She Never Had Me At Hello

It was never love at first sitehound. I wasn’t sure I wanted the daily responsiblity. I wasn’t sure I wanted the attachment to a dog. And I was definitely unsure of getting a puppy–that was one I really had not bargained for.

Though I’ll never know for sure, Stella didn’t seem sold on the situation right away either. No licks, no bounding to say hello, not much in the way of eye contact. Sure, she would freak out if you left the house for five seconds, but when you were there she would go for an entire day without ever coming in for a visit.

So guarded we were–the both of us. Me because of my fears and neurosis and baggage. Stella because that’s who she is–not an easy sell, not demonstrative, not a people dog as much as a dog’s dog.

I always thought that you’d have an instant love connection with your dog like people do with their babies. I never thought that this connection might take time to grow, that I would change along the way or that, gasp, my heart might learn a new trick or two.

At the two year mark I can safely say all of the above. I’ve changed. I’ve learned to really appreciate a pet personality different from the one I thought I could order up as if ordering from a menu. I wanted that kicked back male Greyhound who was more pillow than dog. I got a protective, cautious female who would show you her teeth and the door if you tried to get too close to her on the couch let alone lay on top of her.

Initially I was disappointed. Who was this odd creature laying around the house who obviously could care less about me other than the roles I played as kitchen and janitorial staff member? Who was this creature who clearly preferred Llewis to anything else in the house? Who was this creature who obviously was so much happier with other hounds than hanging with me?

I thought dogs were supposed to follow you around the house, lick you on the face, ask you how your day was. I thought dogs weren’t like cats. I thought that they were unselfish.

But didn’t I want a cat-like dog? Isn’t that why I wanted a Greyhound? And wasn’t that Lab that came over for a few hours one evening enough licking and love for the rest of my time on earth?

But as I was asking and answering these questions, struggling on a daily basis, occassionally freaking out too, something else was going on.

Stella was changing.

In the past two years Stella’s not only put on 45 pounds and grown out some killer legs. Stella’s morphed from a slow-to-trust pup who never wanted me in her face to a relaxed girl who lets me bug her anytime and doesn’t mind getting nuzzled by me (or, as it so happened at a PawsToRead event, 20 seven year olds.) She’s a well behaved dog who happily greets friends but doesn’t knock them over. Four on the floor pretty much holds with her. Her cautious nature which disappointed me at first has been a real plus keeping her injury free. She’s smart to not get into trouble–with dogs that don’t smell right to her and in physical situations that look dicey.

She went from a pup peeing every 45 minutes, sometimes in the house, to a dog who gently knocks on the door to be let out.

Stella goes gently into this good crate whenever asked. No kong required. She’s great with children. I never worry.

So while I was learning to let go and let Stella, Stella was on her own journey–a two year crash course from puppy to adulthood. Looking back I have so much more empathy for the puppy path now. Since a dog’s lifespan is relatively short, the amount that they need to grow both physically and behaviorally is awe inspiring. I look back and wonder if I want a do-over. Not for her, she’s turned out great. But for me. Knowing what I know now I would have definitely enjoyed and appreciated many more moments having a framework to put them in.

Ah, but this is life. Full of lessons. And the biggest lesson yet? If dogs don’t teach us about living life, we are definitely not listening hard enough.


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