Two years ago, on this very day, I drove an hour and a half out of the city to pick up a scrawny, 9 week old puppy at a gas station. The previous night, my family's 12 year old golden retriever suffered a downturn that forced us to be selfless and take him on that one final trip to the vet every pet owner dreads.
Separated by a mere 12 hours, these seemingly unrelated but completely intertwined events marked a huge transition in my life.
It didn't take much for me to realize that the puppy, soon to be named Haiku (but often called Hike), was something special. Blessed (or cursed) by an overbearing sense of curiosity, the world was his to explore... but there was always something holding him back.
While my memories of Hike's puppyhood lead to me believe he was a hyperactive, bouncy, happy ball of fur every second he was awake, the few pictures I have of his first weeks with me counter that notion. He was often too serious, a bit far beyond his "years"; not quite an old soul but definitely not just a young pup. He was quiet and thoughtful. (But boy could he be loud and careless.) He had stuff on his mind.
He would come into my room, where I'd usually be with my laptop on my bed. Seating himself across from me, still as a statue, he'd stare. Stare right into my eyes with the most solemn expression he could muster on his tiny, adorable face. People often say they feel like their animals are a second away from speaking, and that's about the best way I could describe it. Haiku had something important to tell me, but no way of doing so.
Because of the untimely manner in which I parted with one dog only to be joined by another, I got this crazy idea that my old Shadow was trying to communicate through Hike. On the pet forum I frequented at the time, a beginner pet psychic was offering free readings and with nothing to lose I signed her waiting list. It was months before my turn came up and right before it did, she dropped off the face of the earth. I never got my reading.
Beyond the staring, which for the most part tapered off, another weird but nice break I caught with Hike was that I never had to teach him what a camera was. Having only my little Olympus point&shoot back then, I remember the very first time I picked it up and aimed it at my puppy. He was in his crate, chewing on a teething toy, and he stopped, looking directly at the tiny lens, and held very still for me until I snapped the photo. It was an indoor shot, in the darkness of my room, with my awful flash - the kind of horrid photo I couldn't even take with my eyes closed now, but no matter... Hike knew what the camera was and what was expected of him when it came out.
All my pictures of the first few days I had him are downright unmentionable. I was too caught up in my omgomgomgIhaveapuppyyay! mentality to care about taking a decent shot. The nice, posed, outdoorsy pictures wouldn't come until at least two weeks into January, and I treasure them as much as I regret missing out on so many of the earlier moments. By the time I started getting good photos of my puppy, he was looking more and more like a little adult.
A little adult. I often called Hike that because of the way he carried himself. Knowing what I was getting into with a (mostly) husky, I started letting him wander around me off leash from day 1 so he would learn to value and respect his freedom. It also allowed me to gauge his personality and see if he'd have that breed tendency to potentially run away, but he always stayed close. (He didn't develop his current sense for exploration until many months later, although he luckily still has no desire to take off without me.)
In a lot of those early photos, he has a concerned appearance about him. I don't know what kind of life he had in the few weeks between his birth and my acquiring him, but the way he followed me around, the way he kept an eye on me, the way he stared, was almost as if he was worried this wouldn't be his forever home. He might have been looking for the first sign that we were about to send him away so that he could be prepared; meanwhile, I knew from the second I laid eyes on him that I'd never let him go.
Near the end of January, we had a major storm which resulted in over a foot of snow and tossed downtown Indianapolis into a frozen coma. It was Hike's first big snow, and I took him out to the parking lot beside my building to give him some decent exposure. Again, I let him off leash (still in his puppy harness days, you can see I wasn't brave enough to have him go totally commando for photos yet.) He made his way up a pile of plowed snow and positioned himself accordingly. He sat down, turned his head just the right amount, and watched me take this picture.
And so we started our journey together.
I've had many people request more puppy photos and I wish I had a bigger (and better) selection to upload. I didn't really start going nuts taking weekly (often daily) pictures of Hike until he was at least 5-6 months old and had all but reached his grown up shape.
He's still a natural poser, but the selection you often don't see up on Flickr shows him more true to form. Silly, goofy, crazy, always ready to go. I'll have to get better about showing all his sides.
Sometimes I can feel him watching me like he used to, and I hope I haven't lost my chance to hear his message.
Two years later, the adventure continues.
Happy Gotcha Day, Hike. I wouldn't be here without you.
View On White and large.
That got a little longwinded but it's been a weird couple of days. Thanks for letting me spill :)