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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert (Puppy Pick-up Road Trip)

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert (Puppy Pick-up Road Trip)

Could barely watch as our old car crept onto the ramp of the vehicle that would tow it away. No, it wasn’t my father’s Oldsmobile—but it was my father’s Mercury, as well as my mother’s Mercury, before it became ours.

My father planned to go on many adventures when he bought a new Mercury Sable in spring of 2001. But soon after its maiden voyage—a joyful college reunion where he and my mother and their returning classmates of fifty years earlier were honored—he received a diagnosis of cancer’s return. Instead of driving off into sunsets to see his grandchildren, children, and friends, as well as sites previously unknown, he became a passenger in that car, chauffeured often to treatments and procedures back and forth through the canyons forged by the Big Thompson River. Nature’s beauty remained a constant companion on those final journeys he never chose to take.

This would not have been the car my mother chose for herself. But when he died before a year had passed since its purchase, the car was too much depreciated for her to sell it without a loss. So instead she drove off in it on her own solo adventures, as well as those with family members and friends, to locations near and far.

When my mother stopped driving almost six years later, that car came to us for our own adventures, both with and without her. We called the car the Grandma-mobile—which wasn’t really fair since she never would have chosen such a large car with such a long front end. This car most definitely did not fit the picture of what our two 16-year-old drivers preferred, but its ability to seat six worked well when we drove our kids and their friends during the period when their graduated licenses did not yet allow them to drive alone with their age-peers.

You know how the story went. Yes, I ended up with my father’s Mercury, which didn’t fit the picture of what a certain 46-year-old mother wanted to drive either. But we were grateful to receive a good car with low mileage, which was a much-needed answer to our burgeoning transportation needs.

That car played a big role in our own family stories and travels and transitions. It drove off to college loaded down with too much stuff, but returned home with two parents ready for a time of greater rest. The Mercury later transported our family to the sacred grounds where we laid my mother to rest. I picked up my daughter from her first year at college in it so she and I could take a classic western road trip to pick up my new puppy—not that my father would have ever allowed a dog in his car, let alone a puppy leaving his mother for the first time!

When this mom finally got a car more in tune to her dreams (a MINI S), my son Jackson was grateful to inherit the Grandma-mobile. True, he was no fan of parallel parking it but he most definitely appreciated the get-up-and-go as well as the ability to work and play without having to juggle cars with us. Unfortunately, the car (and its driver) got-up-and-went a bit too fast on an icy day last November, leaving the driver unscathed but every panel on the driver’s side damaged—enough so that the insurance company totaled the car due to its age—an age that reminds me just how long my father (and then my mother) have been gone.

Seems fitting that my father’s car left us on the last day of Mercury in retrograde. You may not believe in the power of the stars over our lives but this concept is just the right metaphor for saying goodbye to his Mercury. Astronomically, Mercury in retrograde is the time when the planet Mercury appears to reverse its orbit due to its position in the sky—which looks a whole lot like going backward. According to the StarChild site (linked to NASA), it is not doing so, but “. . . just appears to do so because of the relative positions of the planet and Earth and how they are moving around the Sun.” Astrologers, on the other hand, see Mercury in retrograde not only as a time of complications in areas such as transportation and communication (as Mercury is the god of both areas), but also as a time for returning to past connections.

So, Dad, thanks again for the Mercury—though we never, ever managed to keep up with your standards and plans for its cleanliness, we did our best to live up to your dreams of taking adventures in your chariot of choice.

Farewell, oh fleet-footed one—turns out you were just what we needed after all.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

“Puppy, puppy, puppy”—that’s what my husband Sherman used to say to me when I was waiting for my puppy to get old enough to come home to live with us. I had puppy fever bad. As an adult I had never had a puppy right from its early weeks away from its mama. Not too long after my own mama died in a pretty horrible way, so did my dog. I’d had it with old age and illness. I needed youth to renew me—or at least that’s how it felt.

Now that four years have passed since our puppy came to us, I still know that getting a puppy was what most helped me through the healing days. Yes, taking care of that puppy and raising him was hard and took a lot of energy, but loving him put my focus on growth and rebirth—and fun and joy.

Nothing like being around a puppy for helping you to see that the world is pretty exciting—even if you don’t quite agree with the puppy on what exactly is so exciting. Morning! Breakfast! People! Grass! Sticks!

