Sunday, April 3, 2011

What to Expect When You’re Expecting...a Puppy

Puppy's first hair cut
During the weeks between committing to the Texas blue puppy and actually being able to pick her up, I was more dog obsessed than ever.  When I wasn’t at work I was planning and preparing.  The kitchen table became a staging area and rapidly accumulated piles of training materials, toys, grooming tools, food, treats, toys, potty training aids, crate pads, and did I mention toys?  I couldn’t help myself.  I looked forward to going to Petco to buy the next round of supplies and every time I was there I bought a toy.  Or three.  If I could have justified painting a nursery for her, I would have.

I avidly viewed old Dog Whisperer episodes online.   I bought two books by Cesar Milan, one from the Monks of New Skete, and prowled the internet for informative sites.  I obsessively watched anything about Bedlingtons on YouTube.  I made lists and checked them off.  I signed us up for a Sirius puppy training class that would start two weeks after she came home.  I read passages of How to Raise the Perfect Dog to my husband when he called me on his way home from work.  I practiced my “tssst” and memorized growth stages.  I went on Craigslist and found a woman selling two sizeable crates—one for home and one for work. My colleagues laughed at me when I had the office crate set up with a pad, toys, food and water bowls, and treats more than two weeks early.  I wrote Jan almost daily and we friended each other on Facebook.   She sent pictures, information, advice, and kind encouragement.

Gracee surrounded by her puppies.
Cleo is far right, at attention like her mom.
She still learns by watching and imitating.
My husband and I started tossing around ideas for names.  In our history together, I’ve been the one to name our animals (although he did come up with the name for our series of ill-fated algae eaters that lived with our Goldfish Morrie—they were all called Tuesdays).  So we’ve had Emma, the sweet though somewhat neurotic Chinese Crested, Rufus the orange cat, Marvin the feline behemoth.  But this time, he uncharacteristically, and somewhat wistfully, said, “I’d really like to name her Cleo.”

John is an extraordinary guitarist and composer.  I say this with complete objectivity.  After twenty-five years in the theatre, I can separate my love for someone from my assessment of his artistic abilities.  As part of some coursework he was doing to expand his experience with composing for film and television, John underscored a cartoon about a brilliant, confident, bold little girl named Cleo who befriends and has adventures with the reanimated mummy of King Tut.  John had a special fondness for his work on the project as well as for the cartoon itself.  Though I flirted briefly with the more Muse-inspired spelling of Clio, we pretty quickly dismissed that as far too pretentious.  Okay, John realized it was far too pretentious well before I did, but I eventually saw the light.  The bottom line was that “Cleo” became the name of choice, pending the actual meeting.  And after a couple days calling her Cleo between ourselves (or occasionally Chloe when we got confused), it was clear the name was going to stick and we’d have a hell of a time trying to change it once we saw her in the flesh.  Luckily, she is a perfect Cleo.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the main topics of my early communications with Jan was how I would pick up the puppy.  As I have mentioned, Jan was planning to fly from Texarkana to Phoenix in order to scoop up her college age grandchildren and head out to Disneyland for a few days.  The original plan was that she would put Cleo on a plane for the short hop from Phoenix to Monterey where I would meet her at the airport.  We quickly discovered, though, that the airlines that fly into Monterey don’t permit unaccompanied animals.  A representative of one of the airlines told me that management feared someone would rig the pet to explode once the plane was airborne.  As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.  So feeling like a true jetsetter, I made reservations to fly out of the Monterey airport at 12:30 Friday afternoon and fly back in at 10:30 that same night.

Jan and her husband had arrived in Phoenix from Texarkana fairly early that Friday morning, gotten a hotel room and returned to the airport, with Cleo in tow, to meet me.  Okay, it’s confession time: I’m an anxious traveler.  This isn’t because I don’t like new experiences; I love new places.  It’s partly because I don’t see well and I’m always afraid I’ll miss something vital, like the sign telling me that if I pass this point I’ll be arrested.  I’m also extremely shy and it’s nerve-wracking for me to meet new people on my own, though I generally do a pretty good job of masking that character flaw.  Anyway, we had arranged to meet at baggage claim, so with the focus of a laser beam I made my way to baggage claim.  I’d seen a picture of Jan and her husband on Facebook, and I kept looking for a retirement aged couple carrying an airline approved dog crate.  Nothin’.  I called her cell phone.  It turns out they had been seated in the arrivals greeting area directly between my gate and the baggage claim area.  I had walked right by them.  And they had been holding Cleo extended over their heads.  Did I mention I’m kinda blind?  This caused them no end of amusement! 

But after almost four weeks of waiting and preparing and imagining, I saw her for the first time, a fuzzy dark grey something cradled in the arms of a grinning gray-haired gentleman.  Suddenly, I was surrounded by a smiling, excited family: Jan, petite and forthright, her towering son, and Ron who handed me a tinky ball of fluff.  My arms wrapped around Cleo and as she buried her face under my chin, her arms wrapped around my neck.  She was perfect.  I burst into tears.

Cleo and me--our first shot together.


  1. Ron wants to be played by Robert Redford in the movie

  2. You have just started an adventure of a lifetime. You will be entertained by daily antics, protected and uncondionally loved by my favorite breed. Enjoy, write often and continue to ask questions.

    Tom, Patrick and our Bedlingtons, Nicholas, Grace and 8 month old Maggie.