Nikko and I had always wanted a dog but we knew that while we were living apart, it was not an option. We both traveled a lot for work and we knew that we could not give a dog the love and care it deserved. After we got married in September, we continued to be in a long distance relationship but visited each other at least once a month. At this point, I had a job lined up in St. Louis so the excitement of FINALLY living together and FINALLY getting a dog was building. During my November visit to St. Louis, Nikko and I started puppy shopping. We knew we wanted a Goldendoodle or a Labradoodle based on their non-shedding and hypoallergenic qualities. When we arrived at the breeder that we had researched online, our hearts melted as so many dogs greeted us as the car pulled up! A few minutes later, we were in a pen of a dozen puppies romping around and I wanted so bad to take one home that day but the time still was not right. Aware of the timing we had wanted, the breeder brought us inside to show us the newer litters of Goldendoodles that would be ready to take home by the first week of the year. She took us over to meet the mother dogs surrounded by their pups so we could get an idea of the temperament we were wanting in our puppy. We mutually agreed on liking the temperament of Isabella, an auburn-colored medium-sized doodle who looked at us calmly and continued to see to her pups when we came near (bottom left image). We looked at her litter of 5: two brown girls and three boys, two black and one apricot. We wanted a boy because we had already picked out the name “Walter” and we specifically wanted the apricot color. He was considerably smaller than the rest and when we asked the breeder about him, she said that when he was born, he was no bigger than a peanut. She said they weren’t sure if he would make it but that he had already made it the first couple of weeks. If he could compete with his brother and sisters for milk, he might just make it. We took a bet on him and put our money on the runt. The breeder even had us pick another pup from the same litter as a back-up just in case he did not make it (morbid, I know…but it is a business after all). We left that day hopeful that he would be our “Walter.” In the days and weeks following our initial visit, we prayed hard for Walt’s health. The breeder sent us photos of Walter in December. He was half the size of his brothers and sisters, but alive and healthy nonetheless (bottom right image). We were already so in love with the little guy.
I finally moved in with Nikko in St. Louis the week before Christmas. We spent the week of Christmas and New Years on a belated honeymoon cruise. We came back to St. Louis on January first and went to get Walter the next day. It was a whirlwind to say the least but we finally had our boy.
Anybody who has had a puppy knows of the trials and tribulations it presents. To make matters more complicated, Nikko and I had lived together for a mere week and were still adapting to life together. Even though Nikko and I had been dating for 8 years and married for three months, we had never lived together. We still had so much to learn about Walter, and even more to learn about each other.
In the six months that we have had Walter, he has taught us so many valuable life lessons. The most obvious of them is responsibility. We live on the fourth floor of an apartment building, which is not ideal for the hourly walks that a puppy needs. This was the most trying in the middle of the night, especially in the dead of winter. During the daytime, I would come home at lunch everyday for two months to let Walter out so he could avoid having accidents in his crate. This was troublesome because parking at work is limited and it was hard trying to make friends at work without having a lunch hour to get to know them. With Walter being so dependent for the first few months, he gave us a greater sense of selflessness having to care for someone other than just ourselves. In teaching us to care for him, I truly believe he has helped us to be more selfless and considerate of each other as husband and wife as well.
With responsibility, also came patience. During our six months, we have endured countless accidents on our carpets and bed with chewing sprees on some of my favorite shoes. His toys are often all over the apartment and he gets mischievous when we aren’t paying attention to him. We have spent hours teaching him tricks and social etiquette. The patience he has given us in enduring all of these trials and tribulations has no doubt helped us to be patient with not only Walter, but one another in our relationship as well.
A third lesson Walter has taught us is to be social. When you are in a new place, a dog can be quite handy with meeting new people. We have met fellow dog lovers in our apartment building, that help us in caring for him when we are away. I have met so many people at work who are enthralled by Walter’s size and personality. When he comes to work with me, we have a daily roll call of people he goes to say hi to before we settle in at my cubicle. We have also met other dogs and their owners through puppy classes and in the park. Without Walter, we sure would not have as many friends in such a new place as we do now.
Finally, Walter has taught us unconditional love. He has sent us through every range of emotion possible through the many trials and tribulations, but at the end of the day, it is always love that is constant. He is my cubicle-mate when I take him to work and when he doesn’t come to work, he is the best friend who is ever so excited to see you when you get home. A bad day can always be cured when Walter leaps into your arms and licks your face like you’ve been away for weeks. There is no feeling that compares when he lies down next to you or rests his head on you. Nikko and I have never loved something together the way we have loved Walter.
We got Walter when he was 2 months old and he is now going on 8 months. He has gone from three pounds to all of twelve pounds. His puppy teeth are gone and he has learned many new tricks. He rarely has accidents and he loves to watch Jeopardy with us and sleep at the foot of our bed. We love him more than ever.
Nikko and I have been married for ten months now and can’t imagine a life without Walter. He has taught us so much and has allowed us to become a little family of our own and he will be my best friend when Nikko deploys. Even though Walter is almost out of the puppy stage, something tells me he still has many lessons left to teach us. I’m convinced God gave us Walter not only to teach us these important lessons and be our best friend, but also to prepare us for when the time comes to expand our little family to four.