So here we are with a puppy in our home again, but it isn’t really ours. We’re not up with it in the night or cleaning up most of the messes—unless we offer to be on puppy duty. Yes, our daughter just graduated from college but she’s been waiting over six years to get her own dog. This is no post-graduate whim for her.

To everyone who thinks it’s crazy to get a puppy when you’re looking for that first career job and hoping to move out on your own (again), I just have to say that the healing power of puppies can be worth a lot of the cost (time and money) involved. It’s a big transition to finish school and come home again, but now she has bigger motivation for moving on to what comes next.

The puppy has her keeping a daily schedule and requires her to plan ahead for how she’s going to complete her obligations. She is taking two computer skill-based classes at the community college to round out her abilities and has to figure out how to get that work done on deadline without the puppy eating up our house or doing unsafe things. She borrowed a pen so that we could all work on getting her moved back in—not an easy task when someone’s been living in an apartment for four years—and she could start on her class work. The puppy’s own pen should arrive any day, even if he hasn’t yet demonstrated any affection yet for not being the center of attention.

She is also training him to use a crate and taking him on frequent walks to prepare him for the likely day he becomes an apartment-dweller. She also sees how good it is to be able to work him through his often noisy protests to boundaries now while she doesn’t yet have neighbors that live just a wall away.

The puppy is in his own way training her to develop a routine while filling her heart during these early days when her former social structure has so recently ended. Nothing like the full-out run of the little tyke as he races to see her when she comes home from her evening class.

The first week with a puppy here again has been chaotic but rewarding. He is a quick little learner, especially thanks to our daughter’s commitment to creating consistent boundaries—despite how adorable he is and despite how exhausting every waking (and interrupted sleeping!) minute is. She is in this for the long term—and it shows.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

The puppy, puppy, puppy has come to stay at our house and I think he will likely turn out to be what inspires her to figure out just what comes next in her post-grad journey. She has dog food to buy—and someone who already knows she won’t let him down, even if he’s not going to like her spending less time with him.

For some of us, when life gets hard, we get a puppy—and somehow everything else seems easier.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert, Furgus' first of three crates

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert, Furgus’ first of three crates

We’ve decorated our bedroom in the Early Crate Style—as in we’ve made a priority both to kennel/crate training and to having our dogs sleep in our bedroom, which is not easy since we live in a 1940s house with our two English Springer Spaniels.

However, I absolutely love what a crate can do for not only us but also for our dogs. We are true converts and will never go back.

Just under thirteen years ago, following the death of our elderly Springer, we agreed to rescue a rambunctious seven-month-old Springer. I’ve since learned that that is such a typical age for puppies to end up in shelters. And, our Springer was even exceptional for an adolescent pup—we were his fourth home!

Luckily, the wise rescue volunteer brought a crate along when she delivered him to us. That crazy kooky pup didn’t even answer to any of his previous names so we christened him ourselves with the name Fordham. That’s when our neighbor asked us, “As in I can’t afford ‘um?” How right she was.

Even though he was mostly outside when we were gone, we soon accepted our neighbors’ offer of a second crate—this guy was so active indoors that we needed a crate on each level of the house, just as we used to keep a crib on each level when our kids were newborns. He had the strongest oral fixation I’ve seen in our five Springers and it didn’t abate at all until after he was three. Despite providing him with a variety of chew sources, walking him regularly, and giving him planned kennel times, he still managed to rip the dust ruffles on our couch and love seat, chew on the piano and kitchen table, and destroy (only) one of the most expensive shoes I owned.

We were not going to be the fourth family who gave up on him, but that wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t had a crate—I just didn’t have enough eyes in the back of my head to watch him every minute of the day. When the rescue group had said he needed someone in the home with him, they weren’t kidding! I could not let down my guard at all until he was resting in his crate—the relief felt pretty similar to that I felt when I finally got my toddler twins down for naps in their cribs.

Once he outgrew his chewing habits, we ended up removing his crate from the bedroom and letting him sleep on the floor. His restless leg movements hitting against the crate—even with the door open—could keep us awake all night! I think he was happier for the nighttime freedom because he really was a restless sleeper.

