Sunday, December 2, 2012

The "M" Factor

About a year after we lost Donovan, we decided to get a dog.  I was not much of a dog person, or any kind of pet person; I'd never had an indoor pet before.  Doug had grown up with dogs and was much more used to the idea.  Why am I telling you this story?  I had no idea what a difference having a pet would make in my life.  I am almost kind of sad that I missed out on this until now!

Keeping in mind we were dealing with losing Donovan, had already had a miscarriage and didn't know if/when we'd be brave enough to try again.  It was an uncomfortably quiet house, a rather boring existence with a couch that was so comfy it was really easy just to stay on it during all our free time.  I have to admit, the first 3 weeks of owning him was well worth the 2 years of picking up poo we've done so far.  We got so excited going to get him, reading books about how to raise a puppy, and creating a puppy safe environment.  We got him at the beginning of a long weekend so we had 3 whole days at home before having to go to work.  The first day back at work, I remember watching the clock so intently, waiting impatiently for the day to be over so I could go home to him.  When 5 o'clock came, I literally sprinted to my car, exploding with excitement to be home with the adorable puppy.  I had not moved that quickly in over a a year, I'm sure of it, and that level of excitement and joy hadn't appeared in a very long time.  That moment alone I knew we had made a good decision!  Totally worth the pee on the floor stage, the chewing stage and every other stage.  Here are a few shots from his first week at home:

Doug and I now had a project.  We had to pick a name, get dog stuff, decide on the rules and boundaries, etc.  When people asked me what my hobbies are or what I do in my spare time, I would say "I have a puppy" and that would be enough said.  We committed as much time as possible to helping him grow up into a healthy, well behaved and happy dog.  Best of all, he just added positive energy into this household that we desperately needed.  It's hard not to smile when you open your bedroom door in the morning and the dog leaps up from his slumber, as though he hadn't seen you in months, bounding toward you with a level of excitement only a puppy can deliver.  It's so cute and it brings joy to my heart every time.  It didn't fix everything and of course there were stressful moments here and there, but not once did we regret our decision, and the benefits far out weigh the challenges.

When Halloween came along, I found a skeleton t-shirt for a dog for $5 in a clearance bin.  There had previously been a very serious comment from my husband: "We will never put clothes on our dog.  People will think we've gone crazy." He doesn't care when other people put clothes on their dog.  His opinion is that when bereaved parents do it, it looks like they are trying to replace their children with an animal.  He was just trying to keep us looking sane to the people around us, and I know he meant well.  Please note that nowhere have I mentioned that getting a dog eased the pain of losing a child.  It did not.  It just kept us busy, gave us something to get off the couch for, and made us laugh everyday.  The odd person would say something like "Well it's too bad that you lost Donovan, but at least you have Murphy now."  This comment felt like a punch in the stomach.  Sorry folks, apples and oranges.  No, more like apples and lawnmowers! Not even in the same ballpark!  I think I've mentioned in a post before that if you find yourself saying anything that starts with "At least...." when responding to the news of someone's loss, please stop talking.  It is minimizing and we really get tired of people trivializing the nature of our loss.  We know it could have been worse, we know we are lucky to have each other, WE KNOW all the "at leasts."  Anyway, (rabbit trail over) I somehow convinced Doug to put the shirt on Murphy just once, which he did, and he actually agreed to take him for his evening walk on Halloween with the shirt on.  I found it rather hilarious.  I would have preferred a chicken costume for him, with a sign on the lawn that said "BEWARE OF CHICKEN" but I had to accept Doug's hesitations and just let it go. :)

Murphy's first and last Halloween costume.
Perhaps the biggest benefit from having Murphy around for the last 2 years is the sense of accomplishment when he does something I've taught him.  Dogs are so basic.  If you do this and this, you will get this back.  It's very simple actually.  When we start to get frustrated with his behaviour, we know that if we walk him longer or more often and meet his other doggy needs mentally, physically and emotionally, it will make a difference for the better.  It's nice to have something that is easy to understand and within our ability to influence.  I still feel amazed sometimes when he asks to go outside and then politely barks once when he is ready to be let back in and waits so patiently by the door.  We taught him that, and he does it every time!  What a great feeling.

Murphy is hilarious.  The way he plays, responds to us, rolls over when he wants something even though we didn't ask him to (it's like his way of saying "PLEEEEEZE!) never gets old.  Wiping off muddy paws, limiting our time away from home, and walking in the cold gets tedious, but we know it's worth it.  I've even come to grips with the dog hair.  I got a really good vacuum, a sticky roller by the door, and the rest I can live with.  He still has a lot of learning to do, and we know we have to keep on it and not get lazy.  Here are a few pictures of the only other time I put any type of garment on him, and this was done when no one else was home (snicker snicker).

Looks to me like he is doing a Dumbo impression here.

Where did I leave that...?

As yes, there it is!

Merry Christmas!

So, in case you were wondering how we have kept busy in the last 3 years since we lost our son, now you know.  We feel so glad we took on this responsibility and have never regretted it.  One day I saw a bumper sticker in the shape of a paw that read "Who Rescued Who?"  I wouldn't have had the slightest clue what that meant 2 years ago, but now I totally get it.  Thank you to those who have helped us with dog sitting, tolerated the jumping and barking when you come over, and for just supporting us in general!  

Murphy trying to resuscitate a toucan.

A good face to come home to everyday!

Well I have to get going, I have a dog to walk.  Thanks for reading my post.  More news to come soon!


  1. Aww, Murphster! It was great to see him today. Hard to believe he was once that tiny puppy! Your post totally speaks to the therapeutic effect of animals. The benefits are quite amazing.