76: Ten Pounds of Comfort

76: Ten Pounds of Comfort

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Ten Pounds of Comfort

Happiness is a warm puppy.

~Charles M. Schulz

My husband wasn’t thrilled about the addition of another dog—and a puppy at that—but for some reason I had to have the miniature Dachshund! At home, I placed him on the floor and watched him dart around sniffing the tile. Our other Dachshund curiously sniffed the interloper.

In the wee morning hours, I heard his slight whimpers downstairs and tiptoed down to check on our puppy. When he saw me, his cries ceased. He wagged his tail and yelped with playfulness. I took him out into the cool, still dark, yard to do his business.

That’s when it hit me. This isn’t right. He isn’t for me! The feeling wouldn’t go away. I felt compelled to give this puppy to Mom and Dad. I knew it was ridiculous, yet I wanted to present this bouncing puppy to my parents.

Long retired, my parents were aged. Dad was slow and shaky on his feet. Mom often felt trapped at home and restless. Both loved dogs, but hadn’t had one in years. They won’t want a puppy, I reasoned, it’s way too much work. Then I mused about their reaction to this tiny bundle of love, his inviting brown eyes and gentle temperament. I knew of the research on animal therapy—animals raise spirits and help people relax.

My folks seemed depressed and lonely even though they had a busy schedule. They were involved in church and had neighborhood friends. But they were overwhelmed with weighty decisions about my elderly grandmother in the nursing home and the sale of her property. I felt sad that at this time of their life they were burdened with caring for others rather than living carefree. Their neighborhood was becoming unsafe and they needed to relocate. They repeatedly struggled with the need and the fear of moving to a retirement community. Dad blamed Mom for not wanting to move. Mom insisted that Dad was being the stubborn one. Fret, worry and numerous decisions weakened Mom’s ability to think clearly. She became anxious. Her anxiety came out as hostility. Mom and Dad argued often about Grandma’s care, their need to move, wills, bills, and illnesses.

I told my husband that I wanted to give the new puppy to Mom and Dad. I wanted to help my parents during this stressful time of their life.

“But they won’t want a puppy,” he replied.

“Yes, but I have to follow my conscience. Maybe it’s some kind of divine guidance.”

We kept the puppy for a few weeks to train him. He needed to be housebroken, to get on a schedule, and to learn to sit and wait at the door so he wouldn’t trip Dad.

Then, on a sunny day, we drove the hour to my parents’ house with the little Dachshund contentedly riding on my lap. From his mouth jutted the ever-present tongue as I stroked his soft ears. I felt a mix of anticipation and sadness at the thought of giving him away.

We pulled into their driveway and I jumped out of the car. “Here! Happy Father’s Day, Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday, and Merry Christmas,” I said as I shoved the puppy into Dad’s arms.

Silently he stroked the little pet. “What’s this all about?”

“It’s for you,” I said. “I also brought you a kennel, puppy food, collar and leash. Plus he’s had his immunizations and he’s housebroken.”

They began to examine him like a newborn. “Oh, look at that tongue,” Mom said. “I forgot how little Dachshund pups are.”

“He’s cute,” added Dad. “What should we call him?”

We talked, laughed, tried different names, and watched their puppy explore his new home. There were no ugly arguments. My husband and I drove home cheerfully chattering although I missed the little dog.

The next day, I phoned to ask about the puppy. “I think he’ll be your dad’s dog. He seems to favor him,” Mom said, after describing their first night. Then she recounted what the dog was doing and how he was behaving. Excitedly she said, “Now he’s following me around the house.”

I asked, “What are you going to call him?”

“I like the name Tylo because it was my favorite aunt’s name for her dog.” I never knew Mom had a favorite aunt from childhood. “I take Tylo when I go for my walk,” she told me. “Your dad holds him to watch TV.” Warm feelings flooded over me as I heard the lightness in her voice.

Months later my husband observed, “Your folks are less stressed. It’s like they have a new life to think about rather than an old, fading one. Maybe there’s something to this pet therapy.”

The anger, loneliness, and fretting disappeared, replaced with Tylo stories. “He’s a great traveler,” Mom exclaimed. They take him everywhere—even to Grandma’s nursing home.

One thing bothers me. They never bought me as many as toys and treats as they do for Tylo.

~Brenda Nixon

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