he challenged, "and then you can have your dog." He laughed, knowing I wouldn't walk it even once.
He was right: I just wasn't very maternal. I'd never had kids and my plants didn't look so good either. I'm 60 years old and I just didn't much like add-ons. I enjoyed being able to float through life unencumbered and self-concerned, flying like an eagle.
That is until a few years ago when a six-week-old white fluffy Maltese-mix puppy was practically dropped on my doorstep. Sometimes, things are just meant to be! A casual friend begged me to foster one of the puppies her dog delivered without warning. She said it was time to wean her off her mother and although I wasn't sure what that meant, I said OK. I was so naïve about dog ownership that I actually asked her, "Is the puppy paper-trained yet?"
She laughed, "She's six weeks old!" I wasn't sure what that really meant either, so I blindly pushed on with the adoption, clueless yet stupidly confident that I could handle whatever this two-pound, walking cotton ball could throw at me.
I looked a few things up on the internet to get started, spoke to several dog owners all of whom begged me not to get a puppy—"Are you crazy? You'll be so sorry!"—while my friend continued to send adorable pictures each week, until …
I had to have this puppy! I didn't care about anything else. And when I make up my mind that I want something, I get it.
So I bulldozed her and her plastic crate into my apartment home against my boyfriend's absolutely-nots. We had a brief but mighty argument, tears in my eyes about my bucket list, my increasing age. I even tried that tired lie, "We're just going to foster her until she has a home. If you don't like her, she's GONE!"
"Our lives will change forever," Pat warned me. "You'll be sorry."
I didn't know how he knew—he'd never had a dog, either—so I ignored him, as well. I was in full-on denial, hands over my ears chanting, "La-la-la."
We eventually settled on agreeing to disagree, but Pat closed the first of many puppy arguments with, "She's your dog. You will take care of her and all the P-words that go with that." I assured him that I would, not even fully comprehending what all the P-words even were.
So every time our new puppy peed or pooped on our white carpet, which was just about every time she peed or pooped, I cheerfully cleaned it up with my trusty Resolve, while Pat griped that he could no longer walk the house barefoot amidst the minefield of puppy presents.
Each time she puked, which puppies apparently do often, he'd turn into an announcer, "Clean puppy puke on aisle two of the living room." And so I would. But both of our humors were wearing thin. It was a lot of work. I practically slept with Resolve in my right hand and a clean cloth in my left. I spent months cleaning our white carpets, which are now a gray swirl.
Early on, my puppy took to pooping in Pat's office right next to his computer, missing the Wee-Wee training pads by about 500 yards. It was just her way of saying, "If you spent more time writing and less time complaining about me, we'd all be happier!"
This dog is smart.
And apparently puppies like to play ... incessantly. I didn't know that. We did about 18 months of puppy play camp, with her as the head counselor. She could play in her sleep (if she EVER slept) and there was no end to any game she chose. She could even morph a chewing game into a fetch game before you'd notice.
Yes, pee-poop-puke-play: the 4 P's. Rinse, Resolve and repeat. It was exhausting.
There were many times along our training when I wasn't sure I could go on. Eventually she did what puppies do—she attached herself with abandon and snuggled her way into our hearts.
This puppy has also brought a sweet healing to our lives that we didn't anticipate, a healing that we didn't even know we needed. She has been nurturing from the beginning, particularly for Pat. When he doesn't feel well, she rushes to his side, offering sweet, wet licks until time and her love heals him back to life. If one of us sneezes, she barrels in from wherever, licks your face and whimpers until you stop. So we finally named her "Nurse Jacki."
Now it's two years into our relationship with Jacki, and Pat is so in love with this dog that if someone held a gun to his head and gave him a Sophie's Choice—Debbie or Jacki—I'd end up on the back of the truck, waving goodbye to them. Jacki and Pat have evolved a relationship right out of a Disney movie. She loves the way he tastes (Italian) so she constantly licks his face, kissing him with abandon, like he was her boyfriend. If we embrace in front of her, she jumps up to join the family hug, acting like I'm horning in on her man.
Yes, my life has changed. I now have an add-on, a dependent and not coincidently, my plants are faring better, too. Honestly, I regret every single day that I met this life-changer yet I cannot imagine our world without her. She's the most precious thing I have ever had. Something else I never could've known.