When little mister Brody Graham the Yorkie McPuppyFace first came to live with me, we were pretty much strangers to one another. I already loved him because of all I already knew about him from his people. To him, though, I was a virtual stranger. He did let me rub his belly pretty quickly that first night, which was a good thing. Not that he’s particularly choosey when it comes to potential belly rubs, I’ve learned, but still – it felt like a good step.
That first night was pretty riddled with anxiety for me. I’m already not good at adulting, and suddenly I had this sweet little guy – who was not a cat – requiring my care and attention. I was not yet one of his people, and my home was not yet his home. I had no idea how to read him – his moods, or what he wanted or needed. Every time he made a sound at ALL, I assumed he wanted to go outside, so I got up and took him out. Every few hours, pretty much. All night long.
I didn’t know if he would be too sad without his people he’d grown up with. I didn’t know how he’d do in an apartment, if he would bark at people in the hallway or be able to find the pee pad I left out for him when I went to work. I had no idea how he and the cats would do. And it turned out I’d never really walked anyone on a leash before, so basically he and I were all over the place for the first few days.
Lucky for me, Brody is pretty much the greatest dog in the world, and he took on every challenge and change like a champ. He is also very sweet and patient with me, and loves me even when I make mistakes.
Like when I accidentally made him fat and haven’t quite gotten all the weight back off. Or that I don’t trust either of us to keep him safe if I let him go off-leash (except for when we go to the basement to do laundry together).
And we learn together, all the time.
We’ve established some basic routines, despite my ineffectual leadership (I am not a very good Alpha, but I’m doing much better than I was initially), and I really love taking him for walks. I view it as our time together, and I treasure it. Except for when the weather is crappy. Then neither of us enjoys it and we both want to get back inside ASAP. He’s still stubborn sometimes, but we’ve found ways to work with it. At first, every time we went for a walk it was like a constant struggle. A battle of wills. What I liked to call a “directional difference of opinion”.
But something changed as we began to get used to one another. We found a rhythm of sorts – a sense of how to walk together instead of both of us trying to do different things. And I learned to pick my battles. It’s made both of us much more agreeable, really. I realized that I can let him choose when to stop and sniff around when we have more time, because so often on work days we don’t have that luxury and I have to rush him. So to make up for that, I let him slow me down on my days off. He’s taught me patience and makes me leave the apartment and talk to people and stuff. He makes me social. Kinda. More than I was before.
I mean, I see people out with their dogs all the time, and they barely even look at the dog, let alone interact and really be together. The dog seems more like an accessory, or something. Meanwhile, I can barely take my eyes off Brody. Partly to make sure he’s not eating something he shouldn’t, but mostly because he’s so damn cute. People come up to me all the time to meet him and pet him and talk about him. He just gives off this vibe, or something. People and other dogs are just drawn to him naturally, I think. I am in even more awe of him than they are, too, because they don’t know him like I do. I get to live with him and be around him for all his little noises and movements and silly random actions. I get the benefit of understanding that he just makes everything better, automatically. Just by being himself. Other people don’t get to see all that, which makes me lucky. That Brody lets me get to know him more and more each day makes me special. It makes me part of his pack.
I’ve learned how to hold the leash when I want him to stay more on one side or the other, and if I really want him to walk instead of sit and look around for an undetermined period of time, I’ve learned that I can carry him about 3 steps, and put him back down again, and he’s good to go. I’ve learned his memory is amazing, and his concentration can be very difficult to break if there is a chance treats may be involved.
I’ve learned that he drools like a machine for pineapple, McDonald’s fries, popcorn and pretty much any fruit. He also likes crackers and veggies. And cheese. He and I are both pretty ridiculous for cheese.
I learned to wash his face, especially around his eyes, regularly to prevent build-up of eye goo. I’ve learned how he likes to be pet, and his favourite cuddling positions. I’ve learned which kind of toys he loves, and how he likes to play. I’ve watched him try to figure out how to play with the cats (who love him, by the way), and they all even try to groom each other from time to time.
I’ve learned what most of his little noises mean, and how to read his various moods. I’ve made up little songs for him – ditties, if you will – and he knows how to calm and cheer me when I am upset.
We’ve learned how to be family, and I couldn’t be more content and grateful and honoured. Well, every day I think I couldn’t possibly be any happier with him or love him more. But then every day I do love him more, so that expression doesn’t really apply here, I guess.
Anyway. With his fake-looking little button nose and huge dark brown eyes, I think the only thing I really haven’t figured yet is how he deals with his own level of adorableness.
Because I sure as hell can’t.