This is Caleb. The picture is blurry. It's the best I could do. He never seems to stop moving.
I had been looking for a dog for some time now. In fact, let me back up. I had been anticipating looking for a dog friend for a long time. Probably two years or so. However, we were getting the house ready to sell, had the house on the market, were in temporary quarters, were moving cross-country... the reasons seemed endless.
Then finally we were in a position to think about a new dog friend for me. It had been more than three years since my beloved Cocker spaniel, Cole, had died. I thought I'd be ready. We'd met some dogs, had an opportunity or two that just didn't seem like a good fit. And I believe a part of me had given up on finding a canine buddy. I don't think I fully realized the extent of that until my niece, Valerie, went to look at a Cocker spaniel from Craigslist on her birthday. She had decided she'd like a smallish dog. But after driving to somewhere in Ohio and picking him up, they came to our house, instead. Val said that she thought perhaps he was meant for me, rather than her.
I'd like to say that it was love at first sight and I couldn't believe how wonderfully it all came together. That wasn't the case. Instead, I had an emotional wipeout. Big time. I didn't even know if I wanted to try to keep him. Val wasn't putting pressure on me. She said that if he wasn't the one, he'd have a loving home with them but thought I should give it a try and see. He smelled bad and so I bathed him. It became apparent that he wasn't house-trained. He was a complete nut job that first couple days. Still, those things weren't my real problem. I realized by the next day that I was keeping him a good arm's length from my heart. I didn't even WANT to like him. I think that I had gone from missing my Cole to putting up barriers to loving (and getting hurt by) another dog. I surprised myself when I realized this. And just realizing it wasn't enough to fix it. I had to make a decision to try to like him and then show him affection. I somewhat grudgingly began to give belly rubs, scratch his ears, and maybe hardest of all, talk to him. I think that I may have waited too long to love again. But brick by brick I tore the wall down. Actually, once I started moving the bricks away, he started to help me. Lots of tail wagging, sitting against me, adoring eyes.
Yes, I learned to love a dog again. It's not the same as with Cole. There will never be another Cole but there is a Caleb. We have a different but devoted relationship. He's pretty much housebroken now. There is the occasional rare accident when I didn't catch his signals to go out. (They are very subtle.) He's trained me how to give him love as soon as I open my eyes in the morning so that he knows it wasn't all a dream and he has a happy home. I know that he can only stand to be alone for so long before he needs serious belly rub therapy to get over his hysterical reaction to the fact that I actually came back. And this week he got into the car for a ride by himself. A real breakthrough. Though he still insists on sitting on the floor of the backseat, far away from scary windows. Unless there's room up front to sit next to me and lean hard into my arm. It may be a few years of maturing before I can trust him around the farm animals without terrorizing the poultry, taunting the pigs and attempting to create a cattle stampede. He's been to the vet for the full workup of neutering and vaccinations. I'm going to attempt grooming him myself this week. It should be interesting since my touch sends him into spasms of ecstasy that require summersaults and twirling. It may be a unique styling job but I'm game.
Yup. Me and Caleb. I think we are set to have a long and happy friendship.