Our New Dog, “Chilly”, Warms Our Hearts

By Sunday, February 7, 2010

Three weeks ago, my husband Paul and I headed to the animal shelter in Largo with intentions of adopting an adult cat.

An hour later, we left the SPCA Tampa Bay with an 8-week old Labrador retriever mix puppy.

Needless to say, our lives and our home have been turned upside down.

How the heck did that happen?

The year 2009 was a tough one for us. Paul and I said farewell to our beloved Buck, a 13- year old yellow Labrador mix—my canine soul mate and “the greatest dog ever”. That was in July. Then, suddenly, on November 30th, our awesome, 12-year old super-sized cat, Tank, died suddenly from what our veterinarian believes was an embolism.

For the first time in 25 years, Paul and I found ourselves pet-less. (I’m not counting our donkeys and goats because despite their sweet, loving nature, they just don’t offer the same level of companionship dogs and cats do).

Paul and I were overwhelmed by the silence and stillness in our home after Buck and Tank’s passing. We never realized how much pulse and electricity pets contribute to home life—even in their quiet, senior years.

Our plan was to “restock” our home with furry frivolity and companionship starting in January. We strategically planned to adopt an adult cat first, followed by an adult dog, possibly two.

Somehow, our carefully devised plan went awry. That fateful Saturday, Connie Brooks, director of operations at the SPCA met us at the front of the shelter holding the puppy we now call “Chilly”. It was a calculated move on her part—Connie knows of our love for Labradors and was aware of the canine void in our hearts.

Chilly arrived at the SPCA early in January from a humane society in southern Alabama. That shelter only had outdoor dog kennels, so a shelter official pleaded with the SPCA Tampa Bay to pick up as many dogs as possible and bring them here, due to the unseasonably cold temperatures they were experiencing.

So, the lucky pup, his sister and eight other dogs came to sunny Florida to find forever homes.

That’s the good news.

The bad news – our house is a wreck, we are sleep deprived and setting world records for saying the word “no” the most times in a single day. We find ourselves tiptoeing around the house and whispering when he sleeps as we try to savor the few moments of ‘puppy-pause’ allocated seldomly.

But there’s hope because Chilly is a learning sponge. We’re teaching him things we want him to do and to know.

However, he’s taught himself a dozen other things while we were not watching.

For instance, Chilly’s learned that forty-dollar floor mats from Target are fun to drag around the house and chew into rubbery bits. As a matter of fact, anything on the floor can be fun! Office files, laundry and newspapers are his favorites—they almost guarantee that a human chase game will ensue.

Housebreaking needs work. He cleverly poops on the darkest part of our faux cowhide rug to delay its discovery. And he’s learned to intercept a roll of paper towels and run for a touchdown while a human is trying to clean up a potty mess.

Learning outdoors is fun too! After squeezing his 18-pound body through a gap in the goat pen, Chilly learned that chasing the miniature pygmy goat is more fun than chasing squirrels.

Sticks and pine cones are fun to chew to smithereens and donkey dung tastes better than charcoal briquettes (although they’re tough to tell apart at first glance).

Fortunately, Chilly learned his first obedience command last week—“sit”. Now he thinks every time you look at him, he’s supposed to sit for a treat. He chases Paul and I around the yard waiting for us to turn to look at him. The minute we do, he leaps into a perfect sit, fully expecting a treat every time! How do you teach a puppy that he should wait for the ‘sit’ command?

What have Paul and I learned? Furry family just happens. You can’t plan or choreograph it. And despite the exhausting and destructive puppy phase, we know the return on our investment will pay huge doggie dividends. We’ve just begun a journey with a new “greatest dog ever”.

Next month, we’re going to adopt an adult cat.