We mostly just kept the downstairs crate because he liked to go in it when we watched movies—or if he wanted hide from us.

After we lost poor Fordham to bone cancer two years ago, we really wanted to start with a puppy who had just left his mama—no adolescence until we’d had time to give him some training! This puppy was going to start with a crate from the beginning.

Which he almost did. Christiana and I, along with a puppy-sized crate, took off with Furgus from Tombstone, Arizona one afternoon on our journey back to Colorado. I can show you on the map where he cried and yipped the whole route across the corner of New Mexico heading for Interstate 25. Other than that he did pretty well until we got to our nighttime motel. Even in a pet-friendly motel, I didn’t think the guests needed to hear the caterwauling that would have followed if we’d made him sleep alone in the crate—which meant in order to keep the furnishings safe from his puppy-sharp teeth, we took turns sleeping with him on the floor.

But the next night when he got home to our house, he started to learn that his crate was his sleeping home. He fussed a day or two, but that was it. Probably helped that a couple days later we introduced his buddy Sam, a rescue dog around two or so, who happily slept in Fordham’s old crate, and they both ate dinner in those crates at the same time, as suggested by the rescue volunteer.

The crate gave Sam a safe spot when he was learning to feel comfortable with us— maybe he had a touch of Stockholm Syndrome because he loved going into his crate just a little too much. The vet pointed out that his teeth showed signs of chewing on his crate due to being overcrated. We worked at coaxing him to spend less time in the crate while praising him for going to the crate on his own when he felt threatened by something that reminded him of past unhappy days.

These days we mostly just shut the dogs in the crates when we need to leave. Furgus has no qualms about going to rest in his space—whenever he hears me getting ready to go, he runs in. Sam finally does so as a routine also —for a treat, of course.

When I hear of my in-laws’ dogs’ near-constant destructive behavior and the numerous “accidents” in the house, I remember how our relatives seemed to think we were cruel to “cage” our dogs. (Just as with parenting philosophies, it seems as if every dog training choice has its detractors—read this Psychology Today opinion from someone more knowledgeable about both dogs and psychology than I am if you care to understand more about our choice.) However, I believe our lives and our dogs’ lives are more peaceful because each dog has a safe space to call his own.

The now grown Furgus has developed a habit of crying in the night—probably because he thinks we should make room for him in our bed as our son does. If he’s going to come back to us crying, we just shut him in his crate. Without a sound, he goes back to sleep—and so do we. Nonetheless, if he keeps this up, we might need to re-train him to respect the night before leaving his door open again.

We may have committed to a dog-friendly bedroom, but not to constant sleeping disruption. So glad we have a tool to aid in letting sleeping dogs—and sleeping humans—lie.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Just over a year ago, I was waiting very impatiently for my new best canine friend to grow big enough to come live with me. Now Furgus, that much bigger puppy, is sleeping on my floor, after a full morning of on-again/off-again activity. He looks grown-up, but he’s still my baby.

The thing is, I think he’s always going to be my baby. This wild, active guy can race around the room, trying to get something started with his canine best friend Sam, then I can pull him onto my lap where he sits as still as if he has no idea he weighs over 50 pounds and is far from being a lapdog. Don’t know if that’s because that’s who he always was going to be or if living with me while I was injured trained him to learn to like slowing down, too.

Nighttime comes and after wrestling with Sam, all of a sudden he’s just done for the night. Well, unless we put him outside—it seems he can never just do his business. No, he has to sound one last alert to all the potential bad guys who might be lurking in the dark. Then he comes in to curl up in the small round bed we got for our dachshund Abel. Every one of our spaniels has been too big for this bed and every one of them has liked going nose to tail in it, even if only for a few minutes, but Furgus most of all.

Back in the beginning of both his time in our house and my injury, he used to wake up when Sherman did and then go into the shower room with him—which was another way to keep him contained for a little while longer. At first he used to come back to whine at the side of the bed, trying to get me—otherwise known as She-Who-Provides-Breakfast—to wake up. Now he doesn’t always even wake up until Sherman is ready to leave for work.

But if he sees me move, he goes into full wiggling spaniel-action. Yes, I do my best to avert my eyes or even keep them under the blanket until I am fully ready to deal with that very excited spaniel. Then it just kills him that I only pet him briefly before waking up slowly in front of the computer screen. He’s learned to back off until I give him the word, but that doesn’t stop him from whining as he lies on the floor, all woebegone. It is so hard to be a Velcro-Spaniel while being ignored!

