Puppen: The “perfect” little dog who broke my heart and taught me what it means to truly love

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I’m not a father, but hope to be someday. I like to think I have a lot of love to give. I also know I’m learning what it means to truly love.

I know this because I’m learning it in the hardest, most heartbreaking way of my life. I’m learning to love and lose from a little dog named Puppen.

Her real name was Jewel, but we didn’t like it because it wasn’t a fashionable fit for our then eight-year-old Scottish/Cairn terrier, Jack, or Captain Jack, the pirate. Jewel and Jack? The alliteration works, but we could do better.

Jack and Jill? Nah. Who names their dog, Jill? Let’s see … how about a liquor theme? Jack and Brandy? Brandi. Bingo.

We called her Brandi about a dozen times, but it felt like we did so to call her down. Brandi didn’t work because it didn’t fit. Our little tri-color (red, tan and white) Miniature Aussie deserved better. Then my wife’s mom called her “Pupdawg.”

Pupdawg. It fit. She became Pupdawg and Pupdups and Pupcake. Then, for us, she became Puppen.

And Puppen was perfect.

puppen

Lover and leaper

She was a natural, consummate athlete. She moved with a fluid efficiency, nothing wasted. Puppen quickly revealed her love for chasing, leaping and catching Chuckit-propelled balls and, later, for frisbee fetch.

Puppen was an affectionate love-bug. She’d lean against you during car rides, snuggle sessions, afternoon naps—she was an ultra-sensitive natural therapy dog who gave as good as she got.

Her car-ride love-leaning turned my father-in-law from a cat person to a guy who rushed to our Miniature Aussie breeder to get his own Puppen—her half-brother who became his Merley.

Puppen was, paws-down, the smartest little whip of a dog I’ve ever known. She picked us at the breeder’s. While her litter mates rolled around in a big ball of furry puppy, she stood apart investigating her surroundings. Then she saw us.

Puppen made a beeline for the fence gate and stood on her hind legs to welcome me with a few well-placed whimpers and longing gazes from her soulful brown eyes. She seemed to be saying, Get me outta here and make me yours. These brothers and sisters of mine are idiots.

No training needed

My mother-in-law has complimented us more than once on how well-trained Puppen was. I had to correct her. She trained herself. Puppen was an obedient, loving, wicked-smart dog who naturally took to frisbee fetch, love leans, and so many other wonderful things that made her her.

A contractor friend reminded me of Puppen’s intelligence one day while he was building a music studio for my father-in-law. “She’s the smart one. When she watches me work, I can tell she’s thinking things through.”

Puppen would ascend to her perch of a giant red rock on the ranch to survey the situation while the three other dogs ran off barking at phantom intruders. Let the slobberheads scare up whatever it was (or wasn’t)—I’ll wait here and watch.

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Puppen & Merley

A month or so ago, Puppen was in the prime of her life—a few months shy of six and always ready to go and keep going while chasing frisbees and launching herself in the pond after well-placed ball throws.

Too much, too soon

Puppen seemed indestructible. We looked forward to many, many more years of joy with our perfect little dog. Life was wonderful. Then we were caught flat-footed the last Saturday morning in June when Puppen woke us wailing.

Her teeth were locked on the bars of her crate, eyes wide and bulging. Through tears and our worst fears, I unlocked her teeth and gently pushed her snout back through the bars. My wife pulled her out, her body limp, as she panted and drooled.

We called the vet and were told he was booked with emergencies. Emily’s parents rushed over in robes and slippers. Puppen seemed to rally, but then suffered another seizure that caused Emily’s father to collapse on the carpet next to her crying, “Oh, no, no … Pupdawg, Pupdawg.”

We carried Puppen to the truck and headed off to Reno for an emergency vet an hour and a half away. It was the longest drive of my life. As my wife tried in vain to comfort her, Puppen went through a half a dozen more seizures during which she wailed and paddled her front feet helplessly.

When we finally arrived, Puppen gave my wife one last look that may haunt her for the rest of her life. For one brief instant, she looked at her with recognition. During her fits, those piercingly intense brown eyes went blank.

prognosis: Grief

I carried Puppen into the clinic where she was whisked to the back for an IV and for what we hoped would be seizure-stopping midazolam. While waiting for the vet, we heard her screaming every ten minutes or so.

At this point, I was confident the vet would verify that Puppen had late-onset epilepsy and that it was merely a matter of getting things under control and then managing her condition with medication.

The look on his face told a different story. He knew Puppen was in deep trouble. We talked about cat scans and MRIs and taking her to Sacramento three hours away. We called Emily’s father who had spoken with his vet friend.

