Beyond Puppy Love

“No man can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned by a dog.” –Gene Hill

It’s not that I was unhappy in what I now think of as ‘the dogless years,’ but I suspected things could be better. What I never could have imagined was how much better they would be.” –Ann Patchett

“My little dog—the heartbeat at my feet.” -Edith Wharton 


To put it lightly, I am a dog enthusiast. To put it more accurately, I am over-the-moon obsessed with my dog Pia. I feel confident that I speak for both of us when I say we are light-years beyond puppy love and are now deep into dog love.

When I took Pia in for her initial puppy check-up with the vet (September 13, 2014, 7 weeks and 2 days, 2.2 pounds, puppy love blossoming) he cautioned me to not make a big fuss when I left Pia in the house alone or when I came home from work in the afternoon—that big productions of this ilk would lead to separation anxiety. I dutifully followed this advice for about twenty-four hours. Then I decided it was way beyond the scope of my will power to not match Pia’s enthusiastic greeting each time I walked in the door.

So I think it is safe to say that we’ve been cultivating a good dose of co-dependence this year and are gearing up for some serious separation anxiety when we do live apart for the month of July (Pia to my parents, and me to the Wyoming mountains to lead a backpacking trip).

I had many dogless years between the death of my beloved family dog, Amos, and my acquisition of Pia. I was abroad for most of those years living a life that really didn’t speak to caring for a dog (though dogs continually romped through my fantasy world). When my life situation shifted, my first personal priority, despite being in the midst of starting a new job and settling into a new town, was of course to turn my dog fantasy into reality.

And the reality has been even better than I could have ever imagined. Pia is, by all counts, adorable. She is tiny (currently clocking in at 6.2 pounds), spotted, with a bubble gum pink tongue and a chocolate-chip button nose.

Pia may look the part of a dog that was born for lounging on a velvet cushion, but she certainly doesn’t play that part. In addition to being a champion hole digger, a stick and pinecone fetcher and a grasshopper stalker, Pia can hike and run with the big dogs. When we are out on a trail run we get lots of incredulous looks…”Tiny but mighty” is always my refrain. And she is. Seven miles later, she’ll need a short nap but then she’ll be ready for more action.

Here are a few more things that Pia has done/does do: Skitter out into the backyard at full speed with every intention of staging battle royale with the resident chipmunk, crunch her kibble with one eye on the bowl and the other cocked in my direction, run up to every dog she’s ever seen with the goal of licking the dog into friendship (oblivious of the other dogs desire for interaction or lack thereof), rolled submissively on her back in the hopes that the cows on the other side of the fence were large dogs who would sniff and befriend her, marched in a Christmas Parade wearing a Santa suit, worn (with chagrin) a pink sweatshirt and a soft hand knit cabled sweater, curled into a the crook of my arm with her head resting on my shoulder each night, danced on her hind legs like a circus dog whenever she sees her leash, attempted to herd me out the door by nudging my ankle with her chocolate chip button nose, steal socks (especially dirty ones), camped in a tent, stayed in a hotel (illicitly—that is what fire escapes are for—right?), flown on a plane (again illicitly—she was wrapped in a baby blanket and her tail only popped out once or twice), licked away my tears on various occasions and filled my heart to the point of bursting more times than I can count.

Pia graduated this week from puppy food to adult food, and my heart is breaking (just a little) because I can’t really fathom that her puppy days are technically past tense. If anyone has taught me that there is no cap on how much you can love, it is Pia. I agree wholeheartedly with Gene Hill's quote, and will just add a little modification of my own to close out this love song to Pia: “No woman can fully understand the meaning of love unless she’s owned by a dog.” I, for one, am grateful that Pia owns my heart.