Updated: Sep 20, 2018
Earlier this week, my wife and I paid a visit to the local pet store to look at puppies. She had been hounding me (pun intended) to go to the pet store with her and meet this adorable Boston Terrier puppy named Thor that she had played with a couple of times. I told her I didn't think we were ready right now for a puppy, for various reasons –– not the least of which being the cost –– but since I love to play with puppies, I agreed to go and be consumed by cuteness.
When we got to the store, Thor was not there. He was at the vet. But his little brother was there. I say little brother, but they're from the same litter, obviously. He was quite a bit smaller than his brother, Thor, though. He was sleeping peacefully in the corner of the display kennel as the other dogs barked and climbed on top of him, fighting and playing with each other.
My wife and I have talked about getting a Boston Terrier for years. The last few years, we considered hypoallergenic breeds, but every time we would see a Boston Terrier, we knew that was the dog we wanted.
My wife asked me which one I wanted to hold and play with –– I said the Boston, of course. They brought him out. He was so tiny and adorable. I just wanted to eat him up. Unfortunately, he decided that he wanted to try to eat me instead.
While I was playing with him, he was nibbling on my hands, very gently. He wasn't trying to bite hard or anything. Then he was standing up tall, trying to reach as high as he could while trying to hold himself up. He lost his balance and clamped down on my arm, drawing so much blood I had to run to the bathroom to clean myself up.
So, what do you do when you go to a pet store and a dog tries to eat your arm? You take him home with you, of course.
So there we were, first-time dog owners trying to learn how to raise a puppy. There was a small problem, though: We were trying to do all this while we had a puppy with us.
Our first stop was PetSmart. I'm just going to say it ... I love PetSmart. Everyone is so nice and so helpful. We spent a long time there trying to learn as much as we could and buy all the necessary supplies. Meanwhile, we were learning very quickly that we were not the only ones who found this particular puppy irresistibly cute. The conversations mostly went something like this:
Random person: "Oh my god! He is so cute. Can I pet him?"
Me: "Of course."
Person: "How old is he?"
Me: "Two months."
Me: "We just got him an hour ago."
Me: "This is his first time out in the real world."
Person: "What's his name?"
We named him Copernicus after Back To the Future. We always figured we would name our first dog Einstein and maybe our second dog Copernicus, after the Doc's dog in 1955. But for some reason, we decided to call him Copernicus. I think it was my idea. Now his name is bigger than he is.
We have forged quite the symbiotic relationship, this dog and me. I provide him with food, a home, I keep him safe and healthy and provide him with lots of toys to play with, and he unties my shoes. It seems like a fair trade off.
In the sixteenth century, Nicolaus Copernicus formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun at the center rather than Earth. In honor of Copernicus, I have formulated a model that places our new puppy at the center. It's probably not mathematically accurate, but most of my formulations seem to be airtight. Everything we do now has to be run through the puppy meter to see how –– or if –– it can be achieved. Spontaneity has been tossed out the window. There will be no more "hey, do you want to meet me at such-and-such restaurant after work?"
There is no universe in which having a puppy is as much responsibility as bringing a child into the world, but in many ways, the two are very much alike. You now have something in your life that is more important than all those things that used to seem important; something that pees on your floor and makes you blame yourself.
Then, that little something looks up at you with those big puppy eyes that are actual puppy eyes and you suddenly realize, his life is now in your hands. And he trusts you with it. He gives you his unconditional love. Either that, or he is secretly trying to kill you by untying your shoes all the time so maybe you will trip and fall down a flight of steps; hoping that with you out of the picture he can have your wife's undivided attention.
Our little Copernicus is not that sinister, though. At least not yet. We'll see if his attitude changes in his adolescence months, but for right now, he's the sweet, adorable little center of our universe. It's such a cliché to say your life changes when you get a puppy, but it does. Not so much for the things that you can't do anymore, but that something so small and so cute is now counting on you. It's difficult to describe the feeling when you come home from work and your puppy sees you and comes running to you, hardly being able to contain his jubilance.
Nobody has ever needed me the way this tiny creature does. Sure, I have a wife who loves me; I have family and friends who seem to enjoy my company; I have brothers and sisters who love me –– mostly, I assume, because I'm part of a set; but I have never felt needed like I do now.
I'll be honest, my wife has been doing most of the heavy lifting. She is off for the summer, so she is able to be here during the day, feeding him, training him where and where not to pee, providing him with all the love and companionship our little puppy needs right now. But I'm here to do my part, providing him shoes to untie, etc.
We're learning how to be puppy parents. It's not always easy, but it has it's rewards. Not the least of which being the sense of pride you feel when your little boy does something you've been training him to do, even if he's only doing it to get a treat. And if we ever feel like we're getting a bit down, a bit overwhelmed, we can always take him for a walk around the lake so a bunch of complete strangers can come up and tell us how adorable he is, as if we needed reminding.
Yes, my life has changed. But at least for the time being, it has changed for the better. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think someone is about to pee on the floor.