Several decades ago, one of my hobbies was songwriting. My small collection is aptly titled “Songs You Won’t Hear on the Radio.” Most had a country flavor with a touch of humor, the kind of novelty recordings which Ray Stevens, Roger Miller, and Tom T. Hall were known for at the time. I would have sent those fellows some demo tapes, but they were doing okay without my help.
One of my favorite lines posed a question from a distraught young suitor to the lady of his dreams. He asked his impassive girlfriend, “If this is only puppy love why am I crying like a dog?”
I thought about that song when Jane and I were recently granted temporary custody of a five-week-old long-haired Dachshund. We knew she would be staying inside, a major event for people who are not accustomed to house-dwelling canines. We’ve loved a series of dogs, but they have lived where God first put their kind – in the great outdoors. Our four-legged friends have been fine with that arrangement and quite appreciative of their five-star accommodations and world-class buffet.
Dude, the gentle mongrel who moved here from California last year, climbed over our chain-link fence multiple times when he first arrived. He would repeatedly ring our doorbell until we answered. Dude had been accustomed to living indoors in Los Angeles, but that was by necessity. His neighbors didn’t appreciate the charm of a dog who barks the same tune for hours without taking a break.
Once Dude realized how good his situation in rural Georgia is, he stopped climbing. Now there are days he doesn’t even want to leave his shady yard to take a walk. We have to promise extra treats to get him through the gate. That’s partly because Dude is concerned he may miss a FedEx or UPS delivery. Weed eaters, gun shots, and motorcycles also rank high on his list of excuses for incessant barking.
Jane had a look of concern when she told me a tiny bundle of fur would be living in our dog-free zone for a few days. The upside, however, was that Honey was bringing a grandchild with her. A dog in the house is more palatable when the deal is properly packaged.
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t pet several dogs, scratch behind their ears, and tell them how good they are. But it had been a while since I’d held a puppy in my lap. I had forgotten there aren’t many things in life that can compete with such a simple pleasure.
Like a billion other puppies, Honey is irresistibly affectionate. She’d just been separated from her mother and siblings and we knew that had to be traumatic. Her mom had stopped feeding Honey, but I don’t blame her. A full set of sharp pegs had caused a sore spot in their relationship.
That reminds me of something the late Mr. Emmett “Pa” Stephens said about his childhood. Mr. Emmett was Vienna’s resident comedian with his quick wit and easy smile. One of his memorable stories was about being raised as the youngest of eleven children. With a mischievous grin he’d say that his mother weaned him so he could start school. I think he was kidding but I was afraid to ask.
Honey missed her mother. I guess that’s why she chewed on my fingers hard enough to make me wonder if I’d still be able to play the piano. More than once I was tempted to stop her, but I couldn’t refuse her pleading brown eyes. She nibbled her way right into my heart.
There’s something magical about taking care of a puppy. It provides a respite from pandemics, politics, and all sorts of trouble. For a while there was nothing more important than helping that sweet little critter know she was loved. People need the same thing but don’t always know how to ask. Or they may not know that anyone cares unless we tell them.
We didn’t shed any tears when Honey looked through the car window as she was leaving. I’ll admit, though, it wasn’t easy saying goodbye. Puppy love is a lot more powerful than it sounds.
My thinking is we’ll probably always have a door between us and our dogs and hide the key where they can’t find it. But it did feel good getting a close-up view of such tender innocence.
Honey will be coming back for a visit before long and we’ll be glad to see her. Meanwhile I’ll keep humming a simple tune while pondering a question that’s not easily answered. If this is only puppy love, why am I crying like a dog?