By Marsha Shainwald
She was my love and, my warm snuggly, happy, sweet dog. That saying; “Who saved who(m)?” is quite apt. The beginning of this “love affair” with my dear puppy felt overwhelming. I need to thank Lane, a “facilitator” at a retreat I had attended inWickenburg,Arizona. She was leading our group and addressed me. “You should get a puppy”, she stated. “In an apartment?” was my retort. “Then, you would have to walk it!” she replied. Had my loneliness been that palpable? I know I had exuded a sense of neediness, coupled with a wish to be loved, and hugged. I had also had tendency to isolate myself. Lane had been quite perceptive.
The above “conversation” had occurred in November of 1997. By Labor Day weekend of ’98, I was ready. So, I checked the ads for “puppies”, specifically, Cocker Spaniels. I had grown up with “Cookie”, my first Cocker, and my heart was set on continuing the tradition. I drove for at least 45 minutes, asHouston, where I had been living, is quite expansive. All the way up “59”toAldine Mail Route, or something like that. (It was sixteen years ago and I no longer live inHouston).
I was excited and nervous. Can you believe I actually brought a cat carrier with me to the vet? I had never had a new puppy. I found what I realized afterwards was the “backyard breeder”. There wasShannon, the last of six, left for me. Apparently no one wanted the only black puppy. (Is there such a thing as a racist regarding dogs? To use a hackneyed phrase; I really really got “the pick of the litter”. There she was, my precious little five-pound ball of beautiful black fur. And the white chest made the rich black coat even more luscious. I came with my $200 in cash. Then, I was told the price was $250. “The ATM machine is a mile down the road….” I had my escape! Yes, I was nervous, and wanted to turn back. That would have been a huge mistake. When I showed up at the Vet the next morning withShannonin the cat carrier, and was directed to “cat side” I was embarrassed when I told them that the inside the carrier was a dog. Well, at least they started their day on a humorous note. Everyone at the vet thoughtShannonwas beautiful and sweet. I had had just two days, maybe one, withShannon. Yet, there she was, refusing to leave my side. Dr. Wilkie said; “She’s bonded to you”. And thus, my adventure had begun.
Our (Shannon’s and mine) living space was800 square feet. This was quite cozy, and I was very content in my little “tree house”. This wasHouston, and things always stayed green, in the literal sense, anyway. This tiny place was three flights up, which was good, in terms of exercise, as well as having somewhat of a view. Had I not hadShannon, I could have maintained my tendency to isolate. Well, since a new puppy needs to be walked every two hours, I had no choice but to venture out. Every weekend I stayed home withShannon, making sure to take her out to “make” and socialize. There are some special parks inHouston, which are child and dog friendly.Shannonwas interested in everything and everyone. At times, if a dog were huge, she would sit, with her stubby tail tucked under her, and look way up, at the other dog, contemplating what she should do. Going to the park became a weekly outing. I termed Sunday “Puppy Day”.
Shannonseemed almost “human” in some ways. When I spoke to her, she listened intently, cocking her head from side to side. If she needed to go out, during the night, she would ta on me with her little paw. Her language expanded, as I taught her new phrases. As soon as I sang, “the puppy wants to play”, she would grab a ball. If I wanted to bathe her, I’d be careful not to utter the word, lest she hide. Honestly, at times it seemed as though she wanted to talk to me. She would squeak away, which sounded like something between a bark and a yelp, rambling on for several minutes.