(c) 2012

Eventually I wake up enough to give him that full attention he craves. If I gave into his puppy dog eyes every time he looked at me, this would really be one spoiled dog. Instead he is just minor-league spoiled, right? I mean this time around we have been training our dogs to wait at doors and stairs and such. That makes living with dogs so much nicer. Even the woman at the dog training center was impressed with how excited he is and yet can calm down—albeit briefly—enough to wait to be allowed to enter the door after me.

However, none of my other dogs ever spent so much lap-time with me. Trade-offs, I guess. Furgus really is a Gumby-Dog—you can just move him wherever you want and he’s absolutely happy to comply. Yet, he’ll get down right away if you say lap-time is over. As much as he seems willful, we don’t have to work too hard to change his behaviors. I think he’s really more enthusiastic about life than thinking he’s in charge—well, with a few reminders anyway.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Furgus and I continue to go to dog dancing classes. Goofy as that may sound, the classes are teaching him to listen to me while he is having fun, using that brain of his, and working off energy. This style of dog-training suits us both well—isn’t it just perfect that someone like me brought home a dog who has wanted to dance with me from his youngest days? His responses to music led me to check out canine freestyle dancing in the first place.

Looking back at my horoscope for the day I picked him up last year made me laugh. I don’t even know what this means but I just want to share that apparently Pluto (you know, the former planet) rules my 5th house of true love and signaled the sun that day. Furgus was my density, I mean, destiny.

Don’t worry, Sherman is my human best friend and true love, but Furgus is this woman’s canine best friend and true love. Let’s face it, true (puppy) love is not as complicated as human love—especially since only one of us can really talk. I’m lucky to be in love with this best friend.

I have to admit my dog is a puppy school dropout. Though not through any fault of his own, Furgus didn’t get to finish with his class due to minor health issues. I was about to sign him up for obedience classes in January when I discovered he could take dance classes without them—let’s see, which sounds more enjoyable?

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

As for his obedience education, I’ve been learning both informally in his dance classes and formally as part of Team Keva. Keva is my mother-in-law’s six-month-old Irish Water Spaniel who has a whole entourage working with her.

When my brother-in-law, Michael, was planning to get a puppy for himself last year, my mother-in-law, Pat, decided to get one also. No doubt she’d forgotten how challenging puppies can be, especially now that she is well into her eighth decade. (Let’s just say that I have had a hard time keeping up with my pup in this the tail-end of my fourth decade—just yesterday I discovered our recycling all over the yard after Furgus had been sampling the various papers and plastic containers. What? You think he still might need obedience class?) Nonetheless, Keva and her brother Norbert arrived around Thanksgiving and they’ve spent much of their days together while sleeping nights in their respective homes.

Sometimes it takes a village to train a puppy—or at least several relatives and friends. From the beginning of Keva’s days in Colorado, she has gone into the family business offices of Allwell Rents to play with Norbert. Bringing the puppies into work really is kind of like bringing them into a china shop since the Allwell showroom boasts tables set with tablecloths, dishes, and glassware.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert, Norbert & Keva

Because of that, Anne and Beth at Allwell have been training the puppies all along on indoor behavior—sort of a white gloves and party manners for dogs, right? Still, Anne and Beth really are supposed to be managing a business, not just training puppies. So Michael signed up Norbert for one obedience class session and Keva for another. (Trust me, I have twins and I know why teachers didn’t want them in the same classroom for years either!)

However, since early training classes these days are rather physical, as I remember from our puppy school days last year, someone else needed to take Keva to class. That’s when my son Jackson got added to Team Keva as the main handler and I got added as the note-taker/chauffeur.

Every Tuesday, for eight weeks, Jackson and I drove Pat and Keva to school. We had hoped that though Jackson officially took Keva through the moves, that once Jackson and Keva were done sitting on the floor, Pat would also be able to go out to work with them. That did not happen after the first session! With fourteen dogs, around twenty handlers, and three trainers, chaos ruled, even as the dogs were learning how to behave in a more disciplined fashion. The classroom noise was deafening—even I could barely hear well enough to take notes.

