It seems like a hundred years have passed since I first wrote about Lir. Meeting a puppy once and making him the receptacle for all of your dreams is an exercise in hope and imagination, pure speculation, really, but raising a puppy well is deeply grounded in reality.
Exactly four weeks ago, when Lir turned nine weeks, I drove back to Canada to pick him up. The weather forecast had predicted chilingly cold temperatures but clear skies and no precipitation. Halfway through Michigan, though, snow started to fall gently, then intensely. What I had hoped would be a blip on my journey turned to snow covered roads, headlights illuminating swirling snow and semi trucks rushing past blowing curtains of snow so dense that I was unable to see anything but white for what felt like entire minutes at a time. I crawled along at 40 mph, wishing I could go 20, but trucks and SUV’s were going 60 and their passing was more dangerous than the (truly dangerous) snow covered roads.
I saw a sign for an exit, and my heart leapt, but the road was so snow covered, and the terrain unfamiliar, that I missed the exit altogether and had to keep driving. I was still shaking from the last semi completely whiting out my visibility, when, Siri let me know there was an accident up ahead.
All traffic slowed to 20 mph, thankfully, and I began to breathe evenly again. A white van was flipped on it’s roof, wipers going, having hit the concrete barrier near the median. Any humans had already been removed from the scene, and I sent good intentions to them as I passed. I was able to get off at a nearby exit and have never been so happy to sip black tea and watch re-runs of That 70’s Show. I was alive. How lucky.
The next day I got back on the road and by late afternoon, I was at the drop off spot to pick up Lir. What a strange feeling it is to meet someone in a parking lot and be handed a shiny, fluffy, bright-eyed pup who knows nothing of the larger world. Suddenly, you are on your journey together. Now. Begin.
Luckily, Lir traveled well and if the car was moving, he slept. I didn’t know how he would feel about traffic, noise, men in big coats but the trip threw us into the world and he absorbed a lot of new sights and sounds with just a little observation and processing. Overall, I was really happy with how he adjusted to his reality being totally upended. And I learned he loved beef jerky, after he quickly grew tired of the other reinforcers I had brought along.
We made it home a day later, before dark, and got him introduced to our dog family here at Idle Moon. He was more cautious than Ruth and Hesper had been meeting our dogs, and I had a twinge of concern I filed away for later in terms of his dog comfort. But a single data point is just that, a single point and he had been on a long journey. He settled in with the group and I gave him three days to just relax and get to know his new family.
It wouldn’t be until the weekend that I would learn that his first response to new dogs was a conflicted mix of excitement and fear, barking, backing up, jumping forward and an inability to self-calm enough to approach to get scent information. My fantasy of a “perfect dog” was replaced with the reality of the dog I had in front of me. I had to pull out my skills to help him find more functional behaviors in relation to other dogs. I had to leave my own emotions for later.
Why do we dream of perfection? Why do we dream of journeys that are easy?
I don’t know, really, because what is hard often ends up to be far more beautiful and worthwhile. My ego had been set on a perfect, relaxed, social pup who would be ready to start his education where I wanted to start it. I still didn’t understand, at that time, that Lir was a clear, bright mirror sent to reflect me back to myself so I could be better time after time after time.
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