Carter Joseph Schmidt
Born at 3:08 pm December 31, 2013
7 pounds 4 ounces, 20.5 inches
Carter Joseph Schmidt
Born at 3:08 pm December 31, 2013
7 pounds 4 ounces, 20.5 inches
It all started with a fairly routine trip to Petco. I was there for a quick nail trim (in between visits to my regular groomer) and one would think I would have been sidetracked by all of the 50% off holiday toys and treats. No such thing. Instead I spotted them right away and I could tell exactly how they had spent their day.
It was a family of four, complete with a mom and a dad and their two little girls. With them stood a patient and surprisingly well-behaved terrier mix who (with a little help from mom) I later learned to be named Cooper. And the cart. From puppy training pads to Petco’s very best all-natural treats and dog food, it was loaded to the brim with everything a family taking in a new dog could possibly need.
But Cooper wasn’t just any new dog. He was a one-year-old rescue dog, his mom explained, and they had just adopted him for Christmas. The older of the two little people (who I would guess to be about five-years-old) was gripping Cooper’s leash like the lifeline I know it to be. When I saw the way her little hands proudly held that leash, it was like she was holding something in my heart. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy and happiness and the slightest bit of cautious anxiety for the journey on which this family was about to embark.
Under most circumstances, the anxiety is abnormal for me. At least in my world, a house is not a home without the special pet who (in his or her own unique way) somehow completes the picture. I think that’s why I felt a certain cautious emotion I recognized as anxiety.
Because I know one too many dogs who have recently left their forever homes for the Rainbow Bridge. Snuggledog was put down after he got so sick and the doggie doctors couldn’t figure out what to do to help him. He was three. A few days earlier Rusty took his 15 years of wisdom with him to doggie heaven. And then only a couple of nights ago, eight-year-old Raider got a little too interested in something in the road and was hit by a speeding car.
It starts and ends with my otherwise routine trip to Petco. Amidst so much loss, my encounter with Cooper and his new family struck such a tender chord in my heart. This week, as the family and friends of Snuggledog, Rusty and Raider pick up the broken pieces of their hearts, Cooper’s family becomes whole as he settles into his forever home. Life. From the ground up, each day is precious whether we are at the beginning or the end of our journey. Because ultimately it’s how we spend the middle that counts.
It was dark. It was cold. And it was fun. That is, until it wasn’t. I ran away from grandma’s house tonight. I saw the back door open and I made a run for it. I love the way the brisk Wisconsin winter air ran through my fur as I ran around the block.
I followed two things: the scent of a nearby dog and the light from the main street nearby. I didn’t really hear dad and his brother Joe yelling after me at first. In fact, I figured they were simply joining in an especially exciting game of chase. But it wasn’t too long after that when my little adventure stopped being fun. Clearly Joe and dad misunderstood the rules of the game. Dad scooped me up and kept using several of my least favorite words.
Naughty. Bad. Sassy. I much prefer words like cute and cuddly, so you can imagine my dismay at hearing these words over and over as we made our way back to grandma’s house. There I was met with a whole host of emotions, the majority of which resembled the aftermath of minor heart attacks. Everyone had gathered in the kitchen. And everyone was concerned. Well, I guess you could say they were more than concerned. They were freaked. Especially mom, who kept saying something about a forecast with -25 degree wind chills tonight (whatever that means).
As I surveyed the rest of the faces of these people I’ve come to love, any of the residual wonderment I felt on my little jaunt lost its moxie and I felt nothing but remorse. It wasn’t that fun. And (now that they mention it) it was cold. And dark. And I’m not certain I would have known how to get back to grandma’s house without the help of dad and Joe. Maybe this whole adventure wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Because family offers its own kind of adventure you can’t find outside. We were all together to celebrate Christmas and there were all kinds of beautiful gifts for everyone. I made out like a bandit with treats and toys. But the best part of the night was the snuggles. I snuggled with whomever would let me, and in doing so I got the best gift of all in return. Love. The gift that keeps on giving.
I wonder sometimes what I would be like if I had two legs instead of four. If I walked amongst people as one of their own. If I could carry on a normal conversation instead of relying (almost) entirely on nonverbal communication.
In these thoughts I find I am not so concerned with what I look like (though I’m sure I’d be blonde haired and brown eyed) or what kind of clothes I would wear. I don’t think it would matter to me what kind of car I drove, or how big my house was. Would I?
I daydreamed today that I was human and won the lottery. And not just the $3 dad occasionally wins and splits with his work friends as part of their weekly lottery pool. I won big time. One billion dollars. What would I do with such winnings?
