This Thanksgiving, I’ll be loading up my five-month-old Aussie into her puppy car seat and driving to Spokane to visit family for the weekend. It will be the longest trip Josephine (or “Joey”) has ever taken. I’m a little worried how she will react to five hours of windshield time. With any luck, we won’t encounter any white-knuckle snowstorms. Either way, I’m looking forward to our journey together and having someone to talk to along the way, even if she doesn’t talk back.
After all these years living in Montana, I never imagined I would be a “dog guy.” Sure, I’m often around dogs and the Beacon headquarters in downtown Kalispell is a pet-friendly office with up to three canines of varying sizes roaming the hallways and offices on any given weekday. I enjoy all their company, but they all belong to someone else.
Not Joey. She’s ours after coming into our lives at just six weeks old from a family near Columbia Falls whose own miniature Australian shepherds had produced their first litter. She was supposed to be adopted by someone else, but their living situation changed. Serendipitously, word soon reached my girls that Joey was available. They took turns telling me this over and over and over again in the form of pleading text messages and pictures of this puppy looking exceptionally sad.
Initially, I was a hard “no.” She would destroy the furniture! She would shed on the floor! Who would watch her when we traveled? But after a week of prodding, I agreed to meet the breeder and the small dog who needed a home. By the way, once you meet a puppy you are considering for adoption, how many people walk away and tell their family it’s not going to happen? I would guess it’s less than 1% and I, predictably, fell in the majority.
The visitation may have been a trap, and it worked. Soon, we were bringing this red merle Australian shepherd home to live with us. And after some growing pains and a little apprehension – Joey was initially scared of hardwood floors and has chewed through several computer and phone charging cords – this dog is perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to me. At least in the last few years, which were severely upended by a bummer pandemic.
For one, I’ve never met anyone or anything who is as excited to see me as she is. Seriously, when I arrive home from work in the evening and say her name, she runs toward me while simultaneously appearing to suffer from body convulsions. She then pees on the floor in excitement before lying on her back to have her belly rubbed. The ritual is equally bizarre and endearing.
Of course, I’m not the only human Joey is excited to see. Each morning, as the first one up, I let her out of the crate, feed her and take her on a walk. Then it is time for everyone else in the house to wake up as she makes her rounds whining and barking until we’re all starting our day together.
Who could have guessed that my new traveling companion, a happy puppy, would be such a unifying force? That I would end up being like most Montanans: A dog guy.
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