I am writing a bit sleep deprived which makes me “puppy pooped”, not to be confused with our puppy, who poops (wink).
Raising a puppy is very much like having a newborn but with tons of puppy kisses and belly rubs – hers, not mine, although that sounds divine come to think of it.
We picked her up the first weekend of February. It involved an overnight trip for the five of us coming from Ohio traveling to this absolutely wonderful breeder named Pamela in Virginia. That isn’t normal, making an overnight trip to get a dog. Many people just get a puppy locally or otherwise don’t give a lot of thought to breeders unless they are looking for a classic purebred dog. There is also a big push in the United States to get a dog from a local dog shelter since there are so many abandoned dogs, but that wouldn’t work for us, for reasons I’ll describe below.
Starting about the Wednesday before pickup, I began to feel real anxiety about getting a dog. Very similar emotions coursed through me, reminding me of the night before giving birth or buying a house, this realization that you’re about to change your life in a major way and you pray that you’re doing the right thing.
Everything about it felt right leading up to that point, you see. I did my homework. I felt very good about the breed, about the breeder, about the breed’s compatibility with our family and the age our kids are right now. I felt good that our kids are old enough to handle the puppy properly and love her, to help care for her, but mostly I had to be ready to take on the responsibility myself.
This was, in my mind, my dog. I always thought if I got a dog, I would get a little one. I’ve had my eye on Yorkies for years but hearing that they weren’t necessarily wonderful with kids was a deal breaker.
My husband was against the idea of a puppy for the longest time even though he’s more of a dog person than me. It was devastating five years ago for him to put down Monk, our basset hound, after 14 beautiful years together. It tore him apart. He routinely describes it as one of the worst days of his life. But even he was ready at this point, ready and excited to welcome a new pet.
Then again, I totally expected I could get him on board after showing him endless pictures of precious Maltipoo puppies for weeks on end. He really is a big softie and it worked.
I may have shared this conundrum before too: my oldest has allergies to certain dogs, mostly big breeds, and he was understandably apprehensive about bringing a dog into our home. He was the one who remembered what it was like to have a pet in the house. However our younger two kids desperately wanted a pet as they didn’t really remember life with Monk all that well, and I didn’t want to deny them experience during childhood. Really, how do you balance the desires of all kids?
Well, we hedged our bets and decided we would become a pet family once again.
Naturally the anxiety kicked in overdrive the few days before pickup. I was having a hard time falling asleep. I could tell my breathing was shallow and I had to actively concentrate on deep breathing. My stomach felt queasy. I knew this was a Very Big Commitment, easily a 14-year one, and the thought of my oldest breaking out in hives and having to rethink the decision was nauseating. I most definitely didn’t want him to think we valued a puppy over his health. I was virtually certain he would be ok but there was a tiny little bit of doubt in my mind, and plenty of doubt in his.
All that gave away the night before pickup. I pretty much collapsed into bed and was running on adrenaline over the happy thoughts of getting her. It was a pleasant, excited drive to Pamela’s house. She greeted us with a big, warm smile and introduced us to our new pup who we named Zoe, the puppy’s litter mate, Samson, who was waiting to get picked up that same day, and the puppies’ mother. All jaw-dropping adorable.
My children melted at the sight. I will never forget how utterly charmed they were by these precious wee babies. Even my oldest smiled so broadly his dimples popped on both cheeks!
Pamela gave him Samson to hold and my daughter held Zoe. I will never forget what happened next. My oldest whispered to me, “Mom, she needs a puppy buddy. Let’s just take them both,” and as he nodded his head toward the door, he continued whispering, “Let’s just go…” It was surprisingly mischievous for him to suggest. If only Samson wasn’t already promised to someone else, we just might have done it!
Whatever anxiety I had about a dog virtually disappeared once we laid eyes on Zoe for real. She was as soft and small and sweet as we saw in the photos and video before-hand, although it is surprising to hold a puppy that small. It really is like having a newborn. You forget how small newborns are, too, until you hold one again and remember.
