We got puppies twice when I was growing up. Poochy came from the pound, known today as an animal shelter. Amelia came to us after a neighbor’s dog got knocked up. Neither dog lasted more than six months. No, they didn’t die. Things just didn’t work out.
When I moved out on my own, I got a cat — mostly because of the litter box. Letting the dog out from my third floor apartment wasn’t an attractive option, and I didn’t want to add walking the dog to an already rushed morning routine. I outlived five cats before throwing in the towel, and for several years, enjoyed a pet-free existence.
But my ex had always had dogs, and eventually, he talked me into letting him get one. Having heard me say my godmother’s black long-haired chihuahua was the cutest dog I’d ever seen, he found one. We drove to Atlanta, bought him out of a van in a Waffle House parking lot, and decided to call him Tico.
I made clear Tico was the ex’s dog and grumbled about every accident. The sweet little feller won me over, and within months, Tico’s preference for my ex hurt my feelings. As I had fostered and encouraged their relationship, complaining served no purpose. So I got a long-haired chihuahua of my own — out of the same van in the same Waffle House parking lot where we’d picked up Tico.
I named her Toodles, the nickname of my favorite aunt, who’d passed away in 2005. Small enough to fit in my shirt pocket, she quickly became the center of my universe. In the four and a half years since then, we’ve only grown closer.
My ex taught me a lot about training a puppy — enough to realize that poor Poochy and Amelia had suffered from a horrible lack of it. Tico and Toodles are kennel trained, love walking on leashes, and travel like seasoned vets. They’re not the least bit yappy — a fact that always impresses the people they meet. They follow all the usual commands, have never torn anything up, and for the most part, are both very good little dogs.
For the last year, Toodles and I have been on our own. Tico and the ex visit often. Tico stays with us when the ex goes out of town, and she goes to stay with them if I’m going to be away. But mostly, it’s just Toodles and me.
When I’m home, I’m usually in my recliner. You’ll find Toodles laying with her back against my thigh and her head cradled in my knee. Sometimes she’ll put one or more paws on the opposite thigh. She’ll lay like that for hours, jumping down now and then (via her very own footstool) for a drink of water or a bite of food.
She follows me around the house and likes to go along when I get the mail and the newspaper — just to make sure I’m safe. In the yard she chases birds and flying insects away from me. Her biggest fear, and she has a lot of them, is that some 8 or 9 year-old little girl is going to attack. She bit one (the little girl laughed and said Toodles was sassy) and has gone after several more. There aren’t many small children in my life, and I know to be on the alert when she’s around them.
Other than biting little girls, her one bad habit revolves around Chew Time — a nightly rawhide-type treat to keep her busy for an hour or so. Toodles wants hers at EXACTLY 6:45 p.m. and another at 8:00, and is accurate to within three minutes. Failure to provide for this essential need leads to considerable complaining from Her Majesty — in the form of shrill yipes — until she gets her way.
I try not to encourage her. Really, I do. She stomps her paws and gives me that “are you gonna do it?” look that always makes me laugh. Then she’ll yipe to remind me this is serious stuff and she means business. Sometimes I’ll argue with her — insist she’s early and that she’s going to have to wait. She refutes each point like Nancy Grace, yapping to let me know how ridiculous I’m being. She’s not the least bit happy about the time change.
Unless it’s dark or raining, she loves her walks — two a day — as long as we don’t run into anyone else along the way. A month or so ago, Toodles got rolled by a Shih-tzu on the loose who wanted to play with her. She screamed like he was killing her until I picked her up, and she still gets skittish when we walk by his house. She’s not that kind of girl.
Of course, she sleeps with me. After I get in the bed, we have cuddle time. She snuggles up against my chest, buries her nose in my neck, and rests both paws on my shoulder while I scratch her chest. If I stop, she paws me to say she wants more — which, of course, she gets.
Cuddle Time is our favorite time of day. Toodles gives me kisses as I tell her what a good little dog she is and how much I love her. She’s the only living creature in the universe that has never pissed me off or annoyed me. She makes me laugh all the time, and never ceases to delight me with her cuteness.
So if I spoil her a little, she’s earned it. She’s only four, and already I cry at the thought of losing her. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. But until then, I’m going to enjoy the greatest love affair of my life.