It is black outside when I walk out the door in the morning, cup of coffee in hand, sweater thrown over pajamas. There is pink on the horizon and yesterday’s moon high in the sky, but the land is dark.
It is my new ritual. For years I’ve survived on rituals – wake up, coffee, run, repeat. But now I walk straight out the door. Straight into cougar territory; straight into the day.
I knew adopting a dog would connect me with the land we live on, the paths and fields, lawns and trees, in a way nothing else has or could. The dog would need to roam, to run, to play and explore. It would need to pee before the sun came up, or poop in the tall grass by the barn, and the children and I would have to accompany it.
It’s surreal really, that we found our dog after all of these years, and that she now lives with us, on our white wool carpets, with her sharp canine teeth and smelly long dog fur, and that we love her.
Let me talk straight about dogs for a moment.
I’ve wanted a dog for as long as I’ve had children. I dislike being alone night-after-night, day-after-day, when Hans is working. I dislike sharing land with a cougar. People live in small apartments and own dogs for no reason – yet my reasons are plentiful and our land is vast.
So we brought a puppy home. We had a full decade of discussions about it – it was not spontaneous. We found her on Camano Island two weeks ago, during our first family vacation in years. It was destiny, love at first sight, all of those things that make people believe they are doing the right thing.
But this is the thing about puppies:
I take Sakota out to pee before the elk have even woken up and I carry my coffee with me, in a beautiful Nepenthe mug, contemplating how wonderful it is to be alive. I can smell the fresh air, the dew, my soul, the universe.
Then I hear crunching. Bone crunching.
Sakota has found a dead rodent, killed and left by a cat, and she’s consuming it, bit by bit. I see guts hanging off her tongue and a wild, happy look in her eye.
I look to my right to avoid this scene and notice the pile of poop covered shoes and rug that I haphazardly threw out the door last night, too tired to decide if a $14 doormat from Costco was worth the hour of my life it would take to scrub out shit.
Then I remember the dead bird in the garage. Granted, this has nothing to do with the puppy, but no doubt when I get around to tossing it out the garage window in an hour, hoping to forget the sight of it before my morning run, she will be right there on the other side, tongue lolling out of her mouth, ready to consume it.
Puppies are disgusting. They have sharp teeth. They chew on everything. They even nip and bite precious, innocent children. They devour dead things with passion and purpose. They get muddy, burr-covered, slobbery and wet then want to jump up for hugs and kisses. They feel like dirt, because they roll in dirt, and they stink.
I am too tired from taking the puppy out to pee three times a night to even compose a decent blog post about the craziness of puppy ownership. I just don’t get it – what is the universal appeal?! Where are the cuddles and licks – where’s the love?!
Don’t get me wrong – I adore this little beast. But there is a steep learning curve and I am trekking through it!
This particular dog, a German Shepherd who promises to be as large and driven as her family members, has a job to do. She is here to bark and scare off predators, to fight on my behalf if we encounter the local cougar – she’s not here for decoration.
Which leads me to a question – why on Earth do other people get dogs?! People without land, cougars or a need for protection?
Our cats, who typically get on my nerves simply because we have too many of them, are pristine little royals by comparison. They lick their dirty paws clean, consume their dead things carefully, walk with purpose and delicacy, and use their brains to evaluate before acting.
Our puppy is like a bullet from a gun that has not been aimed. She barrels through the hallways, crashing into walls, picking up anything – everything – between her razor sharp teeth as she careens towards the door. She knows nothing except that she needs to pee. And after that, that she needs to eat. At which point she’ll start eating grass, cat poop, her leash, fingers – she’ll eat whatever she finds within reach.
It’s crazy to live with a dog! It’s insane really. They are dirty, gross and wild. They cause you to forego sleep and exercise and dinner with your kids because you are always, always containing, controlling, regulating their out-of-control little brains.
Yes – I love the pre-morning darkness and the promise of another beautiful day. And I would not be outside seeing this, breathing this, if it weren’t for the puppy beside me. But I also like sleep, clean carpets, relaxing in my own home, and un-chewed, un-pooed-on shoes.
Still … she is pretty damn cute.
Meet Sakota, everyone. Our new family member. Our fifth child. Our wild thing.
I’m sure, like with babies, when the sleep deprivation ends and the training has taken effect, that she’ll be nothing but the perfect companion. But wish me luck as we traverse the path from now until then!