We dropped Charlie’s puppy off at the veternarian’s office this morning. She’s not so much a puppy any more and it is time for her to be spayed. Charlie hugged and kissed her goodbye and told her he loved her and would be back to get her tomorrow. He also explained that she shouldn’t be afraid. Everything was going to be fine.
“Right, Daddy?’ He calls me Daddy when he is nervous or tired. He wasn’t tired.
“You bet, Buddy.” I rubbed Casey’s head and the vet tech took her away.
We left the office and walked to the car.
“I still don’t know why she has to be be splayed,” Charlie said as he got in the car.
“Spayed, not splayed.”
In the rearview I saw a look that told me that it would be impossible for him to care less about the pronunciation if he tried.
“We have to have her spayed so she won’t have puppies,” I explained again. Casey is 10 months old and it is high time for this procedure. At this point, one slip off the leash and she could come back with a silly grin and a craving for dog food pickles or what ever. “We don’t need puppies.”
“See?,” he asked. “That’s what I don’t understand. Who doesn’t like puppies?”
This wasn’t the first time we had this discussion. I just smiled at him. He settled down in the seat with a look that was half grumpy and half sad.
“Puppies make everything better,” he said. “They are warm and cuddly and fun.” He held Casey’s leash in his hand and looked at it. “The world would be better if there were more puppies in it.”
I had to laugh. It was hard to argue with. “But they aren’t puppies forever. They grow into dogs.” I said that automatically because my parents used to refuse to get me a dog with that rhetoric.
“Duh,” Charlie called me out on the hollow logic. “What is so bad about that?”
I didn’t answer. The only way I could make him understand the issue was take a little piece of his childhood away. I would have to tell him that we need to limit the number of puppies born because if they don’t have homes they end up in a shelter or worse. Right now, for Charlie, puppies are warm, cuddly fun and dogs are constant companians and the thought of making it so his dog can’t bestow 8 or 9 bundles of fun on him doesn’t make sense. It will someday. He has time.
“You are right buddy,” I conceded. “Dogs make things better.”
The world Charlie lives in is full of dogs. We have three and my mother-in-law has one. There are always multiple dogs racing through our kitchen, laying on our couch, drinking out of the toilet or just looking at us. This is the only world he has known. When we first brought Charlie home, we introduced him to the three we had at the time. There were sniffs and interested looks. There were even a few careful, timid licks. After awhile we put Charlie in his crib. Our old yellow Lab Cody limped over and sniffed the crib and looked at Charlie for a long time. Then he turned around a few times, plopped down under it and fell asleep. With a few exceptions, that is where he slept for the rest of life. Charlie has always had dogs.
Dogs teach kids. They teach them limits and respect. They also teach them about the real world. Cody gave Charlie his first lesson in reality when my son was three. Cody was 14. He couldn’t walk without assistance and weighed a little more than half of what he weighed in his prime. He was ready. Nobody else was.
Before I took Cody to the vet, Charlie said goodbye. There were sniffs and interested looks and even a few careful licks. Charlie cried when I left. He cried harder when I came back alone. Sometimes real life sucks, but it was a gift that Cody gave to Charlie. If he had to learn, I am glad he learned first with Cody.
About two years later, Charlie and I were driving through Nebraska to visit my oldest son, Parker, and my aunt and uncle. My mother-in-law called me to tell me that her mother, Nana, had passed. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was still sad. Charlie was asleep in the back seat. When he woke, I pulled over at a rest stop and I told him. There were sobs and yells and lots of tears. Charlie loved his Nana. There was sniffling in the back seat as we drove. Suddenly the rear view was full of smiling Charlie face.
“Dad! Nana went to heaven, right?”
“Yes buddy. Nana went to heaven.”
“That means that she will see Cody when she gets there!” The thought seemed to take the hurt out of it for him. He was still sad, but he could smile a little.
He remembers his lessons in reality. A few weeks ago he was playing with our German Shepherd-Chow mix, Bella. He was looking at her closely.
“Her mouth is getting gray,” Charlie observed. Bella turned 10 this fall and doesn’t get around as well as she used to. She will be the first dog I have ever been with from puppy to . . . you know. I try not to think about that.
“Well, she’s getting old, son,” I said gently. “It happens.”
He nodded and hugged Bella a long time.
So in Charlie’s world the more puppies the better and its ok if they grow up and become dogs. Even, I suppose, if your dog steals your cupcakes off of the kitchen counter. That happened this morning. I was concerned because Charlie is serious about his cupcakes. In the car this morning, Charlie scolded his dog about pastry theiving.
“You can’t have anything to eat because you’re getting splayed,” he explained. His voice dropped significantly and he whispered, “I would have gotten you one, if you had just waited for a minute.”
I dropped Charlie off at school and left for the University. I was thinking about a world with limitless puppies. As the guy who cleans up accidents, the idea is a little alarming, but I could deal. I parked and walked to the library to continue studying for finals. I was preceded and followed by a number of other finals zombies.
I stepped into the library and noticed a crowd gathered around an entire pile of warm, cuddly fun. One committee or another that is concerned about student sanity during finals brought several dogs and puppies to the library for students to pet and cuddle out their anxieties on. I got in line and left in a better mood.
Like Charlie says, “The world would be a better place with more puppies in it.”
Thanks for reading folks. We hope your packages are mailed and your tree is up. Have a Happy Holiday Season from This Side of the Diaper.