So Pat and I sat on the bench. Often Michael also arrived to watch since his dog’s trainer taught using different exercises. Then I’d type-up notes, sending over a copy for the people at work as well as a larger one for Pat. Jackson would work with his grandmother to work with the dog and Michael, Anne, and Beth would reinforce the training methods.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

But it wasn’t. Keva is an incredibly bright puppy who isn’t overly willful.

Last night the dogs and their handlers completed the course by competing in the final exercises. For the obedience portion, all of the participants circled up and walked around to the sound of music. Whenever the music stopped, the trainers barked a command. All participants who completed the move properly remained and began walking again as soon as the music returned. Miss Smarty-Pants Keva and Jackson lasted until the end, finishing second only because Keva completed the final command slower than the other dog did. She did everything as asked.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Now, I’m sure everyone else on Team Keva is glad that Jackson got to be the handler. Not only did Keva get to rollover, but also Jackson had to rollover (on the floor) while keeping Keva in a sitting position. His rollover was nearly as quick as the one Keva had done earlier!

Pat’s refrigerator now sports Keva’s red ribbon as testament to how well the puppy learned, even with a whole village training her. Good girl, Keva! Good job, Team Keva!

Now, back to working with my own puppy school dropout . . .

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

‘Twas the day before Christmas Eve and all through our house, not many Christmas decorations were showing, except for a few stockings and some easily-accessible items that could be set up high. My year had been long, filled with too much gloom and doom, weighed down by parental possessions “stored” in my home, and hampered by physical injury and pain, at the same time sharp puppy teeth remained ready and able to destroy anything left below three and a half feet.

In short, I didn’t know if Christmas could happen in a living room where all those extra possessions had arrived at a time when everything in our home had to be out of reach and when my back’s condition lowered my already low ability to deal with the physical manifestation of my parents’ lifetimes.

The dust and I collected in that room where my spirit often felt trapped by my body’s limitations and those boxes. Add in the rollicking of two exuberant young dogs who brought in dirt from the great outdoors, and we had our own little Dust Bowl, right in our own home.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

As determined as I had been to find the floors and table so we could decorate for Christmas—as well as move past this year—by December 23rd I had lost my commitment to finish with anything more than the most basic goal of a clean-enough house. After all, our Christmas tree stood lighted in the room even if I couldn’t imagine any ornaments would be truly safe in our house this year—perhaps that was decoration enough.

That’s when a not-so-little elf stepped in, inspired by the movie Elf.

While Sherman and I were out shopping, Christiana—the once-preschool-artist who used to make artwork from items snatched from the recycling bin—pulled out paper, scissors, and an X-Acto knife in order to create a festive yet puppy-friendly set of colorful decorations: chains, snowflakes, and cut-out ornaments such as candles, stars, and gingerbread men.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

The hot pink, lime green, neon orange, lemon yellow, and blue-purple chains made a tropical paradise out of my frozen Christmas spirit: I hadn’t missed it, after all. Why it was only Christmas Eve Eve—plenty of time to save the holiday.

She cut, stapled, and hung. Sherman and I wrapped after our elf suggested we could still have presents out if we put them on top of the piano where our puppy, AKA Goat Boy, could not reach. Christiana made a skirt tree from paper to cover the tree stand, but we made do when we decorated the piano top.

Truth is traditional Christmas colors didn’t match the paper chains anyway. Other than grabbing a few more lights and some tinsel from our usual decorating boxes, we left everything else in the garage. No, the material on top of the piano came from leftover quilting projects—after a few snips with my mother’s pinking shears, we had a virtual rainbow of colors resting beneath the presents.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

The tropical transformation continued once again during the daytime hours of Christmas Eve.

Our traditional “winter wonderland” the kids make on top of the piano that suggests skiing and sledding and a White Christmas? Well, instead we put down purple material and Jackson and Christiana created the scene with various colorful toys. Blue bears, dragons, Pokey, dinosaurs, and Kermit—oh my?

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

With all the life changes we had experienced, we needed to find a different way to celebrate—this year was not at all like all the Christmases we knew.

But with the lights twinkling amidst all the color, and other elves doing more basic cleaning and preparations, I soldiered on and got that table cleared—a few days after the longest night of the year, but just in time for the brightest night of the year. Upon that table we set out multi-colored Fiestaware instead of matching china and crystal, said our prayers, and then toasted—to what had been and to what was still to come.

