This year for Christmas I was surprised with the gift of a Golden Retriever puppy. On Christmas morning I was handed an ordinary wrapped box and my mom started to videotape me. I knew something was up. As I ripped off the wrapping paper it revealed an Amazon box. My first thought was, “oh cool something from Amazon.” When I opened the box, inside I found a stuffed animal dog with a dog bowl. At first I thought, “why would my mom just give me a stuffed animal?” Then it clicked and I realized, holy shit it’s a dog. I started yelling in excitement. Then, of course, I cried because I couldn’t believe the fact that my mom, with a sane mind, decided to get me a puppy.
As some of you know I lost my yellow lab, Forrest, last February. We had just come home from vacation and picked him up at the kennel. I went to bed that night cursing at him for not getting out of my way when I couldn’t get up off the couch. I put him outside before I went upstairs to go to bed. I was so tried that night that I went right to bed and my mom put the dogs away in their crates. The next morning I came down to let the dogs out and I noticed that his back was to the crate door which was odd. He never slept liked that. I yelled to him and our Golden Retriever, Jenny, got up and he didn’t budge; I knew he was gone.
Forrest was my first dog. I had another dog before him but he was our family dog. I’ll never forget the day I got him. My mom let me stay home for the day for a “mental health day.” In other words she let me skip school. I knew that I would eventually be getting a dog but wasn’t sure of the day. A family friend stopped by to drop something off and he asked me to grab something from the front seat of his truck. I opened the door and was greeted by a puppy. I immediately starting yelling with excitement because who doesn’t love a puppy. I named him Forrest after the movie Forrest Gump solely because I wanted to yell, “run Forrest run” when he was outside.
Forrest became like my shadow over the next years. He was always by my side and watching out for me. Whenever I swam in our pool he was right there with me. Forrest was known for thinking that everyone who jumped in our pool was drowning and therefore needed to be rescued. He was kind and loving toward most people. We only had a couple people tell us stories of how when we weren’t home and they delivered something, Forrest stood between them and the door and wouldn’t let them near it. He also was known for chasing any animals out of our backyard. You knew the dogs were away at the kennel when all of a sudden we had deer in our yard again.
In most recent years when I started my treatments he became more attentive and protective. When I was on the couch, too sick to move or didn’t feel well, he was right at my feet. Anytime I moved on the couch he was sitting straight up and looked at me as if he was saying, “what do you need?” When I started loosing my hair and decided to shave my head, Forrest didn’t recognize me. When I got out of the car the first time with a shaved head and started walking into our house he started barking at me as if I was trying to break in. It wasn’t until he heard my voice that he knew who I was.
We picked up the new golden puppy near the end of January. There is nothing cuter than a Golden Retriever puppy. When I finally got to hold him I felt like I was snuggling a teddy bear. He is a huge fur ball. I decided that I was going to call him Raylan. You’re probably thinking, “how the hell did you come up with that name?” The name came from the popular show, Justified. If you haven’t watched it, you should because it’s one of my all time favorite shows. The main character in the series name is Raylan. When I was thinking of a dog name I wanted something that was easy to say, two syllables, and something unique. There was no way I was naming my dog Rainbow or Sunshine or any of that bullshit. I instead named him after a character that played a U.S. Marshall.
We haven’t had a puppy in our house in over 10 years so there was definitely a learning curve at first. I forgot that with a puppy you have to take them out more often and that they will go to the bathroom in the house because they are still learning. I swear I have been outside more in the past month then I have in the past 3 years. Raylan also has had quite a few visitors. It’s funny how many people want to come visit you when you get a puppy. He also has brought new life into our other dog Jenny. She had been very quiet and lethargic since we lost Forrest. After about a week of getting used to Raylan, she was back to her old self. It was as if the puppy helped to breathe new life into the old lady. With how she is acting recently, you would never guess she’s 9.
Every morning my new routine includes taking care of the dogs. After feeding the dogs I take them for a walk around my house. I step into my Bogs and layer up before heading out into the cold. We usually time our walks so we can see the sunrise. It is a great way to start the day. It energizes us to start the day on the good note and reminds us to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Raylan has brought more joy into our lives. Everything is new to him so it is a riot to watch him experience it. For example, we had a snowstorm last week and when I first took him out he wasn’t sure what to do in nine inches of snow. Within seconds he was hopping around going crazy. He makes us laugh and is the perfect snuggle buddy on the couch. A couple weeks ago, after my most recent chemo, he spent the weekend on the couch with me curled up in a little ball. There is something about snuggling a puppy that just makes you feel better even if you’re too tired to do anything.
I am a firm believer in the idea that dogs are a reflection of their owners. We have been fortunate enough to have dogs that are calm and friendly. Anytime someone has come over to see Raylan they can’t get over how calm he is. Mind you he does have his moments when he’s running around our kitchen chasing our other dog. He still is a puppy. While he will never replace my first dog Forrest, he has helped to fill the void that he left. I’m not sure how much longer I will get to snuggle him on my chest since he’s growing like crazy, but I plan to enjoy every minute of it.