Getting a puppy was not in the plan. My husband and I already had a dog (Fargo) and a cat (Lucas). The plan was for my parents to pick out a dog, and I just went along to help since they were seeing the same breeder from whom we had purchased Fargo.
Is there anything better than a litter of puppies? Goofy little furballs gamboling about, until they fall asleep right where they are? My parents fell in love with Sasha, and made arrangements with the breeder.
But there was a little guy, off by himself. He was smaller than his littermates, and didn’t engage in play exactly the same way. He was perfectly healthy and normal, but just a little . . . different. I heard myself saying, “If no one has spoken for this one, I would be interested.”
My husband had been asking for a second dog for months, and I always said it was more than I could handle. He was at work all day, and traveled for work sometimes. I could not walk Fargo, and he was still a high energy Labrador Retriever. Now I had fallen in love with another Lab. I rationalized it by saying it was a surprise for my husband.
A few weeks later, when my husband came home from work, I met him at the door with the puppy in my arms. Thinking it was my parents’ dog, he started to ask why she was at our house. I held the puppy out to him and said, “This is your new puppy.” Fourteen years later, I can still get out of trouble by reminding him, “I got you a puppy.”
Grif was our special boy. When my husband would bring him upstairs at night, I would exclaim, “Puppy!” from bed and Grif would galumph right over. And when we lost Fargo, and then Lucas, Grif poured on extra love. If I cried, Grif would bring me his toys.
I don’t think Grif ever met a person he didn’t love, and he always assumed they would love him back. He liked to offer his toys to visitors, usually while snorting and wiggling. He wagged his tail with his entire body. Grif didn’t give kisses the way Fargo did, but he loved to snuffle and snort, preferably in your armpit or ear.
Grif was more of a chaser than retriever. He waited for us to kick or throw a ball, and then he would race to it and chew on it, occasionally looking up to wonder why we hadn’t followed to repeat the game. And he wasn’t necessarily the brightest dog. When I sent him into the backyard to chase deer away from the fence, he always ran to the same corner of the yard regardless of where the deer were actually standing. While Fargo knew his toys and the rooms of the house by name, Grif was more focused on where “Daddy” was, and his favorite phrase was: “Daddy’s home.”
Labs are notoriously food focused, and Grif was no exception. His eyes bugged out with joy when he was given a little vanilla ice cream. We are just the kind of crazy dog people who will order a cup of foam from a coffee shop and give it to the dog. He loved french fries and, inexplicably, green beans. One night, on a whim, I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on his nose, and it was like doggy Christmas had come.
When I was stuck in bed, Grif was my buddy. If I was asleep, he curled up behind my knees. If I was sitting up in bed, he wedged himself in my lap and served as a computer desk. But when my husband was home, Grif curled up on that side of the bed and slept on my husband’s pillow. There is no love like doggo love.
Which brings me to the best holiday ever. You might think I am referring to Thanksgiving, which was yesterday here in the US, and we did have a lovely time with our family. But I am talking about Wolfenoot.
Have you heard of Wolfenoot? Here is the amazing origin story:
The love and light of this child’s imagination went viral. Thousands of people have gotten on board, and Jax Goss turned the attention into a way to raise money for Wolf Park. There will even be a story book, illustrated by a thirteen year old artist, which will tell the story of The Great Wolf.
People all over the world are celebrating wolves (and canines) today, simply because a seven year old imagined that we should. For that reason alone, this is a happy thing to do. I was all in as soon as I heard about it, because we need more imagination and creativity and love and light in this dark world.
And because earlier this year, Grif died.
Shortly before my husband had his stroke in 2015, Grif tore one of his ACLs. We thought we could avoid surgery, until he tore the other one about six months later. After two separate surgeries, and severe activity restrictions during recovery, Grif and my husband did rehab together. My husband was in vision and vestibular therapy, and he and Grif would take slow walks down the street, doing their exercises together.
We had gone from a family of one disabled homebound person plus healthy human and dog, to two disabled homebound people and a disabled dog. The three of us spent a lot of time together. Grif was most content when we were watching tv, giving him lots of pats and scruffles. He couldn’t run or play or climb stairs, but he was still our Grif.
By this past summer, three years of pain and limitations had taken their toll. Grif was having more trouble walking, and then standing on his own. My husband knew the end was coming, but continued to insist it was weeks or months away because he could not imagine life without Grif. After a few days in which we had to pull Grif up to a standing position multiple times a day, I told my husband that we could not ask anything more of Grif. He had taken care of us for so long, and it was time to let him go.
For the first time in twenty years, we have no pets in the house. We will get another dog, but we have to figure out the timing and logistics. It’s very different to contemplate training a puppy when we are both disabled. For now, the house feels empty. There is less dog hair about, true, but it doesn’t really feel like home. Not the way it did before.
Wolfenoot was invented when we needed it most. Today, I will slow-roast some lamb. We will pretend the leftover pie we brought home from Thanksgiving is in the shape of the moon. And we will remember our beloved and sorely missed Grif. If he was watching over us now, he would not want us to be sad. He would bring us his toys, and snort and wiggle to make us laugh. Grif was the best doggo. Howly Wolfenoot, everyone.