Kirk and I recently added to our little family of three, by adopting a five (now six) month old puppy we named Stella. She was a tiny nineteen pounds when I picked her up from our friend Paige’s house and brought her home. When, terrified, she crawled into my lap during the drive, my heart turned over and I’ve been hooked on her ever since.
Over the years we’ve had two dogs of our own, Trixie and then Grover, as well as fostering a couple (Annie and Cakes).
But we’ve never had a puppy, so we’re experiencing a wee bit of a learning curve. One of the reasons that we decided to get a second dog was that our beloved Grover, a nine-year old that we adopted just before Thanksgiving in 2007, seemed so lonesome without canine companionship. But he is having a hard time adjusting to Stella’s bouncy, rough and tumble energy. Perhaps I’m being a bit coy. Force of nature, agent of chaos, incarnation of Kali the destroyer, these might be more apt descriptions. For your pleasure, a list of items that Stella has damaged, eaten or otherwise perforated since being with us:
- The heavy-duty jute rug we thought would be dog impervious (umm, giant rope toy, duh)
- One pair yellow Crocs
- One pair brown leather Camper sling backs
- The camera on my iPhone
- Kirk’s entire cell phone
- Our wedding album
- One nylon woven leash
- The handle of leather leash purchased to replace said nylon leash
- One of Kirk’s favorite graphic novels
- Four cardboard fabric tubes
- One 3’x3’ cardboard box (this took her a couple of weeks to completely disassemble into tiny pieces)
I usually give my animals a last name as well as a first, Stella’s full name? Stella the Mouth. Needless to say, we’ve now figured out not to leave these tasty morsels within her grasp.
Though she was injured before we adopted her (hit by a car, she was left to heal her broken hip, leg and smashed ankle alone in a backyard because her owner’s couldn’t afford the vet bill) she’s almost always in motion, and loves to run fast fast fast. She’s a bright spark, quickly bored with most of her toys, so much so that we’ve taken to rotating them in a desperate attempt to retain her interest. As her attention span lengthens, we’ve been able to teach her ‘Stella’,’sit’, ‘here’, ‘leave it’ (crucial), and we’ve just gotten started on ‘down’ and ‘go to bed’. Everyone we meet is her new best friend and I have yet to be able to get it through her head that it is not polite to throw oneself in the path of oncoming passersby. In the odd quiet moment she’ll come over, lean into me, look at me as if I’m the best person on earth and lick my ears.
Grover, now Grover is a different story. When I watch him lying in the grass outside, I often think of Ferdinand the bull from the children’s story, because he has the same gentle style. He is not so bright, very low energy and unassuming. We can leave him unattended for hours, he would never presume to get into the trash, take anything off a shelf, and has never had an accident in the house. He will on occasion, climb onto the sofa, where we find him, curled in a ball like a cat. But more often he is exactly where we left him, hours earlier. While not overtly affectionate he clearly relishes being stroked gently on the head or brushed, and loves a good belly rubbing session. He can be stubborn though; there’s a reason his name at the shelter was Totem. He’s picky about his food, his bedding, and is completely unwilling to comply with a ‘sit’ command when the ground is wet or muddy (a damp tush? Never!). And I wouldn’t want to be a garbage can at night, as he seems to think they are a dire threat to our household. But for the most part, such a gentle teddy bear of a dog.
Needless to say, he’s not a huge fan of having this whirlwind of a puppy begging him to play, snapping at his muzzle and legs (another name in the running for her? The Alligator) as she gets more and more frustrated with his lack of interest. When pushed too far, he will growl, bark and snarl, bearing his broken and missing teeth at her in a grimace worthy of Cujo. It really feels like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. I’ve tried to capture this dramatic face-off on film more than once, to no avail. All for the best I suppose, as people might mistake my house for a dog-fighting venue. But in reality it’s all for show, they very rarely make contact, showing a precision that is pretty astounding.
Kirk and I have, it’s true, picked sides in this doggy debate. My steady, laid-back husband eyes Stella with the same misgivings I see in Grover’s face. I, something of an agent of chaos myself, am embracing the vitality that she brings to our household and sometimes wish those boys would just loosen up a little. This is a dynamic that has surfaced between Kirk and I before. I ,constantly desiring forward motion, moving fast fast fast toward my goals, he quietly deliberating, mulling, weighing the pros and cons and then methodically moving forward toward his. I think it’s one of the reasons our relationship works so beautifully. Each of us provides a necessary counterweight for the other. Otherwise he might be stagnant, I unmoored. I’m hoping that it will be the same for Stella and Grover, that they will reach a place of peace. Because our little family feels right to me now, bountiful and balanced.