In my daydream, I bought everything my people ever wanted. That house in a better school district. Those fancy shoes mom is always lusting after. The Shelby Mustang dad dreams about. The honeymoon they never took. I bought it all and there was still plenty leftover to donate to some of my favorite charities (like the humane society and ISF) and invest in something that would produce enough income to allow mom to stay home with the little person. (Dad too, if he wanted).
As I daydreamed, my people were away dreaming a dream of their own. Dad has been on a mission to replace their cars with what he refers to as newer safer ones. Words like reliability and dependability seem to have gained a new level of importance now that the little person is on his or her way any day now. But upon returning home it didn’t take me long to see the disappointment in their faces. This dream can’t come true. Not right now.
And I found myself wondering again what I would be like with two legs instead of four. Would I need the lottery and all the fancy things it could provide? Or would I prefer to earn an honest living as a struggling author who volunteers at the local animal shelter on the weekends?
I’m quite certain there is no right answer. And all of this is made much more complicated by my overall lack of understanding of how the whole money thing even works. I don’t know what I would be like if I were human any more than my people know what it would be like to win the lottery. And tonight as we three musketeers settled in together to watch a movie I realized that’s okay. Because we’re happy this way.
Besides, “greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction,” suggested German psychologist Erich Fromm. It doesn’t matter whether I have two legs or four. I’d much rather live life happy than in endless pursuit. Keep your money, bottomless pit. It’s happiness I choose.
It’s about the right size. And it’s plush like my other toys. Except apparently it’s not for me. It’s for the baby. And I have to say, in my little doggie opinion it’s among the strangest things that has taken up residence in the nursery.
At first I wasn’t sure what to make of that crib contraption which will apparently keep me from cuddling with my new little person. Then I was thrown off by the big huge boxes labeled “diapers.” There are just so many! This baby couldn’t possibly require that many diapers. (Right?) Then came the little blue seahorse. At least that’s what my people call it. I call it the alien visitor, which I feel accurately reflects my denial to its presence.
It looks like something I’d love to sink my teeth into and give a good shake. Yet I can tell that is not going to earn me any brownie points any time soon. Because this is a toy for baby Schmidt, mom explained to me, not for doggies.
There’s that darned phrase again. I know it all too well. Not for doggies. Well, at least in this case, it’s fine with me that this seahorse and I do not become friends. The toy is not of my concern.
I realized today (as I kept a safe distance from the wave-like sounds the seahorse was making) that can be said of any of the toys my little person will receive. I know there’s also a teddy bear that makes sounds and a little Scottie dog. But none of these things can come close to the relationship I plan to have with him or her.
We are going to laugh and run and play together. (All in due time, I know). We are going to take long walks together and I’m going to teach him or her games like pickle in the middle and chase. We are going to be best friends. I can feel it. And I can hardly wait.
“Friendship improves happiness and abates misery,” suggested Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, “by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.” As frightening as it can be with all it’s different lights and sounds, that seahorse is more than a visitor. I think he’s staying a while. But that’s okay because I know in my heart he doesn’t have anything on me.
Apparently I have gotten a wee bit chubby. Maybe it was the tiny piece of leftover bacon I scored at brunch this morning. Or the doggie treats under any of the three Christmas trees I’ve visited in recent days. Whoever thought having a routine checkup the day after a major holiday clearly wasn’t giving me the benefit of the doubt.
Nonetheless, Dr. Morrison’s exact words to mom during today’s annual pilgrimage to the vet clinic echoed through the room. “We don’t want him to put on any more weight,” she said as she grabbed around by my hind quarters. Excuse me madam, I wanted to say, but I’d guess the majority of folks I know to be up a pound or two after the caloric splurge known as the holiday season.
Little did I know there were more stingers headed my way in the form of shots for things I don’t understand. Three shots, to be exact, each one a bit more painful than the last. That followed other poking and prodding, none of which was very pleasant. Overall, the experience was not my favorite thing in the world.
But it wasn’t the worst either. In spite of the aforementioned weight gain, I got all kinds of yummy treats. And the best part was when Dr. Morrison first came in to see me and asked how her “favorite terrier” has been doing. Or maybe it was when the veterinary nurse kept petting me and telling me how cute I am. Or when the doctor said she thinks I’m going to be a very good dog with my soon-to-be little person.
Either way, I realized something as I snuggled a little closer than usual into mom on the car ride home. We don’t always know what’s good for us. Like me, with my almost obsessive urge to sink my teeth into a piece of the apparent delicacy known as chocolate. Or my aversion to the vet clinic.
In reality, we all need checkups every now and then. Not just for our physical health, but also for our mental and spiritual well-being. And it’s not always easy to take the criticism and advice that comes along with these checkups. But we need them. And they’re definitely a little bit easier to take with a little sugar. Or compliments in my case (since I’m going to be watching my waistline more closely). That Mary Poppins was on to something. A spoonful of compliments makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way.