I was uncertain what to name her, which is odd because I’m pretty good at naming things. First I wanted something unusual, about me or my life, and that just became too hard to narrow down. A friend of mine suggested Lumi because she said she thinks of me as someone always trying to bring knowledge, be positive, and shine a light on matters. I have got to admit, that was an incredibly lovely sentiment! Yet the name Lumi didn’t roll off my tongue, so I didn’t run with it.
Since music is such a big part of my life, I spent time mulling musical names. I briefly considered Tempo, but it hit me that I really love both the sound of the word cello and the sound that instrument makes. I immediately thought of a woman who I worked with on a training project once, and her name was Chelo. I learned it’s a name of Spanish origin meaning “consolation or comfort”. It was another one of those aha moments since I had hoped this puppy might fill the void of loneliness that has marked much of my life.
We called her Chelo for a couple of weeks before pickup, mostly trying to get my daughter to buy into the name. Her first pre-teen reaction was, “Mom, it’s weird. I don’t like it.”. I was going to pull the Mom-veto on her since the boys liked the name, but wouldn’t you know, something about her reaction planted that tiny seed of doubt that it wasn’t quite right. I wanted all of us to be bought into the name. While Chelo sounds so lovely, we’d be spelling her name and explaining what it meant forever.
My daughter wanted to name her Athena after the Greek goddess of wisdom, but that didn’t fit 100% either. Our puppy was too tiny to be an Athena, even as I warmed up to the name. I certainly fit the unusual but beautiful criteria I had.
The week before pickup I had just listened to fantastic podcast about creating a powerful alter-ego for yourself. One woman named hers Ziva after the NCIS character Ziva David. Boom! I thought that was it. I held my breath looking up the meaning of Ziva, then sighed in relief when I learned it means “radiance, brilliance, and light”, which aligns itself nicely with the Lumi sentiment my friend suggested. Still, something continued to nag at me such that I wasn’t 100% sure. Our puppy wasn’t exactly exotic looking, and part of me felt that a dog named Ziva needed to be mysterious.
We even tried Ziva for a few days but it became pretty clear to me, as it did all of us, she’s really a Zoe. Zoe means “life” and that’s what she brings to us. Enormous waves of life in a teeny tiny body. I don’t care if it’s a common name for a dog, it fits her perfectly. We are completely charmed by Zoe Grace.
For the record, our breeder gave her a middle name of Grace upon birth, and we felt it was lovely so it stuck.
Our breeder recommended that someone stay full-time with Zoe for her first week at home, and luckily for me, I was able to arrange to work from home that week. America needs to get on board with “pet-ernity leave”, if you ask me. I work for a company that sells pet food, so one would hope my employer would be sympathetic to the demands of acclimating a new puppy to a home (and they were!)
Seriously, pet-ernity leave should be a real thing. I suppose we Americans should master maternity leave, and paternity leave first, but wouldn’t pet-ernity be incredible?
Our week together was wonderful. I got a feel for Zoe’s schedule: when she wakes, when she’s rowdy, and when she sleeps which incidentally is much of the day, again, not unlike a newborn. We bonded, and started potty training. I got a feel for her personality and she got a feel for our home, which we have slowly introduced to her one room at a time. We’re onto week three and she’s doing great.
We are too. Zoe has brought a lot of laughter and joy into our house, and dare say the kids have focused their attention on her and not as much on gaming and bickering with each other. I had my fingers crossed for this sort of outcome, but W H O A. Our oldest comes home and coos all over her, and he’s teaching her tricks and commands. She’s already figured out “sit”, and we’re now working on consistent delivery of “down” and “roll over”.
It’s rather poetic that her gotcha day was in February and she is a real-live valentine. I can hear my mother, who’s passed, singing as she often did, “How much is that doggie in the window, the one with the waggily tail,” and it’s almost as if my mom is celebrating the fact that we are once again a party of six with a little soul that delivers a very waggily tail.
Zoe is a little dream come true.