Christmas in our household included a very special gift this year.
It wasn’t a gift to us or from us, but on Christmas Eve, as we were hanging around with our granddaughters in front of the Christmas tree at their house, they suddenly announced: “We’re getting another dog! For Christmas!!”
They already had two dogs, but earlier that day they had seen a little puppy at the Humane Society, and they had fallen in love with him.
And he was going to be moving in!
At the moment he was doing the rounds with their mom being introduced to friends and family, but a few hours later he arrived at his new home.
I have to confess, I’ve never been a dog person.
When I was four years old a very large dog with big paws and a huge mouth full of teeth knocked me down. He was playing, but I was terrified. Ever since then I’ve been an avowed cat person and bird person.
But when this little pup walked into the living room late on Christmas Eve, something in his spirit spoke to me.
I picked him up and he was surprisingly calm and self-contained. He didn’t quiver and he didn’t struggle to get out of my arms.
Over the next few days he got to know the other two dogs in the household, a part-papillon and a chihuahua. The results were mixed.
The little pup was so cute, Mark and I couldn’t stop taking pics of him. Friends and family who are accustomed to receiving emails from us of pretty landscapes started getting inundated with photos of this puppy!
He had been given a variety of names, but none of them had stuck.
The Humane Society had called him Perry, and he had arrived on Christmas Eve with two possible names, Miller and Bailey. The votes were evenly split between the two.
Our friend Bob who is a wiz with with Photoshop put the pup on the cover of a book that he thought the dog could write if he spent some time traveling with us. After seeing all the shots of him jumping in the grass he had anointed him Skippy.
We were enchanted with the puppy. He was as sweet as could be. As I ticked down my list of reasons I didn’t like dogs — they bark, they jump on you, they drool all over, they lick you incessantly, they pant, they shed, they chew things, they smell yucky — I realized he didn’t have any of those traits.
He was silent and observant. He was extremely calm. In fact, he was eerily catlike. He liked to sit like a cat and he even rubbed his paws on his face like a cat.
He also had a very cute floppy ear.
He was so quiet he would go for several days without barking. He wouldn’t make much of a watch dog like that, but he looked good posing as one.
One day we took a family trip to Cave Creek, north of Phoenix. We had a ball playing around with the western themed photo cutouts around town.
The Humane Society had said the pup was an Australian Shepherd, and we thought maybe there was some short haired Border Collie in him too. The vet thought there might be some terrier. Whatever his heritage, he likes to herd the people around him, and he sure knows how to sprint.
He had just a little tiny battery, though, and after a few wild sprints he was done. You could throw the ball or his rope toy all you wanted and he would just lie there and watch.
Sometimes he was such an adorable little angel Mark would call him Puppy Chow.
Our friend Bob was loving our pics and he put him on the cover of a magazine too.
We were visiting with a family whose dad is a city cop, and one day he took a big group of us — kids and adults — to see the precinct police station.
There were three dogs and ten people along for the trip, and while we were all busy staring at the interrogation room and learning a little about police life in a big city, the pup suddenly felt Nature’s call.
Unbeknownst to any of us, he sneaked off to a corner to take care of business.
We left in high spirits, but a few hours later our friend got a call from the police chief. “One of the dogs you brought in today left something behind!” The other two dogs had been on leashes, so all fingers pointed at the puppy.
Oh dear. Now our little buddy was a Wanted Pup.
We took a few hikes on the beautiful trails around Phoenix, and the puppy was amazing. He trotted right along and greeted everyone on the trail with a happy wagging tail and a friendly sniff.
Mark has been a dog lover all his life, and I’ve often heard tales of his beautiful Afghan Hound, Hoover, that he’d raised with his kids.
As a little boy, though, he had begged his parents for a dog, preferably a real boy’s dog like Lassie. His mom wouldn’t dream of it, but finally she relented and the family got a dog — a French Poodle. This was great for his sisters, but it wasn’t the dog Mark had dreamed of playing with.
As he hugged the little pup one day, he said to me, “If only this dog had come into my life 50 years ago!”
Since three dogs was a bit of a crowd in the puppy’s new household, Mark offered that the pup could stay with us in our rig for a few nights while we were there.
Frankly, I think he just wanted more snuggle time with the pup!
The puppy was supposed to be returned to the family that weekend, but the few nights with us stretched into a week, and then to two weeks. By then the kids were back in school and it was time for us to leave the city and start traveling again.
We had joked that the dog should be called “Loaner,” because he was supposed to be on loan. But we began to call our little buddy “Buddy.”
He looked very cute when he sat in my chair in the trailer.
It was winter and our trailer was often very chilly in the morning. Sometimes when he yawned first thing in the morning we could see his breath. Not surprisingly, he liked to snuggle up.
Somehow he would end up in bed with us too. I mean, who can resist?!
Another thing that amazed me about Buddy was that not only did he never bark or jump up on people or drool, but he never shed his fur. We could pet him and bathe him and comb out his fur, and not one hair would come off.
“He’s the ideal dog!” I would say to Mark as I wondered to myself what I meant by that.
He adapted extremely well to RV life on a test run to a camping area at Lake Pleasant. There was a lot for a young puppy to see at the lake.
He’d sit on the water’s edge and watch the water lap the shore.
Whenever he went to down to the water the ducks would swim over to him and check him out.
As we fell head over heels in love with this little puppy, we thought long and hard about how a dog would impact our lives.
The grandkids were fine with Buddy becoming a traveling dog, and they encouraged us to keep him because they felt he’d be happiest with us out camping and hiking.
But it’s a huge commitment to set aside 15 years of your life to care for an animal. We’d both done that years ago and we had both sworn off of pets for good.
For the last ten years we’ve been blessed to live our lives focused entirely on ticking things off our lifelong bucket list. But owning a dog wasn’t even on the list!
Needless to say, we had many long conversations and more than a few sleepless nights. And we read every essay on the “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan’s website and downloaded every video of his that we could find.
In no time we realized Buddy had been with us for a month!
As time passed we noticed he had grown up quite a bit. His floppy ear didn’t flop over any more and he started losing his baby teeth. We found seven of his baby teeth in four days! And he grew an inch or two in each direction and gained a few pounds.
But he was still an angel.
Perhaps the coolest thing was taking him out on the hiking trails. He loved it and we loved having him along.
When we got out into the desert near Quartzsite, Buddy really came into his own and sealed his fate in our lives and our hearts.
We took him through the massively crowded Quartzsite RV show where his view was a sea of shoes and legs and knees — with the occasional German Shepherd’s or pitbull’s nose thrown in — and he was as calm and cool as a cucumber.
Even better, we took him off his leash whenever we were at our campsite, and he stuck close by, hanging out on the patio mat with his chew sticks and rubber ball and patiently waiting to be let in or let out like a cat. And, like a cat, sometimes he’d go out only to come right back in again.
Who knows how this will all turn out, but sometimes life takes funny twists and turns. And if we’ve learned anything in our time on this planet so far, it’s that the biggest blessings in life come to us of their own accord, unbidden and unexpected, moved by a hand greater than our own.
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More goodies from the Dog Whisperer and about the RV Lifestyle:
- Mastering Leadership – Amazing videos about how to be your dog’s pack leader
- Cesar’s Way With Dogs – How to correct unwanted behavior
- The Dog Whisperer – Cesar works his magic with dogs
- Cesar Millan’s Dog Training Website and YouTube channel
- Index of our RV Lifestyle articles
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