Without the helpful push for Christmas spirit in our home, I might not have opened up to the Christmas story and the Spirit celebrated later that night in our church. Sometimes, when our faith is on the shelf, God has to send human hands to remind us of light on this earth before we can see the True Light.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Warning: this is not a happy little holiday post; in fact, it’s not even a happy little everyday post. No, it’s the post that should I get it out of my head might yet lead me to be able to sleep tonight.

However, this is not about sleeping tonight. No, I keep thinking that if I can just get the dining room table cleared during the daylight hours tomorrow, somehow I’ll find a way to salvage what’s left of 2011 and get myself ready to shed this year for the possibility of 2012. If you’re like me and have ADD and you’ve been through a lot of recent loss, you might understand how something as mundane as a bunch of random items on a table or any similar space can grow to appear as a physical manifestation of the condition of your heart and mind.

Yes, a year ago today began my mother’s last month on this earth. I can’t even tell you that was a bad thing because of the Alzheimer’s that had ravaged her mind as well as her body. But it was a very hard thing to watch her go in that way, to know that her brain kept everything—from her thoughts to her vocal cords to her feet—from working as they were used to doing. And to know that as inadequate as I felt, it was my job to hold her hand on that final journey.

I understood that the start of the new year would bring the end for my mother, which was really a kindness to both her and anyone who knew her previously. That part I accepted, as much as anyone really can. One day, after three years of daily concern for her—whether or not other capable hands cared for her—she was gone.

The thing is the losses kept mounting. My uncle died six weeks later and a few days later we lost our dog whose cancer had appeared as my mother was leaving. Sherman and I have been to too many funerals for friends’ parents over the last sixteen months, none more agonizing for me than those for people who were destroyed in the same way my mother had been. Even though our other dog’s life ended at a somewhat expected time, the timing in the midst of this year was hard to accept.

Of all the things I did to soothe my soul, exercise and maintaining my body’s strength brought me the most moments of calm and peacefulness. I had no idea that the other great joy—welcoming a puppy (and another dog) into our home—would negate much of what exercise could do for me. If I had known that that fateful long road trip to bring home our pup would take away so much of my strength for so long, I would have found another way to get him here.

That I am regaining some of my former energy does not make up for the months without it. I am so discovering that I crave using my energy for more exciting activities than the “have-to’s” of this past year, including the huge task of going through the mess left behind by my parents’ lifelong possessions—especially since I did not have enough of me to go around just to get through my regular daily commitments.

In fact, just seeing the table as it is tells me how ready I am to skip catching up. If there is any way to forgo another month of mourning, sign me up. I want to be a person who can converse without feeling compelled to talk about anything negative happening in my life, including in this blog. Oh, to regain the sparkle in my eyes and the spring in my step. Next time I have a hard time falling asleep, I hope it is not because my hips hurt or because my heart aches, but because I have too much I want to do.

There’s no catching up only starting anew. I can pat myself on the back for all I have cleared off that table, but in the end I am so over all the crap that has been so much a part of this year. I’m tired of it tripping me up and reminding me of what is past—I just want it gone. On the days when it doesn’t irritate me enough, I know I have become too complacent in this boring yet painful state. If I can’t bring back to wholeness what has been lost, then it’s time to rage, rage against the dark night that is this year of loss.

This is the next-to-longest night of 2011—just one more night until light once more begins its cycle of growth.

So now that these words have eased from me enough to let me rest for the remainder of this dark night, mark my words: today’s light shall shine yet on a freshly cleaned tabletop, open with possibility for what comes next.

"Furgus" (c) 2011 Trina Lambert

Our dogs have very different backgrounds, although they both came from old West frontier locales. Sam is a rescue dog who last year spent most of his winter days outside in Cheyenne, Wyoming where the winds never stop—brr. Furgus was born this past February on what I like to call a puppy ranch outside of Tombstone, Arizona where yucca plants were the main vegetation in those white desert lands. The little he knew of “winter” came from a short May Day pit stop on a snowy Colorado mountain pass.

Poor Furgus—his breeder had worried he’d catch a chill on a sunny Arizona day with temperatures in the mid-70s. She wouldn’t let us head back to Colorado with him until we put a sweater on him—we shed that thing by the time we’d made it back to Tombstone.

