Cynthia L. Eppley, MA
A Dog’s Life
We never really expected to get a dog. We’d had cats before. And even the cats belonged to our son: more of a “stopover” until they could be returned to him.
There are major differences between cats and dogs. Both are cuddly and fun. But they are different:
“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods” Christopher Hitchens (Author, The Portable Atheist )
And we didn’t time it for Quarantine. It just happened that she was ready to be picked up in February.
So when we got our Cavapoo Ella? We were surprised by how quickly we fell in love with her winsome ways.
You know how cute they are as puppies. They are roly-poly and soft with little squeaks. The first few days are for bonding: laying with Ella on our chest.
It is enough to melt your heart.
“Happiness is a warm puppy.” – Charles Shultz (cartoonist, Peanuts)
But they also pee and poo on the rugs and floors. They want constant attention. They chase after your feet. They steal your shoes and nibble down the laces to little nubs.
They steal your heart.
What Ella Teaches Us
Perhaps you all know these dynamics. But these are new to us. It is like having a child—and now that she is 8m., like a teenager.
Honestly, if she doesn’t like what we are saying or doing? She literally “talks back” to us. She yips and barks, leaning her head forward for special emphasis. Perhaps she thinks if she barks loud enough and long enough she will get her way. She comes close enough to feel her hot doggy breath on our leg or knee.
Such attitude! Adolescence at its finest.
Some dogs like to swim.
Ella is not one of those dogs.
We take her down to Ambler Boro Park creek and she gets her paws wet, or muddy to be more exact. This requires cleaning in the water before we leave, or a quick wash when we get home. She loves the creek. But not in the water so much.
But drinking? She loves to drink from the creek. She has a fine dish of water at home. But she prefers drinking from the creek.
Or the hose. She barks at the hose while I water the plants; she runs back and forth frantically. When I stop, I allow a trickle of water to drip. This is the drink she wants. Somehow it is preferable to her food dish.
And then she belches.
Dogs will eat almost anything. Out veterinarian tells us Cavapoos think their name is “Drop it.” She picks up sticks, pinecones, and acorns along our walk. It is a constant battle to pry it out of her mouth. And if she is in the house? She runs with the item: most often Kleenex or napkins. Frequently she takes refuge under the dining room table where we can’t reach her. Or she darts out and we have to corner her in the living room.
Which brings me to the point: anything that you are eating is better than what she has in her dish. This brings in the aforementioned dynamic of barking. Or jumping. Insisting on her own way. On the other hand, it is a good clean up for the crumbs on the floor.
Having Ella requires time outside to potty, and walking. This has been an experience. In our many walks she has discovered birds, bunnies, cats and squirrels, oh my! And once she has seen them? She remembers exactly where they reside. So any walk requires a quick check in to see if they are there.
When she sees them she assumes her “attention” stance. Followed by a flurry of barking and pulling. Often she buries her head and shoulders in shrubs or flowers, and all we see is her frantic wagging tail as she tries to sniff out her prey.
It is important to let the doggos sniff appropriately. A sniff to the rump is most often the preferred choice. And most dogs comply willingly. We have learned early which dogs are not so eager to fall into social etiquette. A short growl might simply imply a bad day.
Hackles raised mean we should stay away.
But if a “match” is made? Happy yipping ensues. Tails wag enthusiastically. Circling around each other, often their leashes intertwined.
Ella has her favorites. She stands on the sofa and looks for Toby and Luna, her BFFs. She knows them by name and knows where they live.
It is quite like joining a dog fraternity.
Neighbors and Friends
Lest you think that this blog is all about our love for our dog? Let me get to the main point. By far, what having a dog has taught us is the neighborhood. We’ve lived here for 27 years. We know many of our neighbors. But now we know people from blocks away. Never before have we known their dogs. We have met a plethora of new people.
She loves all people. Children up the street see her and begin chanting: “Baby Ella! Baby Ella!” And now those little children are dear to us.
I have not mentioned politics in this blog at all—but here is one I cannot resist:
“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
Harry Truman (former president of the United States)
And so we’ve met so many wonderful people, with wonderful dog stories. What is the best leash? What harness works for front pulling?
Where do you go for grooming?
The required walking has gotten us out of the house, and out of ourselves.
During this quarantine time, this has been a balm to our souls.
A balm is a fragrant ointment used to heal or soothe. Something that has a comforting, soothing, or restorative effect.
While keeping “Social Distance” (A dog leash is 6 ft. long) we are able to interact with our doggy neighbors. Not seeing friends and family has been hard.
But now, new neighbors and new friends have been made.
And it makes me think, to refer to a common theme of rescue organizations: “Who rescued who?”