Friday, October 18, 2013

Puppy love conquers the universe

All I would do if I wrote a column about “serious” things like the exercise in petulance called the government shutdown would be to quote H.L. Mencken. And I have more pressing matters to deal with anyway, like sleeping through the night.

The 8-week-old golden retriever invariably wakes sometime between 1 and 3 a.m. and insists that the world will come to an end if she is not permitted to do some business outside of her puppy holding area. I have as a result become familiar with the night sky and the quiet of early morning.

This is an improvement over the 7-week-old puppy, however. That little beast woke two and three times in the early morning. In time she will sleep all night. Oh please, let it be soon.

We brought the pup into the house to be a companion for Willow The Best Dog There Is. Noble intentions. Have you seen the videos of the children whose parents excitedly say “You’re going to be a big sister!” only to watch the former center of the universe burst into tears and run from the room? I am no longer convinced that Willow wanted a companion.

The 4-year-old who could not stop bringing me the ball so that I could toss it somewhere for her to retrieve has become a forlorn figure tucked in the narrow space between the love seat and the living room wall, head between paws, sulking. She was perfectly happy being the only child, it seems, and is taking her time becoming used to this big sister stuff.

This must be what it is like to introduce a former only child to her sibling. I have no doubt Willow will one day enjoy having a friend of her own species in the house. That day has not yet come.

This is not for a lack of effort on Dejah’s part. Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars. Yes, named after the immortal Edgar Rice Burroughs character and to give me an excuse to endorse the most underrated film of the 21st century. As if to validate our choice, the night we brought her home the DVR gave us an episode of Elementary featuring guest star Lynn Collins, who memorably brought Dejah Thoris to life in the brilliant (yes, I said brilliant) adventure movie John Carter.

Dejah is a wonderful but challenging puppy — is there any other kind? Last night she emptied Willow’s toy basket. Emptied it. Imagine purchasing a couple of dozen chew toys and balls and keeping them in a basket for your dog to pick from, and then imagine a puppy pulling every one out for examination. “We do clean our house, really, it’s just the puppy —”

Monday morning, the day Dejah turned 8 weeks, we went for what was once Willow’s solitary morning romp, chasing the orange disk across our field. Willow dutifully carried the disk as always and headed to the meadow. I carried Dejah down the steps and set her on the ground.

I noticed something charming. Not long ago the 4-year-old would sprint away like a greyhound, eager to get started on the toss-and-retrieve routine. Today she trotted toward the chasing ground — trotted — and the 8-week-old ran like the wind to keep up with her big sister. An early nod of acceptance? Perhaps. All I know for sure is that it was the cutest image yet.

Mencken? Oh, you’ve heard the quote: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

The practical politicians have been having a field day of late. So far the hobgoblins they warned about have turned out to be niggling irritations like attempting to close the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore to sightseers. Somehow life has gone on, people have survived just fine without their federal government, and puppies continue to annoy their big sisters. One day soon, I even expect to get a full night’s sleep.

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