A Year of Blue
Today marks one whole year since you joined our family. We’ve had so many adventures together in that time. So many memories made. So much love. This sounds like a good time to share some memorable moments from our first 12 months together.
When Craig went to your birthplace (a farm in Chester) to visit you, your mother and your siblings, he thought he already knew which of you he would bring home just from pictures. As he watched your siblings playing, you were the only one who (anxiously) approached him. You rested your head on his leg whilst your siblings were more interested in each other. Craig described it to me as if you had chosen him. It just felt right that you would be our baby boy. He brought you home, where your new extended family and I would be waiting to meet you. The first time we saw each other was when I peeked my head into the car’s back seat. You were anxious, scared, and overwhelmed by all the new people and places. You couldn’t even use your back legs because they were so weak and shaky with anxiety. You were three months old and already massive. Such long skinny legs! Ideally, to ease your transition, we would have met with you and your mother a few times before bringing you home, but it sadly didn’t work out like that for various reasons. We took you to our bedroom for some quiet time, and you sat on my lap and buried your head under my arm because you were trying to hide from all the scary things. I think you were exhausted because you kept falling asleep. After a day or so, you started to liven up a bit as you settled, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Craig and I then had to decide what names you would know us as. I didn’t feel like “dad”, or “daddy” suited me, so Craig became your “dad”, and I’m just “Sam”. Dad and Sam. Easy one-syllable names. Choosing your name wasn’t as easy. Your dad and I were both firmly settled on wanting a “human” name (e.g. Benji, Brian, Dave), but we couldn’t find one to suit you that we both liked. I considered Shadow because of how clingy you had been to me so far and as a nod to my love for Shadow from Homeward Bound: The Incredibly Journey. I even considered Bouncer, a reference to the first dog I ever loved, from Neighbours. Then I started thinking about cute, affectionate names like Buddy. Ultimately, I had a brainwave, and Blue popped into my head. It seemed to fit because of how sad and blue you always looked, but also because it’s a name Craig had often affectionately called me over the years. We agreed it fit and suited you, so we announced your arrival to the world. You’re our baby, after all!
I do not miss your toilet training. Mainly the 3 am wake-ups and the surprise accidents. I feel you quickly grasped the concept of going outside to “powder your nose”. Still, we had to wait for you to be old enough to control your bladder properly before the accidents stopped. I think you’ve had two accidents in the past six months. Unfortunately, both were in the presence of the same person, so I’m paranoid they think you’re not toilet trained.
Socialising you was difficult. We couldn’t offer you those vital early social skills and experiences thanks to a mistake (out of our control) with your vaccinations. I stubbornly refused to take any risks with your health. When we eventually got you out for walks, you would always want to go over and meet other dogs but were simultaneously tail-between-your-legs terrified of them. You had minor interactions with less-than-friendly dogs, which didn’t help your confidence. We were keen to get you integrated and confident with other dogs and humans as soon as we realistically could, despite all the disruption in the world at the time. Craig’s mum’s dog, Luna, came to visit you. After initially being terrified of her, you gradually got used to her and now enjoy her company. We decided a doggy daycare would be a responsible and safe way to introduce you to many new humans and dogs. You’d be paired with dogs of appropriate temperament under close supervision to help build your social skills. I was so nervous about leaving you on your first day, like a parent seeing off their child on the first day of school. We learned from the staff that you preferred playing with smaller dogs over big ones. You seem to enjoy your time there and always come home knackered after playing all day. As for humans, your initial reaction varies depending on the person. Sometimes you are so excited to meet them, and with others, it takes a while for you to find the confidence to approach them. Now you’re at a point where you want to meet every single dog you see, much to our frustration when we just want to take you for a quick walk around the block!
You’re definitely a quick learner. You have all the basic commands down, and we always speak to you with a vast vocabulary so you can learn tone and pick up other words and meanings. We quickly taught you how to open a door with rope on the handle so you no longer get trapped in rooms when exploring your home. After just one attempt at teaching you, you learnt that you have to sit and wait for a command before you can start eating meals. You’re making progress with the “quiet” command when alerting us to danger, for when we need to reassure you that it’s safe (and also to thank you for protecting us). You’re good at recall most of the time—it depends on how distracted you are! We have built up a good level of trust, too. From a young age, it felt safe to leave you with free roam of the house, even when you were alone—so we could pack away your massive safety crate after just a couple of months.
