Stella Stutters – Chapter 4

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Puppy Play Date

The word is out: “Stella … got a dog? Are you serious?!

I’ve been inundated with a steady stream of incredulous, giggly, sarcastic and mostly wisenheimer e-mails from people who assumed – probably because I reinforced the idea at least 6 zillion times – that I would never, under any circumstances, come hell or high water OR another pitiful “but-the-puppy-needs-a-good-home” story take care of another dog in my lifetime.

“So tell me about this dog of yours,” one e-mail began. “Is it a stuffed lab, a stuffed beagle or a stuffed collie? What kind of stuffed animal did you get?”

Very funny.

Now that I’ve relented – the pleading pitch did me in this time – amazement has given way to widespread encouragement, which is nice, and invitations from people I don’t even know to a social phenomenon called “puppy play dates,” which I’ve never heard of.

Puppy play dates? Excuse me? What do I do? Sit out in the car – with the windows cracked open – while the puppy cavorts with his fellow fuzzballs, devours puppy treats and slurps down ice-cold bowls of water? Do I serve as the designated driver as he slumps in the back seat, passed out after a fun-loving cocker spaniel spikes his water with sweetened sugar granules? Or does the invitation extend to me, too?

“Oh, we definitely want you join the fun, too!” an eager but unknown puppy owner said in response to my inquiry. And when I say “eager,” I mean eager. She tracked down my phone number through a friend of a friend’s former co-worker’s sister. “Once you see how much fun they have, you’ll definitely understand why puppies need socialization time. You definitely have to put it on your calendar.”

I was so lost for words that I could barely stutter. All those “definitelys” made me nervous: What is this? A form of puppy peer pressure?

I recovered long enough to ask two reasonable questions – or at least what I thought were reasonable questions: What do the puppies “do” at these play dates? And if puppies need socialization – and OK, I get that, to a point – why can’t our little Havenese “get his needs fulfilled” through me and my daughter?

I can’t believe I actually said that, but I did: “get his needs fulfilled.” Five minutes on the phone and already I was babbling like a puppy psychologist.

“This is like … quality time for puppies to interact with other puppies. You just definitely have to show up and see for yourself. It’s definitely hard to explain.”

All I know is, I’d like somebody to explain this phenomenon. Puppy play dates. Socialization for puppies. Quality time for them to “interact.” What am I missing here? Will he “grow up” to be a misfit if I skip this step in his, um, maturation process?

I mean, I’m not sustaining this little Havenese to become a productive, well-adjusted member of society. It’s not like he’s going to one day leave my care and stake his claim in the world, remembering all the upstanding lessons I tried to teach him about interacting with his peers. He will not have to compromise with a domineering German shepherd, ask his dog boss to reconsider firing a lazy basset hound or make only gentleman-like comments when a newly shaven poodle struts by with her new ‘do and painted nails.

Puppies are not people; they’re animals. So aren’t puppy owners a bit misguided to ascribe human tendencies to fuzzballs who – let’s be honest – cannot even differentiate between puppy food and a skuzzy garden shoe?

One puppy owner doesn’t seem to think so. “Mom! I want to go, I want to go, I want to go!” said my sweet, blue-eyed girl when I told her about the invitation. “Can we? Can we? Can we go?”

Another pleading pitch. What else could I say?

Definitely. Grrrrrr…..

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