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Puppy Love

by Robin Rieger
Love is white and fluffy, and even in the midst of winter, I don’t mean snow. I’m describing Roxy, our 2 ½-year-old Goldendoodle. As a puppy new to our home in September 2013, our search for her became the subject of my very first column in this magazine. All of the jitters I had then over bringing a puppy into our home are long gone, mostly forgotten with the exception of that crying jag I had two weeks\ into it all, asking my overwhelmed self, “What was I thinking?” With the benefit of hindsight I ask myself now, “What was I thinking then?” when I wondered if I could reverse it all and go back to being a “dog less” family and home. Oh what we would have missed!

I think of Roxy as the younger sibling both of our kids often asked for as some of their friends’ families were growing with new siblings years ago. I would love to have had one or two more children but it was not meant to be. Roxy was.

She is a wrestling partner, a catcher, a barker at an unfamiliar face, greeter to her favorite visitors and a fixture on a big comfy chair in our kitchen every single morning. She’s a great sport at Halloween and Christmas, tolerating whatever costumes the kids put on her. Even though I complain from time to time that our kids don’t do as much as they promised they would when pleading for a dog (and what kid does?), what they have done consistently is love her.

As odd as this may sound as you read it, this kind of love was not something Tom and I could teach our kids. We would talk to them about how to treat her, feed her, play with her and show her boundaries. But the love they have for Roxy is a feeling they own and have nurtured themselves in their everyday interactions with their four-legged best friend. She is a gift unlike any other. Roxy is usually the first one who gets a hug in the morning and the one the kids won’t leave in the kitchen at night without giving one last hug and kiss (10 times) before bed. Their love for her is in their drawings of our family that show Tom, me, a girl and boy and their fluffy dog. In the off season on the beach when dogs are free to run, she is their companion and often our entertainment as she runs wildly toward the waves then back again to chase the Shore birds.

One time Roxy managed to wiggle out of our fenced-in yard at the beach—twice in one day. The first time our neighbor saw her, alerted me and I went out and brought her back into the yard, then fixed what I thought was the jailbreak spot.

Shortly after that, a Brigantine police officer knocked at our front door. He said, “Hi, is this your dog?” I was flabbergasted and embarrassed she got out again, but relieved to see them both at the front door—especially after he told me people called about seeing a dog running nearby on a busy street. (Thank you, whoever that was.) I asked him, “How did you know where to bring her?” He said he didn’t know because she wouldn’t come to him so he just followed her “home.” Roxy led him right to our front door. She knows and loves her people as much as we know and love her.

Roxy is as smart as she is funny. If I take her out back at home and pretend I’m going to chase her she will sprint around our yard on fast forward, hilariously jumping like a deer and ducking through bushes like an obstacle course contestant. I laugh out loud every time and if I jump at her she will do it again and again. Often when Tom is on the road, the kids and I play a board game or cards at the kitchen table. Roxy will sit there and watch us. Sometimes she “toots” and we all look at her knowingly. She then looks behind her and back at us as if to say, “Who did that?” It cracks us up and makes me grateful we have given our kids a dog and this dog our family.

Growing up we had two dogs that my siblings and I, and especially my parents, loved. And this is where Roxy has given ME something I never expected. She makes my mom smile every time she comes over because Roxy just can’t leave her alone. She sits by her excitedly wagging her tail and nudging her as if the two of them have always been buddies. Roxy knows a great dog lover when she sees one.

Roxy also makes me think of my dad who passed away six years ago this month. Every time I pat Roxy on top of her head and below her chin my dad comes to my mind because that’s how he used to lovingly pet our dogs. I know if he was still here he would have loved her. She’s white and fluffy and thankfully so much more. And that’s what love is.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 11 (February, 2016).
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