"Sam" (c) 2011 Trina Lambert

Of course, Furgus arrived in Colorado in the late spring when most of our snowy days were gone. However, from the beginning he didn’t mind the bitter cold May showers that delayed our spring flowers this year. Sam and Furgus couldn’t have been happier than when heading out into the rains for our necessary walks—if you want to keep a puppy from eating everything in the house, you have to get him tired!

Arizona Boy, as we started calling him, also loved lying outside on summer days, his black hair baking in the midday heat, while Sam preferred hanging out inside with the swamp cooler’s breeze blowing on him.

Come the first snowfall, Arizona Boy had forgotten about snow. Faced with a white world, he timidly approached the edge of the porch where his grass had changed—to what? Didn’t take long for Furgus to decide he liked snow—he really liked it.

Too fast for my camera skills!

Sam likes it, too, but he certainly acts concerned about how long he’ll be outside. I don’t think he’s forgotten those long hours shivering in the Wyoming winds. But Furgus craves his snow time—thank goodness Mother Nature has provided for him. Sam goes out to do his business and/or play with Furgus, but he’s not afraid to let Furgus stay out there alone running like a nut. He’s quite happy to rest dry and warm at my feet, thank you very much.

Last spring I was missing my Fordham and his larger than life Springer Spaniel ways. Despite how much cleaner the house remained with just one little long-haired dachshund, I vowed I wanted the chaos of another spaniel, no matter the mess.

Well, I’ve certainly gotten what I wanted—two loving, chaotic spaniels and a lot of mess. Thankfully at least one of them does not have larger than life Springer Spaniel ways.

"Furgus" (c) May 2011 Christiana Lambert

The other, though . . . could have gone head-to-head with Fordham. Furgus loves both the snow—and coming inside to see me. Despite the baby gates in the kitchen, I’m not winning the battle with his muddy paw-prints—yes, this is Colorado where our snows melt often—today is such a day. I’ve tried skating around on a towel, using a Pipi Longstocking cleaning-style to remove those paw-prints, but more keep appearing. Our kitchen floor is starting to look like our own personal O.K. Corral without the gunfight (and the outlaws and Earp Brothers and the cattle and . . .)

Arizona Boy does not need a sweater! No, what he needs is a personal butler. Or else I need a maid!

2011: Christiana getting some puppy love

My parents got me a puppy when I was four—even though that’s a little young. Of course, I wasn’t really responsible for her, but she was my dog—especially when she’d fall asleep snoring in my parents’ room and then they’d deposit her, still sleeping soundly, with me.

Mom and Dad did not give me everything I wanted, from that horse I never stopped requesting to large stuffed animals. But they said, as early as two, I was busy advocating for a puppy. I kept asking for something “soft and warm and fuzzy”—and though my stuffed animals were well loved, they did not respond back.

I won’t tell you the long sad tale of losing my puppy due to an accident through no fault of our own, yet it didn’t stop me from wanting to have other dogs.

I will tell you, however, that I still want something soft and warm and fuzzy. Thank goodness I live with two creatures that fit that bill! And I’m pretty sure Sherman doesn’t want to be known as soft and fuzzy anyway . . .

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Furgus and Sam share the Puppy Smackdown with one another, but with me, they share the Puppy Snuggle. Armed with my brother’s worn-out bed comforter from the 70s, I cover the big chair where there is just room for me and my two dogs. The Puppy Snuggle is not a time for play—if they want to wrestle, I push them soundly onto the floor.

No, the Puppy Snuggle is quiet time when I can sit with one or two dogs in my arms, flopped over my legs, or by my side. This is what all those studies mean when they say dogs can lower blood pressure—despite all the recent stress in our home, my most recent numbers were 112/72. Yeah—now can I deduct some of the expenses related with my dogs as medical care?

Probably not, but petting a dog or two a day helps to keep my doctor away.

Sam is sometimes vigilant, sometimes sleepy, and sometimes cuddled into me. But Furgus—he is a snuggler extraordinaire. I’ve never had a big dog so willing to be a lap dog, even now that my lap isn’t quite big enough for his not-so-puppyish form. No matter how Springer-Spaniel-wound-up he is in the morning, a moment on my lap turns him into the mellowest old soul you’ve ever seen.