We discussed leaving her at the pet hospital and in good hands until Monday. Surely by then the IV and medicine would help her rally, so we could get her to another vet with advanced medical imaging capabilities. So we could fix her.

We asked to see Puppen before we decided what to do.

One look at our little pupdawg shattered all our plans and hopes.

Fear and anguish

Lying on her side with a puppy blanket covering her to the shoulders, her eyes were blank and half open. Her breathing was labored. Then she wailed and writhed. The addition of two more injections of the stronger anti-seizure medicine, phenobarbital, did nothing to help her.

The vet told us that her heart rate was dangerously low, which is not a symptom of epilepsy. He said that she probably wasn’t in pain, but was confused and frightened. Our little Puppen was a smart, sensitive little dog, and the information broke our hearts.

When her seizure ended, she panted and drooled, but when we spoke to her close, her ear flicked and she let out a faint whine of recognition.

This is when we knew that it would be an absolute mercy to deliver her and let her go. When Emily gave the word through sobs, I told a visibly relieved and wonderfully kind vet what he knew and hoped we’d choose to do.

They wheeled Puppen into a private room. We spoke to her soothingly and she whined with each word while desperately staving off yet another racking seizure. Her whines seemed far away and sadly plaintive. The vet gave us a merciful yet heartrending ten minutes or so with her.

Our words to her were of sorrow and regret that we couldn’t help her live and would miss her terribly.

Merciful release

As I watched the overdose of pentobarbital run from the plunger and into Puppen, she breathed deeply several times in a way that I can only describe as a peaceful letting go of relief. When her heart stopped forever, we sobbed in each others’ arms while the vet verified that it was done.

They wrapped her in a sheet and took an ink paw print. I carried her out to the truck through tears. We would bury her in a grove of cedars on the ranch, so that our little Jacky could join her at some point.

As I carried Puppen down the drive to the cedar grove. I cradled her little head against my neck. Through sobs, I told her I was sorry I couldn’t save my little girl. My wife braced me as we stumbled to her resting place. We’d picked her together and brought her home nearly six years before and now we were letting her go so cruelly early.

It seemed surreal and impossible that she was gone. How could such an athletic, intelligent, energetic, loving, obedient, beautiful little dog get so sick so fast? The disbelief and grief hit us like a freight train.

From sadness to fondness

Today is a week since our world was rocked. We’ve cried together and laughed with recollection of Puppen’s short, dreamy life as a ranch dog. We see her everywhere here. Somehow the memory of a little 16-inch dog casts a giant shadow everywhere we look and on our hearts.

We know time will heal us, and we’ll think of her with smiles and sadness, and later with fondness and little stabs of happiness.

Meanwhile, God is using Puppen and our love for her to tenderize our hearts toward each other and toward others. There’s nothing more clarifying than the life-color-draining grief of losing a love—even one for a dog.

My wife says the cedar grove where we buried Puppen reminds her of the Cedars of Lebanon, the Old Testament stronghold of a living, loving Lord. She says she feels like God is guarding Puppen even as he guards her heart.

Learning to truly love

I’m learning to love the one who made Puppen and who loves her more deeply than I ever could. Jesus wept for Mary and Martha as they grieved the loss of their brother, Lazarus. He wept even though he knew that day he would raise him from the dead. This is the sign of the ultimate loving and knowing heart.

I like to think that we’ll see Puppen again when God makes all things new. When he heals this broken world and knits the bones and flesh of our little pupdawg back together with a word of command and perfect love for us and his creatures.

Someday, there will be no more tears or pain or fear or seizures or heartbreak. I long for that day with a newly-softened heart that God used my little girl, Puppen, to break, so he could heal.

If you can’t beat ’em, sue ’em. How to avoid personal and political responsibility in the age of Trump.

suing

I’m a courtroom junkie. I watched hours of the “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius trial and have been known to frequent the gallery of our county courthouse. I guess you could call me a legal barfly … get it? Legal … bar … fly … on the wall? Stretch.

So when I read that the Democratic National Committee is suing Russian hackers, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the Trump campaign, and anyone else they hold responsible for their 2016 presidential election loss, I perked right up.

After all, it’s not everyday one of our political parties sues the Russians.

And what’s really interesting is that this impressive legal maneuver made news on the same day the DNC’s losing candidate’s election-night lament came to light. Hillary Clinton’s alleged words when told she’d lost:

“I knew it. I knew this would happen to me. They were never going to let me be president.”

