“They’re here!” I exclaimed, as I saw a woman with two exuberant black and tan puppies on leads pass the glass doors of the PetCo in Alexandria. Marianne and I had been looking into the puppy adoption play area at the store, watching three portly beagle puppies jostle in their cage, wondering if perhaps a beagle was what we were actually looking for. The next thing we knew we were practically under two large-footed, floppy-eared German Shepherd mix puppies, Chunk and Brooke. Their foster mom, Uma, from Pet Rescue Alliance told us about their mother, a full German Shepherd as far as anyone could tell, and their absentee father. Perhaps he was a Labrador, but they couldn’t tell for sure. She described Chunk as adventurous, independent, playful, and confident and his little sister, Brooke as being sweet, affectionate, a little less confident, and a little smarter.
It was love at first puppy. Marianne and I had begun the conversation about whether we wanted to get a dog several months ago. We had discussed sizes (large), breeds (GSDs? Bernease Mountain Dogs? Standard Poodles? Golden Retrievers?), puppies or grown ups, rescue or breeder? We sat at our kitchen table and day dreamed about droving dogs, herding dogs, dogs to snuggle with, dogs to take on runs. We pestered our landlady for permission, and polled all our dog-owning friends. But nothing could compare to the 25 minutes we spent meeting Brooke and Chunk. We drove home from the PetCo in a puppy daze. The words, “Just let me know which one you want” ringing in our ears.
We called the next morning, and then spent three days waiting to hear back about whether we could get little Brooke. We decided on her because of the need to get a more trainable, more demure puppy. (Don’t get me wrong, her brother is a handsome, beautiful dog – and he’s up for adoption still!) It also seemed to make more sense to add a little girl to such a girly apartment. The day she arrived she was excited, overwhelmed, but sweet, and not at all nervous. We immediately initiated her new name, Darcy. An Irish girl’s name, meaning “dark-haired,” perfect for her. The first evening she began meeting our closest friends, playing and snuggling. She eventually fell asleep in Marianne’s lap while we watched TV. (Darcy is a floor dog, as she’ll probably be about 60lbs+, we spend a lot of time on the floor with her.) She didn’t cry her first night, and didn’t wet the bed. Early the next morning she frolicked in the snow, and we began house training. She immediately fell in love with her pink Bunny and preferred to be able to see both of us.
Just one week later, the apartment is filled with the tell-tale squeaks of various snakes, alligators, tennis balls, and elephants our baby has slain. In just one week, she’s met children, other dogs, family members, and friends. She loves people, and people love her. She knows how to sit, and pretty well how to stay. She fetches well, and is a very trusting little girl. Marianne serves as her training, disciplinary figure, instituting rules, and developing an uncanny sense of when she needs to go outside. I spend more time snapping dozens of pictures of her, and fishing things out of her mouth, also cleaning up puddles. We spend a lot of time snuggling her, cuddling her, and playing with her. It’s hard to get anything done when there’s a puppy in the apartment. She’ll fall asleep in our laps, as soft and floppy as can be. She lets her toes be petted, and doesn’t object when either of her paranoid mommies reaches into her mouth to find a bit of gravel or mulch she’s decided to eat. She likes chasing snowballs, and is learning to like the elevator. She wants to be friends with everyone she meets. When she met Sookie, the corgi, she decided she had a new best friend. Adoring and affectionate, she’s a good listener but an enthusiastic player.
Every time one or both of us leave the apartment, it’s a little difficult. She sits patiently in her crate, and doesn’t behave poorly, but she’s more than ready for snuggles whens she emerges. She gives great puppy kisses, and is pushing her luck less and less on the couch. She’s infiltrated all your Facebook timelines, and Instagram feeds (you can, if you want, see more of little Darcy at my Instagram, if you want to see less of her, I suggest you reevaluate our friendship.) Saying goodnight to her is a little difficult, I’m sure she just curls up with Bunny and passes out, but I think we both know that if we were alone, we’d have a huge bed dog in no time.
Getting a puppy is a big decision, every second of every day she’s learning. Good manners, good habits, good behaviors, where her boundaries are, where her indulgences are. Darcy is learning that in the evenings, Marianne will sit on the floor and she will curl up on her lap (curl up, sprawl out, it’s all cute.) She’s learning when we’re both sitting at the kitchen table, that the place to be is sleeping on our feet. She learning that she can come into my bedroom and follow me around, but that she’ll inevitably have to leave again. Darcy is learning that I’ll let her get away with leaping onto the couch to kiss when she comes in from a walk, but Marianne won’t. That Marianne will take longer walks, no matter how cold is it, and I’ll encourage her to pee quickly.
She’s learning we don’t get mad when she has accidents, but that we’ll pay attention when she signals she needs to go outside. That fetching and releasing the ball is good, and so is playing tug of war for her end of the moose toy. Gentle play is important, and so is rough play. Having her here lets us know that her little life, every moment of it, is up to us. It’s our responsibility to make sure this little girl is not only healthy, and comfortable, but smart. That she’s not bored, and that she meets her potential. So far she’s proving to be a very smart little dog (even when she careens into a door, swings into the bar, or becomes irritated with the dog in the mirror who refuses to play) but it’s up to us to make her a wonderful dog to be around.