Puppy Love

Seventy pound Leo who is under the misguided impression that he’s a lapdog.

I have written before about my pup, Leo the Destructo Dog and Obedience School Dropout.  I even wrote a column, which I am reprinting below, in praise of his puppy breath.  But this column, which appeared in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on August 1, 2009, was almost a posthumous one.


I have actually had nightmares about it, but I’ll tell more about that tomorrow.

Puppy Love

The kids were older. Life seemed settled. And I wondered what to do next. Too old for another baby, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of: I got a puppy.

There’s no two ways about it; I’m a dog person. Always have been, always will be.

I’ve had a dog (or two) by my side since I took my first steps. I’m so used to having a four-legged friend that I couldn’t resist a wiggly bunch of puppies that I spotted surrounding a bowl of milk when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. The Husband and I knocked on the door and asked if we could buy one of the tiny creatures. The woman gave us a puzzled look, rolled her eyes and said, “Take one. Take them all.” We picked out a female, who we named Crash, and rode off on our bikes before the woman could change her mind.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for puppy breath.

Crash turned out to be a clever, slightly timid mutt who knew her place in the canine lineup of our village pack of dogs. She was smart enough to avoid the snarling conflicts that would erupt and fast enough to jump in when the pack was distracted in a brawl. Crash had been such an integral part of our life; I couldn’t bear to leave her behind. So I didn’t.

Upon our arrival back home, our shy hound morphed into the Queen of Mean and Fierce Protector of the Castle. She got a sister, a soulful-eyed, black lab named Shelby with an obsession with tennis balls and any body of water. But Crash remained the sovereign ruler of her domain. She endured three cross country moves and two real-life babies. Despite her obsessive devotion to our family, Crash hated everyone else. And she wasn’t afraid to go Cujo on anyone who dared enter her kingdom.

And then one day I realized that my faithful, slightly eccentric companion was old. Even at fourteen, Crash still liked her walks even if they were shorter. But her face was turning white and her eyes started to look rheumy even though the vet said Crash possessed hybrid tenacity, which I assumed was vet-speak for good mutt genes.

“It’s time to get a puppy,” I told The Husband starting to choke up. “I need a back up dog, for when . . .” I couldn’t even say it. So that’s when Hank joined the family. A shelter pup that someone found in a dumpster, this tiny ball of fur morphed into an exceedingly goofy, yet regal looking, faux Golden Retriever who is prone to excess drool. Crash lived three more years; I’m pretty sure out of spite.

When it was just Hank, I started to get wistful for the jingling of another collar. “We can just look,” I said as we drove toward the shelter. But when that tiny tornado of black, brown and white fur dove into my lap it was love at first sight.

Guess I’m still a sucker for puppy breath.

Leo is a party on four legs. Whether it’s been five minutes or five hours, he greets you like you’re Bob Barker and he won the showcase. He doesn’t just wag his tail; he wags his whole body with an unbridled enthusiasm that is pure canine joy. Despite weighing seventy pounds now, Leo operates under the delusion that he’s a lap dog. Although he looks like he was put together from a box of spare dog parts, I don’t care. I’m smitten.

So I guess I’ll always have a bad case of puppy love. At least as long as there’s puppy breath.

Sweet Shelby, Bless His Heart Dumb, Hank and the Queen of Mean, Crash.