The evil they

Who are they?  Wait, let me guess: men? White men? Members of The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy? The Russians? WikiLeaks? The basket of deplorables? The keepers of the glass ceiling? All of the above?

While her party blames the world for her loss, Clinton blames everyone but herself. Let’s look reality right in the face and get real, Hillary. You lost to one of the worst (and surprising) presidential candidates in our history because of you.

The truth is that you were a bad candidate. You’re unlikable because you appear arrogant, calculating, cold, entitled and dishonest—many of the attributes voters loathe in politicians.  Stop blaming others. They did not fail to generate a solid ground game in several key states.

They did not pay more attention to a thirty-something social media and algorithm guru (campaign manager Robby Mook) than to your husband and two-term president who always knew how to connect with voters.

I know—you’re not Bill. You don’t have his charisma. But you do have smarts, determination and grit. Show a little character and take responsibility for your loss. You tried so very hard, but maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

But don’t try again. America doesn’t like a loser—especially a whiny one.

DNC vs. The World

Speaking of whiny, by suing everyone else for their mistakes and misdeeds, the DNC is taking things to a whole new, hypocritical level. First they cheated Bernie Sanders and his supporters—many of whom were fresh, young voters—by conspiring against the coot and indulging the diva.

Then they failed to safeguard against one of the most basic cybersecurity scams: phishing to gain access to someone’s email account.

Instead of preventing John Podesta (Clinton’s campaign chairman) from falling for this trick, their IT department verified the message as “legitimate.” Legitimate? With a sender email address of reply@accounts.googlemail.com?

And now they’re suing Russian hackers. They should be suing their former IT head. Or themselves … for incompetence and favoritism.

Why go after WikiLeaks? All they did was publish your damning emails; they didn’t create them. Why shoot the messenger when Debbie Wasserman Shultz and associates and several Clinton campaign officials are the ones who wrote and sent the messages?

This is like the Mob suing the FBI for wiretapping them. Or Trump suing Access Hollywood for recording his bragging about groping women.

As I’ve written before, if the Russians and WikiLeaks interfered with our election by hacking DNC servers and exposing the dastardly denigration of Bernie Sanders, please, Russkies and Julian Assange, keep interfering.

If election interference exposes the truth—or as the press likes to say—what we “need to know,” by all means, Russian “Fancy Bear” hackers, hack away. Teach us silly Americans to secure our servers and email accounts. We relish challenges and relations were kinda boring post Cold War.

It’s always about politics

DNC chair Tom Perez defends the lawsuit as “not partisan, but patriotic.” Critics, many in his own party, think it’s “ill-timed” because of the ongoing Mueller investigation.

Bad timing or no, the DNC can’t afford lawsuits anyway. Despite their financial woes, Perez says his party “can’t afford not to” pursue the lawsuit.

“It’s hard to put a price tag on preserving democracy,” he said. I’d say it should be impossible—democracy is priceless and should never be for sale, which begs the question: Why did the DNC pay Fusion GPS to subvert it?

Here’s an idea for preserving democracy, Mr. Perez: Rather than spend your constituents’ money on silly grandstanding lawsuits,

Secure your servers and email passwords.

Give your primary candidates a fair shake, so cream candidates can rise to the top and secure your nomination honestly and effectively.

Don’t engage in kingmaking—no one deserves the presidency—no matter how long he or she has waited to be crowned.

And above all, when you screw up and your candidate loses, take responsibility for your mistakes, make changes, and go get ’em the next time.

This goes for you, too, Hillary. But if you ever gain a smidgen of self-awareness, there won’t be a next time. Nor should there.

Latest anti-gun enthusiast tactics: Use school kids for more gun control.

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Students walk out for gun control. School kids march for their lives. Students want government to protect them?

Wait, what? The same government that can’t even balance a budget … let alone navigate the tightrope between liberty and tyranny? I’ll get back to the idiocy of trusting in government in a moment.

First, dear anti-gun enthusiasts:

You’ve decided that NOW is the time to make activists of school kids. You’re actually pushing the absurd notion that young people who experience school shootings are more qualified to effect the change you want than those who haven’t?

Memo to students

This is one time you should NOT listen to your elders. Here’s some better advice:

Protect yourselves by policing yourselves. More gun control cannot and will not make you more safe. Ask yourself this: Are you’re willing to put your safety in the hands of THIS government? You do realize that if you are and if you push this to its endpoint, you’ll be trading freedom for LESS security, right?

