I have wanted a dog ever since I can remember (which is definitely over 45 years ago). I gave up most of my dreams and wishes as I traveled along life’s path that was so different than I had ever thought it to be. But having a dog was one dream I clung on to. After years of working like crazy, I was finally able to save enough to take a sabbatical and fulfill this dream of mine. Five years ago today, a little golden retriever puppy was born. He was one of a litter of six, three of which were males and three females. Nine weeks later, we brought our 9kg (nearly 20 pounds) puppy home and named him Jaden, which is Hebrew for “God has heard”. I had done so much reading on puppies and dogs – heard so much from people who have dogs, but nothing prepared me for this little handful of a fur ball and the way my life would be changed.
No one told me that all golden retrievers are not eager-to-please and calm by nature: Jaden has always had a mind of his own and was a real handful when he was younger. No one told me that not all goldens are retrievers by nature: Jaden thinks that when you throw a ball, he runs to get it and then you chase him to get it back from him. We have tried every trick in the book to teach him to “retrieve” – he brings the ball back a maximum of three times and then loses interest.
No one told me about the noises that would accompany me throughout the day: the loud thumping of the tail when I come down early morning to tell me where he is lying; the grumbling when I don’t react to the tail banging and come over to cuddle him; the “lashing of the water” when he drinks out of the water bowl; the groaning and moaning when he throws himself on the ground or changes his position while sleeping; the whining and squeaking when he hears me getting ready upstairs and knows I am going out without him; the growling and rolling around in the grass when he’s happy or had a good meal; the loud barking that he starts in the garden exactly when I am on a telephone conference; the heavy panting next to my bed on windy nights; the sometimes-very-loud burps (often in my face!) when he’s finished his meal; the barking on my bed when he wants attention; the smacking of his lips when he is asleep; the loud chewing when he eats his apple or a cookie….the list is endless.
No one told me that not all dogs are morning people: Jaden loves sleeping late and hates the idea of long early walks (let alone jogging) before 8am! I had such illusions of going for early morning jogs with my dog, the reality is that I am often dragging 42 kg (i.e. 92 pounds) behind me most mornings and coaxing him to walk a little further!
People say that goldens eat everything. Jaden is a very fussy eater; doesn’t take treats from any and every one; doesn’t eat any dog food but only the organic and “healthy” brands, loves his fruits and veggies. On some days he eats more fruit than most humans-his regular is a fruit after breakfast, veggies as a second course at dinner, a banana after dinner, an apple before he goes to bed and sometimes a snack of a handful of freshly plucked raspberries or watermelon during the day!
People say goldens gobble down food. Jaden bites and chews on his food, loves being hand fed and has never stolen any food from the table or anywhere (yet!). He loves his mango sorbet and licks it off a spoon instead of gobbling it down in one go.
People say goldens are very destructive: Jaden only tears apart cartons if you give them to him to destroy. He has rarely destroyed a toy and still possesses stuffies he had when he was a baby. He never destroyed or chewed on socks or shoes – he prefers to chew on me and nip me in the bum when he wants attention! The only clothing he destroys regularly are my silk stockings when he paws on my legs with his rough paws.
No one told me that I would feel like the meanest person on earth leaving him behind alone at home because I needed to run some errands and couldn’t leave him in the car because of the heat. No one told me that he could make me feel guilty by giving me that look when we are out in a cafe and I am eating something while he is not! He only does that when we are sitting in cafes and eating something “special”, he is not interested in the normal regular food that we eat at home.
No one told me that I would observe his poop for the consistency and texture with such intensity especially when he has had a stomach upset! No one told me that I would be worried sick about him when he is unwell, that I would be scouring the internet for home remedies for doggies’ upset tummies (thankfully he doesn’t have them often). And no one told me that I would be sitting on the floor holding his paw in one hand, laptop om my lap and working – all because he was still disoriented and whining after the anesthesia he had because of the surgery to “fix” him.
No one told me that my house would always look a mess- I would find dog hair everywhere, there would be trails of water because he’d just drunk some and dropped all over the place. No one told me that my handbag would always have dog treats in them or even a lint remover!
And no one told me about the sheer joy and laughter that he would bring to my life. No one told me that I would sit and watch him for hours; sleeping or digging like crazy for mice, even though the mouse had just run off in front of his nose! No one told me that he would welcome me with a towel in his mouth, banging his tail in sheer excitement when I came home from being away just for 20 minutes to do some quick grocery shopping!
No one told me that he would bring out the child in me, the child who never had an opportunity to be silly and play; that I would spend hours wrestling, chasing him and playing rough games with him.
No one told me that I would miss him terribly when I was traveling without him. No one told me that I would be sitting in airplanes or business meetings and discover slobbery marks or white hair on my dark business clothes.
I have always been one to love nature and be outdoors but no one told me that I would get to see so many more beautiful sunrises and sunsets walking outdoors with him.
No one told me that I would spend so much time sitting on the bank of the stream with him, watching the leaves and the fish swim by even though work and other things were pressing and needed to be done.
No one told me that he would be the the one to help me “slow down” and calm me down like nothing else had done. No one told me that he would be the one to teach me to truly live in the moment. No one told me that no matter how late I sometimes worked and how tired I was, the highlight of my day would be to feed him his post dinner banana or pre-going-to-bed apple and watch him eating it with such joy and concentration
No one told me that he would show me me sides to myself that I didn’t know existed; creativity, fantasy, the child in me, the strict and stern person I am (he is not a spoilt dog and I am quite the disciplinarian even though I love him dearly!)
No one told me that he would be the one to heal my broken heart and the many emotional wounds that I had and would get. No one told me that God would use him to help me to keep my heart alive and soft, that no matter who hurt or used me, I wouldn’t become bitter and do the same to others.
No one told me that he would go deep under my skin and the protective wall that I had built around my heart. No one told me that I would discover that I was capable of loving someone so much like the way I love him! No one told me that no matter how big he is, he will always be a little puppy for me!
And no – he is no child substitute, he is my puppy and he has taught me a lot about love and joy!
So happy 5th birthday my beautiful little Jaden – God heard the desire of my heart, even though I couldn’t put it into words. He didn’t give me the puppy I wanted or thought I’d get, He gave me what I needed – you!! Thank you for the beautiful shades and hues of colors that you have brought and bring to my life!