Judge me if you will, but these cuddling sessions keep me from turning to anti-depressants or even to drink. Now this is the soft, warm, and fuzzy puppy love I’ve dreamed of my whole life.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

It’s almost enough to make me forget about the items “Goat Boy” has chewed or the not-so-great responses to commands. Almost, but not quite. Don’t worry, we’ll keep training Mr. Soft, Warm, and Fuzzy, but not so much so that he forgets that part of his job is also to listen to my heart as well as to my voice.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Lately I’ve been seeing stickers on cars that read “Who rescued who?” Of course, first I have to correct the grammar—“whom” I shout—but I still know what the sticker means, thanks to every dog I’ve ever had in my adult years besides Furgus, the puppy.

Just Monday our foster dachshund crossed over that Rainbow Bridge. We don’t know how old he was, but when the rescue group found him emaciated and wandering the streets three years ago, they thought he was twelve. Despite his sketchy background and his pronounced health problems, he lived a full lifespan.

We weren’t being totally altruistic when we let him come to our house—in fact, Christiana was convinced having a small dog, specifically a dachshund, was an anecdote to the sadness she felt late at night when Fordham, our love sponge of an English Springer Spaniel, had retired to his cushion for a long night’s sleep. And though Sherman and I weren’t looking for another dog—especially a small dog—we were in favor of anything positive that would help her through the night.

Besides, he wasn’t supposed to be our forever dog. According to the rescue group, we were just supposed to have him for a week or two. But the economy hit dogs and rescue groups hard—our contacts with the group became fewer and fewer, until we knew we must be his forever family—how could we break a heart again that had already been so broken?.

(c) 2010

Although he never won over the jealous Fordham, he did worm his way into the rest of our hearts, even if he could only give so much love before he seemed to need to retreat. Christiana was disappointed in that, but she understood brokenness enough to love him still.

I would not have chosen to bring home a dog with a small dog bladder or an enlarged heart. I had dealt with hypothyroidism in dogs before, but not in this era of constant expensive blood tests and not with a dog with such a resistant thyroid function—he ended up taking almost as much thyroid medication as I do even though his weight was about 90% lower than mine. And, I had never even heard of the dog lice that apparently arrived with him and required expensive treatments for both him and Fordham.

And, yet, there was something about how jaunty his short-legged run was every time we returned home. He liked us; he really did, just in a very different manner than a spaniel does.

(c) 2010

When Christiana left for college, he became our responsibility—a responsibility we had never pursued. But both dogs—not just “our” dog—were our comfort in those days when we learned to live and thrive in our empty nest.

Though Fordham’s possessive behavior and big dog klutzy ways made Abel nervous, he never stopped wanting to share his company. When Fordham’s final illness became evident, even Abel seemed stressed.

For about six weeks after Fordham was gone, when Abel’s thyroid level was ideal, he seemed just a little younger and a little more relaxed. If Christiana had not brought him into our home a couple years earlier, we would have really felt the emptiness of our arms after losing my mother and Fordham one after the other. Abel settled into the stillness that was that time and took care of us.

We are essentially people who crave the chaos and over-the-top love that comes from English Springer Spaniels, but we will always be grateful to Abel for helping us through our dark spring.

When I returned from my puppy fever road trip, I saw how much Abel had aged and just how late it was for him. I prayed he would not be too stressed by the newest family members and that we still had a few more months with him.

(c) 2011

In the end, Abel was a guy who rolled with life, accepting Furgus and Sam into what was now his home—and even acting a little envious of their young limbs and ability to play together. I’m so glad that Furgus calmed down enough in Abel’s last few weeks to begin napping and sleeping with Abel, giving him a closeness he had craved with Fordham but never experienced.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Abel required a lot of care in these past four months or so, but what I want to remember is his joy on car rides as he got to sit on my lap while the big dogs were confined, the excitement he showed on our mountain camping trip, or how happy he looked when he accompanied the boys on their walks—from the seat of a converted baby umbrella stroller. He longed to be part of a pack and to the end, he was.

Crossing over was hard work for him, but he did it here—in his forever home—with us all under the same roof.

In a year of so much loss, I know who rescued whom, even though loving him also added to my losses.

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