This is something I’m working on as a part of my memoir (therefore it’s not quite as finished as it will be in the memoir). However, I felt it worked well for this blog too since I’ve mentioned the dogs in my life frequently (such as @bellajocavalier and @selbysweetie [both on Instagram]).
Blog note: ordinarily the 5th Monday of the month is a pop culture extra. But, I had this one written and I have been spending a lot of time with Bella and Selby lately (and I love it).
“The Important Puppy” by LauraHagemann
My whole life I have had a dog. Usually a family dog. And by that I mean the dog didn’t truly feel like she was mine. As a child, my parents picked out the dogs we had and we named them as a family. When I had left the house and gotten my first job I still wasn’t really in a position to get a dog. I worked a lot and also attended graduate school at night. It wouldn’t have been fair to a pup. So after my parents and I got back from a quick vacation in Europe I decided MY PARENTS should get a puppy. Our last family dog, Cinnamon, had passed away that February and so I was barely making it to August without a dog in my life. So I looked through the classifieds in the newspaper (it was 2003) and found another cocker spaniel (that’s what breed Cinnamon had been). I found a listing for a chocolate cocker spaniel girl puppy. That was perfect. Cinnamon had been a “buff colored” blondish cocker. So I didn’t really want one that looked exactly like her and that’s why I was excited about the “chocolate” colored puppy. No new dog could really take Cinnamon’s place because she was the first of our dogs I wrote about which started a trend. And for that and many other reasons Cinnamon was an important puppy.
It was my bond with Cinnamon that had me aching for a new puppy. I think my parents must have been feeling the same way since they readily agreed to get a new puppy. So we went and got the tiny chocolate cocker spaniel puppy in the summer of 2003. We named her Tansy Lou. Tansy because she had kind of tannish paws that reminded my Mom of the flower Tansy (or noxious weed, depends on who you ask). Lou because my middle name is Louise and I thought it was cute to give her kind of my middle name. Tansy lived with my parents but I feel like she knew I picked her.
Whenever I was around her she was near me. Granted, I’m a dog person (as is probably obvious). Always have been. And I think dogs can sense this. However, Tansy was a special dog to me. Tansy ended up getting Glaucoma in one eye when she was five and eventually in the other eye as well a year later. We ended up being able to save just one of the eyes, however years later she eventually went completely blind. Despite her difficulties she still always looked like a puppy (almost) and had a very loving disposition. I didn’t know it at the time (obviously) but now upon further reflection I realize that watching how little Tansy just rolled with the punches of her vision difficulties and then blindness was like a primer for how I want to be in the wake of my hearing loss and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). It probably sounds funny to say I’m modeling my behavior after a dog. But you didn’t know Tansy. She was confident and consoling all in one tiny package. She had this ability to just melt away any anxiety or pain I was feeling just by letting me hug her. She was a little chocolate brown cocker spaniel who had her own ailments but she really had consoling super powers. And for that she was certainly an important puppy.
It was Labor Day weekend 2016 and my sister had asked if I wouldn’t mind taking her dog (I say her dog but really she’s my niece’s and nephew’s dog), Bella, up to my parents’ lake cabin with me for the long weekend while she and the kids went to a resort. Bella REALLY wanted to sit on my lap as we drove up to the lake (it was about a four hour drive depending on traffic). I didn’t let her though. I kind of caved and let her sit on the center armrest for most of the trip. That wasn’t really safe for her but she looked darn cute co-piloting! We had a nice weekend at the lake with my parents. Little did any of us know it was the last weekend before things changed forever in a very permanent and profound way. In a week Tansy would die and a week after that my accident would happen (the accident where I got my severe Traumatic Brain Injury and was in a coma for three weeks). Yet spending time with Bella like that was a precursor to having my own puppy. And her intuitive nature in knowing when and how you need her was and still is inspiring. It’s easy to see why she’s an important puppy to my niece and nephew and sister and it’s easy to see why she’s an important big cousin puppy to my puppy now. And for those reasons and many more she’s an important puppy to me too.
Then Tansy passed away and then a week later I was in a very serious car accident, Bella was the only puppy in our family for a while. She loved it. She thrived. She got used to it. And then once I came home from the hospital and healed enough my parents and I decided we were ready for a puppy. As is probably clear: I have always wanted my very own pup. I was finally going to have my very own important puppy and I was the most excited I had been since the accident. I’m not entirely sure I can get excited after my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as my emotions are very stagnant. However the prospect of my very own important puppy broke whatever wall the TBI had put around my emotions.
We got Selby Sweetie on July 30, 2017. She was born on May 25, 2017. In the tradition of Cinnamon and Tansy before her she’s a girl cocker spaniel. Also in the tradition of Tansy, she’s a different color than the cocker spaniel that preceded her. She’s black and white with lots of black freckles. Oh those freckles. They are my favorite. I didn’t really realize dogs could have freckles like that. But she does. On her nose and EVERYWHERE! Did I mention they are my favorite? She has helped me continue to heal. I look forward to seeing her little freckled face everyday. Her sweetness and exuberance for life and everyone she meets is truly infectious. All the doctors and medical professionals I’ve seen say recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury is a long process. It takes a long time for the body to heal. And A LOT OF SLEEP. 😴 💤 One thing both Selby and Bella are excellent at (well all 🐕 🐕 I’ve known) is taking naps with me! Especially Selby. When she was tiny she used to sleep on my head. Now she’s moved to my lap. Wherever she sleeps, I’m just really happy she’s there. She’s my first very own puppy and for that reason and many others she’ll always be an important puppy.
Note: I know Selby was only in a very small part of this essay but Selby has her very own chapter in my memoir. And I’m sure she’ll get mentioned many times throughout it! Here’s an adorable picture I made into something cute of Selby to assure she’s always on my mind… and on my lap! 🐶😁
#CreativityForDays Weekly Project Summary
It was my birthday on Saturday. It was exactly what I wanted: a low-key day at our lake cabin. In our family tradition my parents made signs for me but I made a few things I put on social media.
3 thoughts on “Extra Monthly Essay: The Important Puppy”
Dogs live in the moment and teach us to do the same. To them, every minute is a chance to be happy to be alive. I have learned how to age from my dogs, and when my time comes I hope to cross the rainbow bridge as peacefully and with as much dignity as they have. Happy Birthday, two weeks late!!
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Thank you! Ironically it’s my Mom’s birthday today! Yes, dogs can teach us so much.