So we have a new puppy.
Ralph is devoted to his lab Zeus. The two of them spend most of Ralph’s waking hours together, up in Ralph’s office, where Ralph supposedly paints while Zeus dozes, out on the porch where Ralph drinks beer and smokes while Zeus dozes, or at the kitchen table where Ralph eats and reads while Zeus begs for scraps when he isn’t dozing. One reason I can’t get Ralph to go out to dinner, let alone away for a vacation, is that he doesn’t like being away from Zeus.
But Zeus is eleven, maybe older. He has epilepsy. And weighs at least 85 pounds. Big dogs don’t live as long as small ones. So for a while I have been worrying about what would/will happen when Zeus goes. We are not dog buyers usually. Our dogs have come to us through friends or through the pound or because they wondered up tagless. But given the reality of Ralph’s prognosis with Alzheimer’s, I began to think a companion dog with special skills might be in order. Plus I loved the idea of a non-shedding fluffy dog and maybe a dog that was in the 30-pound range. I also worried that if I waited too long, Ralph would not be able to help with training a puppy—I am not by nature a dog person myself and have never trained a puppy. So last month I registered with a labdoodle breeder to be on the wait list for a mini-doodle puppy.
Evidently a labdoodle is not in my future however.
Because ten days ago I walked into my gym and my Pilates instructor announced she had just picked up a stray puppy and didn’t know what to do with it. The dog had wandered or been dropped at a busy neighborhood intersection. She’d already been to the vet who found no i.d. chip. Everyone in the gym was gaga over the lab mix puppy, which had on a collar but no tags and seemed underweight but not mistreated. With her pale blond coat and dark eyes, she looked like a mini-Zeus. Very mini. Whatever part of her is not lab is something small, a terrier or maybe a beagle. She—my teacher, not the puppy although come to think of it her too—gave me one of her most winning, beseeching smiles. I called Ralph. We agreed to foster the puppy and maybe keep it if no one claimed her. The signs and Facebook announcements were already going up.
Ralph immediately named her Lola, as in “whatever Lola wants…” My granddaughter came to visit and fell in love. So did my daughter. Zeus not so much. Ralph and I tried to keep our distance in case someone showed up. But Lola was, is, awfully cute. No one called. I took her for shots and signed her up for puppy class. She began to house train in earnest.
Which means I am house training her. I am also feeding her and teaching her to sit and come—as far as I’ve gotten in basic dog etiquette. Basically I do all the disciplining and getting up at the crack or dawn and at midnight for “do your business” walks. Ralph cannot keep straight what and when Lola eats or how much to feed or that she needs to go out when she whimpers, but Lola adores him and vice versa. He is the one she sleeps with on the couch. She follows him everywhere when she is not following Zeus, who has gradually learned to tolerate her. I admit I resent that she needs me as soon as I sit down at my computer, and I also resent that she prefers to snuggle with Ralph. It is baby rearing all over again.
But I realize it is good we have a dog to train now rather than later, when it would be too much for Ralph even from the sidelines. I was about to write this up this afternoon when my cell rang.
“Do you have Lola?” Ralph was calling although I thought he was downstairs with the dogs.
“No, you saw me go upstairs.”
“I came up to the barn. I thought you had her and now I can’t find her.” Basically, he couldn’t remember if he took her with him to the barn or left her in the house. I said something snarky that I shouldn’t have and ran downstairs calling her name.
“She isn’t in the house.”
“Stop blaming me. We have to find her!”
Ralph’s calm in a crisis was always one of his signature traits, but not anymore. He began to panic, the way he does these days.
I went outside and called her name but was worried myself. We live on acres and acres of pasture and farmland. It would take no time at all for a small dog to disappear. At the front of the house, I called again. She came running from the direction of the barn.
The good news: Lola comes when called and will probably grow into the perfect companion dog for Ralph. The bad news: I really can’t expect Ralph, who has raised countless dogs over the years, to keep track of the puppy he loves.
ps. Ralph says he thinks we should get the labdoodle puppy for Lola to play with.