Grace really, really wanted a puppy and she used to play with the dog next door through the hole in the fence and there was something sad about that, especially as her Dad had a brain tumour and things were like they were. So maybe puppy moved into the land of something we might do afterwards. We talked a lot about looking after a dog and she demonstrated how responsible she was by taking over the feeding of Tony. After Gerard died, we talked more about getting a dog (and kittens), maybe after Tony died. On the day we left for Bali, I took Tony to the vet. He had been shitting inside and the vet said it was behavioural, that is feline senility. He was 21 after all. I felt sad about my decision but really, I'd had enough of cleaning up poo. Grace's birthday came around and presents were a bit thin on the ground. I'd been looking online at poodles and poodle crosses and had already contacted the Poodle Club of Victoria. I looked at rescue dogs too but I felt that a puppy was better idea. And because of a dog we had when I was a teenager, I wanted a poodle. Anyway, I ended up committing to the idea and made Grace a card promising a poodle puppy.
Two weeks later, she took a day off school and we drove down the new freeway all the way out to Hampton Park. It was spitting and we got very lost but eventually found ourselves at the breeder's home. I think she might have agreed to sell us a puppy because I promised faithfully that he would be an inside dog and sleep on my bed. She might have done a double take when she saw our shit car and Grace's dreadlocks poking out from the hat I made her wear. The puppies were jumpy and cute and the breeder was interesting. I paid her the completely insane amount of money for a puppy over my phone and showed her as the transaction went through. We travelled home with the puppy on Grace's lap.
The first few days were utterly berserk. It was like bringing a new baby home. He cried so I let him sleep on my bed then the second night he slept on my bed and snuffled and cried. The third night I gave him a mohair blanket on a cushion in the bathroom and he settled right down. He ate an m and m from the floor in Grace's room and Grace was afraid he would die. She freaked out about not being able to look after him and keep him safe and said she wished we'd just got a cat. And to be honest for the first couple of weeks, I thought that a fair bit too. But we went to puppy school and I committed to helping him learn to toilet outside. Grace cleaned up lots of poo and wee, good to her word. And then one day we noticed we hadn't cleaned up inside and then it became a week and then, bar one accident, two weeks. I felt so proud of us, he takes himself out, through the catflap (it's big for a cat), all on his own. I think he feels a bit proud and independent too.
There is still lots for Rupert to learn but he is a wonderful dog. At first I really did think I might have made an expensive and hard to fix mistake and there was a bit of your father is gone, here have a puppy in my decision. Probably because other than being there - which is huge, it feels like there is not a lot you can do to help a child who is grieving. So I guess I was prepared to risk being wrong. But nearly three months on I don't think I was. Rupert is full of love and good humour. Indeed I think I really underestimated how good dogs can be. We had a dog when I was growing up and another when I was older and I don't remember much about it except that they were always there. Now I find myself thinking about dog and human relationships and how it came to be like this and whether it is fair to make Rupert sleep in the bathroom when he would much rather sleep in an armchair. I worry about whether he gets enough exercise - Gerard was the best of us for promoting exercise. Grace walks him around the park. Sometimes we go for a longer walk and we have plans for more. Often we both focus love on him at the same time which is bonding for us and for Rupert. Technically he is Grace's dog and she is allowed to take him with her if she leaves home and can look after him. Actually I don't think I want either of them to leave home. But I am back up. All the time.
ps - I think tongue kissing a dog is unsanitary and unwise but have yet to convince Grace.
pps - I sometimes think about what Gerard would have thought of Rupert. He would have baulked at spending the money on a pure bred (although poodle crosses are often even more expensive) but Rupert would have loved him. Gerard was good with animals.