You struggle to focus when a lot is happening, such as other dogs, lots of people and noise, or distractions. I hope you will get better at hearing us over everything else with time. We’re also still working hard on walking to heel. We’ve persevered with so many different training techniques. We’ve tried turning around, a shorter lead, stopping still when you pull, offering treats for good walking and assigning commands. We seem to have hit a brick wall we can’t get past. Occasionally, you will walk perfectly, but when you are on a mission, you will pull on the lead—because we humans walk too slowly. I didn’t want to resort to any measures that might cause discomfort, but I did buy one of those Halti harnesses that go over your nose. We spent weeks slowly introducing you to it by putting it on for 30 seconds at a time and rewarding you with a treat. You’d even pick it up and drop it by our feet so that we could put it on you—and so that you’d get a treat. However, when it came to going for walks with it on, you absolutely hated it and would pull it off your face and get the strap stuck in your mouth. Hopefully, we’ll get there one day, so you’ll always be a pleasant walking buddy.
There are so many of your little personality traits and quirks that we just adore:
- Your obsession with balls and how you throw them into our laps to initiate play.
- The way you sleep upside down in the most uncomfortable-looking positions, snoring away.
- The way your zoomies get triggered by picking up small items in the garden, where your bum nearly touches the floor as you run.
- As a young puppy playing in the garden, you would run inside to hide whenever you heard a dog barking in the distance.
- The way you look after my mum and love snuggling with her.
- How you love nothing more than a day helping my dad with gardening.
- You’re still quite sensitive on the top of your head, so we must be gentle when placing your harness over your head.
- How you love to lick everything. And I mean everything.
- How you’re so nosey! The number of times you’ve bumped into a lamppost whilst rubbernecking at people in their driveways or mechanics at work in the garage!
- The way you greet people at the door and take their bag to wherever you’ve seen us leave it in the past. This is your routine for when your dad comes home from work—take his bag to the bedroom for him.
- The way you get excited whenever the supermarket or takeaway delivery person arrives, running to go and say hello to them.
- The way you have to excitedly inspect all food shopping when it comes into the house. Checking it all passes your safety tests, of course!
- The way you bring us the post. Occasionally, you’ll try and bring it one item at a time to get more than one treat. Cheeky!
- How you love to sit and sleep in your dad’s armchair and frequently swap between that and your bed during the night.
- The way you watch TV with us and react to scenes with head tilts.
- Your “night-nights” routine where you give people a goodnight kiss before you go to bed.
- The way you were terrified of your toy pig initially but soon grew to love it.
- The way you sit snugly under my desk, on my feet, whilst I’m sat there. Often making my feet go numb…
- Your love for carrots and ice cubes.
- How you randomly respond to “Brian”. And weirdly, “Ebony Blades”. Don’t ask.
- How frantic you get when Craig asks, “Has anyone seen my dog?” and pretends he can’t see you.
- The way you sit next to me when I’m in distress.
- Your really noisy yawns that your dad is convinced you have copied from him! And your really slow yawns with your tongue sticking out, that I always imagine you doing the sign of the horns with.
- How as soon as your dad leaves to go to work, you get in bed with me for a snuggle. I love our snuggles.
- How you wait outside the bathroom door whilst we’re in the shower, like you’re guarding us when we’re vulnerable.
- Your FOMO response when anyone leaves the room without you.
- How you know the words for all of your different “din-dins”: breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper.
- The way you dance with excitement when it’s mealtimes.
- The way you come and thank me with a single lick on my hand after you’ve finished eating the food I gave you.
- Speaking of food, your absolute love for it! Your dad loves when you sit and watch him eat. He enjoys feeding you like a baby. But you know you only get healthy treats in moderation from me.
- The way you listen intently to every single word I say. I love it when your head tilts when you hear words you recognise.
- Your dad loves when you come up to him in his armchair and rest the whole top half of your body on his tummy for kisses and cuddles.
- How you excitedly run to tell people when you’re going out for a walk. And how you grab your lead and drop it at our feet to be helpful.
- How occasionally, when we’re walking, you will look up at me and appear to smile as if to tell me you’re having a great time.
- The way your puppy anxiety occasionally creeps back in before you find your confidence again.
- How you love playing with the hosepipe and getting soaking wet but aren’t overly keen on baths. Logic!
- How you love playing games, such as hide and seek and the “Gonna get you, that’s mine!” game where we have to creep up on you to steal your twig/stone/peg before you run away with it.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop worrying about you. Whether it’s worrying about you finding something harmful in the garden that the foxes have dragged in. How we have to give you a small portion of food before bed to stop you from bringing up empty-stomach bile in the mornings because you digest too fast. Or thinking you seem unwell when it’s probably just allergies. I suppose that never-ending worry is just because I love you.
While you behave like a superstar at home, you still occasionally like to show us up in front of other people. Usually earning your naughty name, which I have decided is Bluseph (like Joe/Joseph). It makes me happy to see that nowadays, you’re only Blue by name, not by nature. When I look into your eyes, I feel so much love. Love for you, and love from you. You’ll never stop making us smile. I feel calmer in your presence. I’m so grateful to have had you in my life for a whole year, and I look forward to many more. I love you, Blue.