As life demonstrates it brings the unpleasant and unexpected as well as the wonderful and deserved. Such was the nature of my life in the last eight months. I returned from spending summer in Ladakh, India, only to have my beloved Puli, Jata, suddenly and unexpectedly die of pulmonary hypertension. All summer I had had a premonition that he was going to die, but it seemed so preposterous that each time I dismissed the thought. I had left my Border Collie ailing of degenerative heart valve disease and would not have been surprised had she succumbed, but to have Jata die was unthinkable. I had reunited with him for only one week when he expired. I was heartbroken. For days, weeks I cried. I couldn’t get his last knowing looks out of my head. He and I were very close buddies for fourteen years. He smiled when I scratched his chest, and moved at my command when I wanted to groom him. He was a lovely boy, and I really felt for a while that I couldn’t continue life without his company.

I had no desire to find a replacement, but my grief was so profound that it became obvious to me that the attention I would have to give a new dog would temper my bereavement. Thus, my search for a puppy led me to Tucum, a 12-week-old Lhasa Apso. I brought her home, and simultaneously came down with a cold. We spent three days in bed, her black-tipped, cream-colored coat hard against my shoulder on the pillow. It resulted in a deep bond.

That bond included sleeping together at night. I wanted to breathe in the lavender smell of her shampooed, two-layered coat so I separated the two pillows on my bed and made a little cubby hole, or what I soon called Tucum’s Garage, between them. There she slept soundly unless I moved or got up. But it was the mornings that were divine. She’d wake me up slowly with a prolonged licking of my face, swabbing my eyelids and nostrils with tentative then vigorous swipes of her wet tongue and suffocating me with her puppy breath. Maybe it took me so long to wake up because I truly enjoyed my early morning bath though it was always at 4:00 a.m. On some mornings she additionally rolled her tiny, hairy body against my face as though she wanted to become one with me, giving me little nips on the chin. It was delightful.

She learned her name immediately and also learned to beg for food, tapping her fuzzy paws against my knee as I sat at the computer to take my breakfast. She emitted a kind of sneezing sound when I aimed a piece of bread crust at her mouth. It was so cute how her eyes widened and her mouth popped opened as she took it from my fingers. And when I was chastised for feeding her, my only defence was: “How can I help it. She’s so adorable.” Of course I had done the same with Jata. He had never become a pest, and my friends just had to accept the fact I shared my food with my dogs. I had at least one dog expert tell me that dogs should experience human food, but somehow I don’t think she meant every day for every meal. It gave me great joy, and my dogs’ fat bellies. In fact in a few weeks she weighed twelve pounds. To me that meant taking her for longer walks to offset the extra poundage.

I enrolled her in puppy socialisation class, and she did everything except socialise with the other pups. She was feisty, and if they came anywhere near her she ran at them, barking a warning. She was, however, afraid of nothing. No matter where I took her, e.g., to Home Depot where she piddled on the floor, she approached out-stretched hands with a wagging tail which typically curves over the back in this breed. Everyone found her fetching, and I stood by, agreeing with them whole heartedly.
In the evening as I sat at the computer writing, she took to pawing at my leg so I would pick her up and place her on my chest so I could continue working. She nestled in with her head resting on one shoulder or the other unless she spotted a Kleenex on my desk. Down my chest she scrambled over my keyboard, typing strange words, to snag the Kleenex and tear it into bits. Eventually I purposefully placed one within her reach so that I had a good excuse to put her down in order to continue typing. It’s not easy to work when you’ve got dog hairs tickling your nose and obscuring your vision. Still, I’m so silly crazy about her that sometimes I take naps on the couch so that she can perch on my chest and doze. I had trained Jata to sit vertically against my chest like you’d hold a baby for burping. I’d only have to tap my shoulders, and he’d jump into my arms. Even as an old dog, at thirty four pounds, he’d do that. It was heaven!

I taught Tucum to ring a bell mounted at the bottom of the front door that she was supposed to strike with her paw when she needed to go outside. For three weeks I paused her at the door and lifted her paw to hit the bell to no avail. I went back to books and Online articles about how to housebreak a Lhasa Apso when one day I heard the bell ring. Well, I nearly stumbled over myself getting to the door where, sure enough, she was waiting. From that moment forward she rang the bell, not only to go outside to potty, but to go outside to play, to get more food, and finally to ring it for the other dogs when they wanted to go outside. Eventually she taught them to ring their own bell so I installed another one on the outside of the door for when they wanted to come in. Tucum was a genius!!!

She went on to obedience class and excelled in it, amusing everyone with an attitude of fearlessness and a gait that could only be described as a stomp. Yet when she ran, the wind blew her long white, facial hairs away from her eyes and nose, and revealed a kind of Star Wars “wookie” look. She raced over the ground with complete grace and jumped for the front stoop like a gazelle over a hedge. This girl dog can do no wrong in my books. From time to time I still shed tears when Jata’s last moments interrupt happier images, but, in general, acquiring Tucum has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. Life is good!!!

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