About a year ago, it became almost certain that my then 3-month temporary move to the Netherlands would become a little more permanent. It is at this point that most people would start looking for an apartment, get a car or prepare in advance for all the paperwork to be filled in for residency. Well, that is most people. I, on the other hand, figured that what would make this place feel most like home, would be a dog.
My parents’ objections to this decision were mainly aesthetic: the smell, the possible mess, the not-so-freakishly-clean-anymore apartment and so on.
I even had my own objections and internal debates. When it came to dogs, I had an attitude that touched the edge of phobia. I was almost bitten by a really nasty German-shepherd when I was 5 or 6 years old, and even though it was not a terrible bite, the scare was traumatic enough. Over the years, I would cross the street and walk the other way at the sight of any dog that was taller than my knee-height. I still do.
So I wondered – what would I do if I was walking the puppy and another dog came along? Would I pick up my dog and run away? *UPDATE: I am, indeed, doing that, but getting better at facing my fear. I have recently become friends with a pitbull (Daisy) and an amstaff (Babe)*
Another objection of mine was that I severely disliked dog owners and their peculiar dog-owner character – you know what I am talking about: crazy laughter as the dog jumps on your newly washed white jeans with his paws full of mud, apologies for a dog’s bad behaviour that comes along as a smile that really says they think that behaviour is actually cute, “wet kisses” from your new furry friend and so on. I did not want to become one of those *UPDATE: I failed. I am one of those…*
Which one’s mine?
Although I had officially bought Yanni in May of 2014, it would be another month until I would bring him home with me.
I live in the Netherlands and Lora’s kennel where I bought him from is based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Legal regulations state that a dog must be 6 months old minimum before being administered its anti-rabies vaccine, which he needed in order to be cleared for flying out of Romania.
In June 2014, shortly before Yanni’s 6 month birthday, I flew home to pick him up. Finally, I walked into Lora’s house. I cannot call it a Kennel, as that seems a far less name for what is a home full of love and care for these Maltese.
Before making a decision on where I’d get my dog from, I spent a good deal of time contacting various kennels and vet clinics for recommendations. Not having owned a dog before, it was no easy task.
I also wanted to see pictures of the male puppies that were available for sale. And when I saw Yanni’s photos, I was sold. See below. I thought those were the cutest “puppy eyes” I had ever seen.
Far from what I had been expecting, picking a puppy was no easy task – I had a choice between several tiny bundles of white fur and loving eyes that were running around me, wanting to play. They say you do not choose the dog. The dog chooses you. So I waited.
And then I saw Yanni. “That’s my dog,” I said simply as he was running towards me. And just like that, he was.
I took Yanni home and put him in his newly bought bed. That’s one tiny thing…, I thought. He looked at me with enormous eyes, stretched his legs, then curled up and five minutes later he was asleep. He was home.
He slept through the first night and all the nights after, quickly forming a ritual for ourselves every morning: him jumping on my bed, then racing across the apartment straight to the door in anticipation of the upcoming walk around the block.
In time, we adjusted this ritual and skipped a few steps – like the one with him jumping on the bed every morning when I wake up: he now sleeps at my feet, at the edge of the bed. I have, indeed, become one of those dog owners.
All is well when it ends well
As like with all dog owners, I’ve had my fair share of scares with Yanni. He gave me my first hold-my-breath-legs-trembling moment about a month after he came to live with me. Coming home from work, I opened the door and expected a rolling ball of fur to come jumping towards me. But nothing happened. As I stepped in the bedroom, Yanni was lying down in his bed, with his head on my worn out T-shirt that he had claimed his own once he settled in. He lifted his head as to let me know he acknowledged my presence, but he was too weak to move.
Looking around, I couldn’t tell what was wrong with him. Rushing to call my vet, she assured me that it is probably an upset tummy due to the change in food manufacturer and there is no need to bring him in just yet. But that I should keep an eye on him through the night and call if anything changes.
Hour by hour, I would wake up to check on him. At around two in the morning, I woke up again. He shifted a little as I touched him, looked at me and then rested his head on my palm. I stayed up with him all night on the bedroom floor realizing then what an irreversible hold this 6.5 pound soul had put on my heart.
I knew he was going to be fine when, as the first rays of light came through the window, Yanni jumped up and stole my socks. All was well in his world.
The first command Yanni learned, and with surprising ease, was “Sit!. The terms are obvious: he would sit, then I would give him a snack. But, treat or not, he listened and did what told with an excitement that made it one of the most touching things I have ever seen. Sometimes, as soon as I grab the bag of treats, he immediately sits down as in anticipation of yummy treats he would receive.
In time, we developed a silent understanding between us. Going to the door means he wants to go out, bringing me one of his toys means he wants to play, a small but loud bark means I need to pay attention and so on. He even gets my state of mind. For some reason, he copies my moods and looks like a smaller version of my attitude: he is happy when I am happy, and gloomy when I am sad.
How does anyone live without a dog?
I can’t imagine.