Back to trusting in government:

Do you think it wise to trust a government whose FBI failed to follow-up on multiple tips about Nikolas Cruz? Can you rely on a government that made it much more difficult for schools to punish violent students and for local law enforcement to partner with districts to remove repeat offenders?

Wait a minute. Why am I addressing students? The vast majority of them don’t know their butts from holes in the ground. I know—I was one. And I remember that I pulled many silly and senseless stunts simply because I was young and dumb.

Let’s face it—we were ALL young and dumb. We lacked wisdom and maturity because we lacked experience and life lessons—and the ability to speak effectively on issues like gun control.

In the words of savvy Mad Men Creative Director Don Draper, “Young people don’t know anything. Especially that they’re young.”

Exploitive adults

I’ll now address the real movers of this movement:

Anti-gun enthusiasts, who are using young people to further your gun-control agenda, listen up:

Qualification to speak wisely on issues and effect real solutions isn’t earned through the fear and tragedy of surviving a school shooting. It’s earned through earnest study of cause and effect and the ability to objectively process evidence and weigh the viability of potential solutions.

Most kids can’t process the causes and effects of a bad date.

The notion that these Florida students—or any high school or younger people—are qualified to speak expertly about gun control is absurd. It’s “thinking” like this that springs from the same illogic that asserts that children can responsibly decide to change their gender.

Any parent can tell you that their kid can change his opinion about virtually anything five times in five minutes. I know that school kids aren’t toddlers and that many are bright and eager to make a difference. But intelligence mixed with inexperience—and tragedy—does NOT make them more qualified to be voices for any issue.

Stop using kids

Anti-gun activists: Have you considered that the intense fear school shooting survivors experience may make them LESS qualified to speak objectively about gun control? Could your insistence that they’re freshly qualified to do so be exploitive?

Let’s talk qualifications again. Qualifications are attained through education and experience, which leads to expertise. Going through a traumatic experience doesn’t qualify anyone for anything. Yes, these school kids’ voices are important and may be more resonant than others, but more qualified?

I would listen most intently to anyone who can separate his emotions from his intellect and actually process and analyze data involving existing gun laws and mass shootings. Do you truly think traumatized school shooting survivors can do either objectively?

Would you consider that maybe we should let these kids process and heal from the tragedy they’ve endured? And instead enlist those who’ve already graduated from high school and maybe even have college degrees. And perhaps we could listen to those with real-world experience that comes with being … I don’t know … a few MORE years beyond puberty.

Let’s go ground zero

Stop using kids to bring us to our senses about the senseless need for MORE gun control. Never mind that the real need is for more parental and familial latitude to commit mentally ill young people like Nikolas Cruz who bragged about his plans to become a killer.

Do you think that cajoling students to walk out of class and march for their lives to get THIS federal government to pass more gun control legislation is a better solution than coming up with ground-zero solutions at the state and local level?

Would you rather protect the freedom of troubled kids like Cruz to skirt mental health treatment than empower parents and families to force them to get help? Do you truly think this upside down “logic” is a smart way to protect our students?

Glaring illogic

Speaking of logic, let’s summarize yours:

More gun controls laws + scattershot enforcement by a government that consistently proves itself unable or unwilling to make them work = equals safer schools.

Armed guards + schools ≠ safer school zones while posting gun-free zone signs in schools does.

Allowing teachers to arm themselves = terrible idea. Relying on local, hamstrung cops to risk life and limb and do their duty = good idea.

And now you’re pushing school walkouts and marches for gun control? I can tell you that as a young student, my friends and I would’ve walked out of school in support of any cause. We would have walked out to support anti-mosquito discrimination—as long as it got us out of class.

We’d march in a March For Our Lives … or Chives … or Hives event as long as it included girls or free pizza.

Whose movement?

Truth to adult users:

Your student gun control push is a movement only because you’ve made it one. You seem to think that government is the answer to all our problems while ignoring commonsense people-to-people solutions. And you’ll use any tools it takes to push your agenda—even kids.

The March For Our Lives events, billed as “for the kids, by the kids,” are promoted and sponsored by a collection of progressive organizations including Everytown For Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, The Women’s March On Washington, Planned Parenthood (that’s rich), and as usual, MoveOn.org.

The Florida school kids went through some real scary trauma. We owe them a clear-headed discussion and swift action to better protect them and others, not self-serving, never-let-a-good-crisis-go-to-waste partisan activism.

As Americans, school kids’ voices are important, but their experience does NOT make them uniquely qualified as voices for gun control. To pretend that they are and to use them to further one side of the argument is opportunistic and abusive.

Let’s protect our children—not weaponize them.