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January 29, 2023

Window on the World Column | The Newborn

By Lucy Jensen, Soledad Columnist

“Why don’t we just adopt older dogs from now on. Let’s make the end of their lives the best ever!” We were all set. No more puppies, no toddlers with four legs. Our pack of near golden oldies (truthfully, more black-and-white than golden) — except for Junior — were spending their last years being beautifully spoiled in the comfort of their peaceful home at Solace.

Move stage forwards. (Not long, I might add.) I get home after a long day. The garage door is unusually shut. I open it and see my husband sitting there with a very tiny black puppy. Oh. My eyebrows rise all by themselves.

“The neighbor honked the horn, I came out. He spoke to me in Spanish, handed over the pup and drove away.” “What?” I responded helpfully. “You didn’t ask him what the heck, if he found the pup or what?” “He speaks Spanish only and I don’t.” So, there you had it. A tornado had arrived in the household.

Come to find out, after we posted “Found” posters and asked around our neighbors, the dog owner’s dog had produced a litter and he wanted to gift us a pup. How nice. A long story about us rescuing his cow Delilah from the vineyard and feeding her for two days without accepting payment in return and then tracking down her rightful owner … and now we get a puppy. That’s right. Just what we had said we didn’t want.

So, the puppy pads arrive, along with the teething rings, puppy chow, harness and more. You would have thought we had just hosted our own puppy shower. My old collies looked wearily into my eyes, pleading for help as the tiny black pistol pulled at their tails and jumped up on their old bodies. The mean Queen told the whippersnapper where she wasn’t welcome, by inserting her head inside his mouth. (He knows better but can’t help himself.) Solace had overnight turned into Chaos.

Turd, as she lovingly became known at the beginning of our new adventure, for want of a name we could all agree on — and as animal rescuers the world over acknowledge, if you name the animal you keep the animal — decided that my husband was her human. He was her reason for living, her love absolute. She immediately found her nightly bed in his armpit.

You forget what puppies are like. Lights go on at 2 a.m., then 4 and perhaps 5 in your endeavors to potty train the little beast. You are sleep-deprived, and she is just fine. Puppy pads are put down and missed, shoes relocated where they should not be, generally soggy, and then immediately lost again. “Oh, but she’s so cute,” our daughter pleaded. “If you home her, then I want another puppy.” Gawd. We are going on 11 years of living with her grouchy old Queenie; that’s all we need; another choice animal for us to raise for her.

I had also said no more Queenslands in addition — they are a difficult breed, territorial as a tiger and best in a one-dog home. Turd definitely had some Queensland in her, in addition to the very naughty terrorist breed (terrier) that will cause the other doggies to leave home.

“I’m OK if she gets a really nice family to live with,” husband states emphatically. I eyed him cautiously, as the pup leapt up into his lap and lay down in a completely sweet and adoring way. “Well, regardless,” I say. “We have to get her puppy shots done and there’s a clinic this Saturday, so I’m taking her over there.” I take her along to the clinic, everyone admiring her along the way, and she was so well-behaved in the car I was quite the proud Mama. “What’s her name?” the lady asked. “Stella,” I replied quickly. “Her name is Stella.” Oh heck. I was falling down my own tunnel of places I had been before. If you name, you claim.

“Six is a nice round number!” my friend piped up. “Twenty-four canine paws is still a good number. Not like a hoarder at all!” I couldn’t argue with that. After all, at one time we were fostering a whole bunch of creatures — 11 dogs to be truthful at the time — and then the Mama dog Molly gave birth to 11 puppies underneath my deck. (You do the math.) Husband had to army-crawl under the deck and fish out the newborns.

Those were the crazy, insane days of animal rescue. I clearly recall myself telling another friend that I was going to let my golden oldies live out their days and not start adding to the pack until we were down to two dogs again. I lied. Life has a way of giving you whatever it is you are well able to manage and surprising you around the next curve, in our case with a new bundle of love that will likely delight and frustrate us for a good while to come.

My neighbor comes by. “Oh, she is adorable! Lucky you to have got such a beautiful pup!” “Hmm,” I respond. “The jury is still out as to whether she is staying or not.” Then I hear a call from the pond area … “Linski! Come to Dad!” and off she whizzes. Her fave human was looking for her and that was an immediate call to action.

Stella-Bella-Linski (three names because we couldn’t agree on just one) looks like she will be staying here for a while. At least until she gets through the next two rounds of puppy shots. Oh, and then there will be the rabies shot … also rattlesnake …and before you know it, it will be time for her spay. Golly gosh, time flies. I did get her micro-chipped at the shot clinic because that is just the responsible thing to do, regardless of where she ends up. Did I say she travels really well in the car and she only missed one of her puppy pads the last two nights?

She is learning to be a super ball girl in line with all the other border collies on the ranch and she has also established the pack pecking rights and who not to snuggle up with. Did I say she has the right coloring for our pack — the mottled feet and black-and-white body of a Collie Champ in a very conveniently small package. Can you tell I am also a little smitten already? Character is fate, as they say.

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