Skirting the Issues: Jack
Photo courtesy of Ellen Krug
For someone who values her time—especially having the ability to sit and write uninterrupted or to ride my bike whenever I want—I recently did something incredibly counterintuitive (okay, maybe “dumb” is a better word): I got a puppy.
His name is “Jack.” He’s an English cream golden retriever, which means that except for his nose and a slight smudge of shadow on his floppy ears and paws, he’s entirely white in color. He’s also all puppy, with bursts of boundless energy followed by hours of napping. That, together with his desire to gnaw on all of my extremities and clothes because of teething, make for great chaos in the Krug household.
As a dozen therapists will attest, I’m a creature of habit and not at all good with chaos. That goes back to some childhood trauma, but for a change, I’ll spare you the details.
I knew this going in. In fact, I experienced great angst about whether I had the fortitude and patience to be a forever best friend to Jack. Then, a week before I was to get Jack, I dreamt about a big dog with a wildly thumping tail who excitedly licked my neck and face. I woke up feeling ecstatic.
I never dream of dogs. For that dream to occur at that very moment was, I believe, the Universe talking to me.
It will be okay, Ellie. Jack will be good for you. Have faith!
After that dream, I was all in.
Because Jack was the runt of the litter, the breeder hand-fed him for a couple weeks after birth, and then, once his suckling reflex developed, kept his litter mates away as he nursed from mom. This had the breeder, a lovely, caring woman named Donna, spending a lot of time with Jack. She reported that he was very responsive to human touch and loved people.
Thus, when the “lottery day” arrived—that is, when I got to choose between potential best friends from the litter—my gut told me to go with Jack. I figured he would likely be the most resilient of the bunch and used to challenges.
No doubt, having me for a best friend is a mighty big challenge for Jack. As I related in my last column, I can sometimes be relatively selfish or a bit grumpy. Plus, I’m not a fan of waking up in the middle of the night to take a puppy out (but I certainly do that because it’s part of raising a pup).
A day after Jack turned eight weeks old, I drove to Donna’s house in Ankeny, Iowa, just north of Des Moines. I brought along a big canvas crate with mesh screens, and after folding down the backseat on my Honda CRV, I placed the crate at the edge of the opening between the front seats.
The handover was emotional for Donna; she had bonded with Jack in a way different from Jack’s littermates. I left Donna a card where I wrote how I appreciated her caring demeanor and professionalism. I also promised her that I’d do my best to give Jack a great forever home.
With Jack in the crate, I headed for the Twin Cities. Jack quickly did some whimpering, which I expected, so to calm him I partially unzipped a mesh screen and reached back to put my right hand and forearm into the crate to pet him. The whimpering quickly died down, and before long, Jack fell asleep— on my forearm and hand. He stayed asleep that way for 100 miles and it was darn uncomfortable for me, but it didn’t matter.
It was our first act of bonding, and I wasn’t going to screw it up.
In the weeks since then, I’ve learned quite a few lessons about puppies—like that their attention spans are relatively nonexistent and how potty training is way more difficult that most dog owners claim. I also learned some things about me.
For one, it turns out that I have way more patience that I ever imagined having. I’m sure that’s because I enjoy nurturing humans and other living things and for as long as with both live, Jack will get my best nurturing.
I’ve also learned that having Jack, who responds to my words (well, make that he sometimes responds) and who does silly things like chase empty water bottles throughout my house, has made me laugh countless times. That, in turn, has made my loneliness more bearable. Heck, with all the attention that Jack requires, there’s really no time to feel lonely.
Most of all, I’ve found love again. It’s a wonderful emotion, love. I had forgotten what it felt like.
I’ll be forever grateful that the Universe showed up to tell me that it would all be okay. _____________________________________________
Ellen (Ellie) Krug, the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change, speaks and trains on diversity and inclusion topics; visit www.elliekrug.com where you can also sign-up for her monthly 9000+ recipient e- newsletter, The Ripple. She welcomes your comments at [email protected].