Puppy therapy

Seems like a couple of weeks into stay-at-home orders and physical separation is an ideal time for some puppy therapy.

So I brought you a tiny puppy to hold awhile. In your heart, anyway, if not in your hands.

You’ll want to know the story, I suspect …

Last December, my son and I went to pick up his new puppy.

We wanted a mini dachshund, as we had one for sixteen years, from the time my boy was four until he was almost twenty-one. Dachshunds love to snuggle. They’re full of affection and whimsy. And mischief … and stubbornness … but their devotion outweighs all else.

When we got to the breeders, as paperwork was being completed, I noticed a movement under some blankets in one of the kennels.

“Oh, something’s in there!” I remarked. “It looked empty except for the blankets.”

“Yes,” said the breeder-lady. “A mother and her baby. She only had one, born yesterday.”

And then the lady did the unthinkable.

She reached under the blankets, scooped the newborn out, and placed it in my hands.

I could hardly breathe.

Tiny. So fragile. So beautifully formed, utterly perfect in every way. The sheen of its gorgeous coat, solid chocolate. Teeny little ears. Nails so miniscule they could barely be seen … awe isn’t adequate for the suspended moment of wonder at this bit of life in my hands.

The puppy’s mother, a long-haired red dapple, hovered at my feet, her big brown eyes fixed on me as I held her baby.

“Here, ” I said to my son, “hold it for just a second and we’ll give it back to its mother. She’s anxious.”

I placed the puppy in my son’s hands and took took a picture with my phone. With a fingertip, I stroked its satiny head, just once.

“It’s so beautiful,” whispered my son. Very carefully, he slid the tiny creature back into the breeder-lady’s hands and she deftly returned it to its blanketed kennel.

The mother darted in. She went right to work on her baby, licking away all of our human smell from its fur.

I don’t know why I wanted to cry just then.

Maybe it was the mother’s impeccable care of her one baby. We’d worried her, made extra work for her. The puppy squirmed against its bath but quickly settled back to blissful neonate-sleep.

Perhaps it was the fragility of new life that twisted my heart, its precariousness and preciousness, the struggle of being alive and helpless and dependent. Or the convicting knowledge that the human touch is not always a kind or good thing. Or maybe the pang was simply because life is beautiful and because I love dogs.

“Okay, you’re set,” smiled the breeder-lady, handing us the paperwork. “He’s all yours.”

No, of course not the tiny day-old chocolate puppy. That was just a gift of the moment. The breeders hadn’t yet determined if it was a boy or a girl. I did fantasize about returning in two months to get it, however, and what I’d name it … right now, as I write this post while watching Citizen Kane, I am considering “Rosebud” …

No.

I just felt you might need a moment with the tiniest puppy I ever held.

THIS is what we went for, and what we carried home:

Our Dennis.

He’s like a furry worry stone … while holding him and rubbing him (he now rolls over for belly rubs, his favorite) it’s impossible to feel sad or worried or anything but peace and gladness to be alive.

So I give him to you for a minute, to hold with your eyes. And maybe with your heart. He’ll steal it—trust me.

Just a little puppy therapy for your day.

24 thoughts on “Puppy therapy

  1. Two sweet pups. The image of the worrying mother and your understanding of what she was going through were so sweet. Dennis as a worry stone is a great comparison. All of your dog stories over the years tell us how loved this dog will be… already is loved.

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    • I felt bad for making the mother nervous – I wouldn’t have dreamed of holding her baby if it hadn’t been handed to me. Although I absolutely savored it. It was a sweet moment, piercingly so. Yes … Dennis … a tremendous joy he is, hilarious and comforting – he really does absorb any negative thoughts and they just dissipate when I hold his little warm, furry body close. Think of all the Dennis stories to come-! 🙂

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  2. This is a beautiful piece! Thanks for letting us hold the puppy with you and for introducing Dennis. This reminds me of my visit to Laurie when we stopped at her husband’s farm and I go to hold a newborn lamb for a few minutes. There is nothing better! A great beginning and close. Thanks for sharing these photos and memories.

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  3. So beautifully written. I love reading your slices..always the right word in the right place: the entire “tiny” paragraph, “blissful neonate-sleep,” “a furry worry stone.” Thanks for letting us in on this truly awesome experience. All uplifting, hopeful posts appreciated!

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  4. Awe. Both puppies are precious, but there’s something extra special in our time of vulnerability about that tiny puppy. Perhaps it’s a lovely reminder of our own interdependence or a reminder to be careful w/ our own touch.

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  5. “A furry worry stone” – oh my. And that tiny puppy! My entire family came around just gaze adoringly at the picture. Thank you for such a hopeful post today – for letting us experience the truth of vulnerability and of love and how they intertwine.

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    • I am so glad your family enjoyed the tiny puppy picture – I felt like it needed to be shared! It was too precious for words. The scene of your family gathered round to see it makes my day – thank you and yours, Amanda. 🙂

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  6. I grew up with miniature dachshunds, too (will the connections never end?). Scooter joined our family in North Carolina. She moved with us to Naples (yep, another Italy reference) where she was (reluctantly) bred and birthed four puppies. We kept her firstborn, a runt and the only girl in the litter; we named her Triste, for her sad eyes. Scooter and Triste would move with us from Naples to San Jose to Stuttgart, where Scooter started to become paralyzed and we had to let her go. Triste was heartbroken, but she survived through the moves to El Paso, then back to Germany. She was flown back to Texas by my parents just before they returned, but the flight was just too much for her aging body; my grandparents took her to the vet, seizing, and she was put to rest.

    Sorry for the long response…your picture of the teeny tiny baby doxie brought back interesting and loving memories!

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    • I love this long response, the name Triste, your doxie jet-setters, and having YET ANOTHER connection, Chris! So glad the baby in the photo sparked such loving memories. And thar Scooter came from my state.

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  7. “Furry worry stone” – that’s a lyrical miracle! Puppy therapy just in the nick of time. Other beautifully crafted lines that struck me were- “Perhaps it was the fragility of new life that twisted my heart, its precariousness and preciousness, the struggle of being alive and helpless and dependent. Or the convicting knowledge that the human touch is not always a kind or good thing.” Just, wow.

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    • I think now that I might need a shirt with “Lyrical Miracle.” It’s just so fun. And of course it will remind me of your writing … for which I am grateful, on your site, as well as here on mine. 🙂

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  8. The reflective lines questions your “on the verge of tears” moment is what really invited me into your experience with the frail puppy. These lines did it for me, “Maybe it was the mother’s impeccable care of her one baby….Perhaps it was the fragility of new life that twisted my heart, its precariousness and preciousness, the struggle of being alive and helpless and dependent.” Lovely slice, and yes, I did need this puppy therapy today. Big time.

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