Friday, January 23, 2015

A dog in the house

Ha ha ha ha ha!  It’s so naïve! 

You can’t prepare for a puppy!  Everyone knows that!

And yet, we at the Plath household are engaged in a zombie-like ritual whereby we go through a set of steps designed to accomplish some kind of magic – we seek an impossible readiness for the destruction of life as we know it.

It’s a sun-god ceremony.  A rain dance.  A ceremonial procedure in which we prime ourselves for sacrifice.  We are making everything new and nice and perfect so that it can be dribbled on, chewed up and thrashed past utility by a guileless little heathen who will live with us for the next decade or more.

It all began with the passing of Beau, our happy black Lab of thing-fetching fame.  After 13 years of repetitive behavior, we humans were as locked into his routine as he was. 

We continue to flinch at feeding times.  We carefully lock the gate.  We park in front of Pet Food Express when we mean to go to Raley’s.  We wipe phantom nose prints from clean sliding doors.

We miss the grizzled old boy!

And just when the heartache ebbs, something new will touch off another round of nostalgia:  I Googled our address for no particular reason and clicked on “street view” only to find that the internet mappers had passed along our alley with their cameras mounted high enough to look over our fence. 

It was totally unsettling and creepy and sure to be the topic of a future column – but I couldn’t dwell on that because there, in the frame of our yard, was Beau, on his side next to the house, his grey muzzle lifted to the sky, his mouth forming an ‘O,’ no doubt howling to his people, his tribe, the ancient wolves of suburbia. 

I’d give him credit for barking at those possible intruders, but let’s just be honest.  In his declining days, he chased all manner of imaginary villains in his sleep and left the real life ones to their own devices.  But, oh!  How sweet to see him!    

And so with broken hearts we knew the only balm in this Gilead would be the same as the comfort of a new mother when the baby is placed in her arms.  Contractions?  Agony?  No!  We will forget the grief, the chewing, the pee and the hair, hair, hair. 

Only a puppy can save us.  Only a puppy’s big belly and sweet face can restore our souls.  A puppy! 

And the march has begun.  Like Wrangler on the Today Show, our puppy will grow up to be a working dog with manners and skills to match the specific demands of the field.  So since before Thanksgiving, we’ve been on waiting lists for litters .

But even so I didn’t quite appreciate Mr. Plath’s level of anticipation until I asked him the other day if he had given any thought to what he might name the little terrorist who will soon disrupt our lives and ultimately join him in the duck blinds.

Oh yes.  He had devoted himself to compiling a list of contenders.  Quietly, when I thought he was reading the paper or marveling at Francis Underwood in our House of Cards marathon, he had assembled a roster of names for his new buddy, coming soon to a place in his heart.

Our new little guy will be Duke or Dewey or Buster or Louie – or Blue.

Here are his dishes and place mat.  Here’s his little doggy bed and a plush toy with a beating heart for his first nights in a new home.  Here are his chew toys and look!  A little squeaky duck thing! 

But let’s be real.  It doesn’t much matter what we have put in place to corral him or where we picture him sleeping.  He’ll make this place his own in short order.  We will adjust our thinking, our plans, our barriers, our strategies and systems – to him.  His creativity will out match ours.  He will win.

In fact, he has already won.  We just can’t wait to meet him.

And that’s true for just about everyone in the Plath household, except, of course, the cats.