Metaphors seem lacking. I have heard people express pride in their gardens having tilled the soil and nurtured the plants from tiny seeds and sprouts. I have heard parents squeal in glee at children who have learned to count, say Mama or Dada or recite their ABCs. Puppies aren’t vegetables or kids, but I feel an almost inexpressible pride when I encounter one of the puppies we have raised from birth, carefully choosing new families to love and care for them.
This weekend I got to reconnect with two such puppies – one that we had sent on to a new home and one my friend Joan chose to keep. The two were brothers and both had grown into handsome boys. Trump, now known as Goofy, had always been a peculiar little boy. He was the loner in his litter, always off in a corner cocking his head and watching the world go by. He had a wrinkled, furrowed brow and a white splotch on his chest. His new owners, the Damitzes, said they took one look at the little puppy they had brought home sitting on the living room floor, his big ears flapping in strange directions and they knew his name was Goofy. He has grown into his ears and into himself. He strikes me as gentle, quizzical, but still a playful goof. He perfectly rounds out the Damitzes group of four and when they thank me for hand picking him for them, a part of me beams. In some small way, I was responsible for this little one’s fate and I did right by him and my friends.
My pride in Gryffindor is of a very different sort. Joan has been raising pugs since the sixties, but as any breeder knows even the best of them have a challenging time foreseeing how the puppies will look as adults and which ones are most show worthy. For many years Joan would consult with her friend Tom, bringing the puppies to his house and a allow him to feel them over, watch them play, and pass judgment on which to keep. After many years of knowing Joan and watching puppies born, I realized I’ve developed an eye for seeing into the future and now offer my own advice on which puppies might be best in the ring. With Gryffindor I think I got it right. He’s a big, beautiful boy with his daddy’s lovely face and a sweet, joyful temperament. He already seems to assume the show pug’s stance, “stacking” himself. He is larger than his brother, more cobby and square. He has a special twinkle that makes you smile just registering his exuberance. I’m glad he is close and I will have the opportunity to carefully watch him grow.
We are stewards of these puppies as a parent is of her children or a gardener of his garden. We till and toil and carve out a place for them. We hope it is enough. We bear witness to their growth. They provide testament to our good intentions. There is something spiritual that passes between us – the puppy and the ones who brought them into the world; there is a covenant. They will provide joy and companionship if we provide proper care and nurturing. It is not a duty to be taken lightly; there is something sacred in seeing it through. To me a life among pugs is not something frivolous or funny. It is a responsibility, a commitment to another living, albeit very different, kind of creature. In caring for them, it is me that grows.