Second Week of Advent: Dog

Previously: Greens

Last spring, against my preferences and despite my concerns, my family got a dog. She could still be considered a puppy, having been born this past January. Couple that with her being a Jack Russell mix, and you can imagine the small bundle of never-ending energy we have added to our household.

It's not that I mind dogs. I'll gladly give attention and affection to those who are not my own. But to me the actual owning of one is like having another child: they seem to require so much constant vigilance. Not a day goes by when I'm not pulling a toy or a shoe out of our canine companion's mouth, or cleaning up wayward droppings that couldn't have waited for the yard.

When she wants to be, of course, she's very loving. She'll curl up to doze on your lap or chew on one of her own actual toys next to you on the couch. She greets everyone who walks in the door with excitement and is happy to get to know new and familiar faces, sometimes with her tongue.

Having a dog has changed so much about how we live our day to day lives. We're more mindful about how long any of us will be gone and she'll be alone. We're more intentional about placing important items on shelves, counters, or hooks out of the reach of her eager teeth. Bedtime routines now include having one of us stay downstairs with her while the other tucks in the kids, lest she bark and whine at the bottom of the stairs.

And now we're just discovering what a dog means for the holiday season. I saw some of this coming months before we got here. Fortunately, we already knew certain necessary tricks from over a decade of owning cats, but a dog adds its own dimension.

The tree in general is always in danger. We've long known to place ornaments at a certain height, but this pine-needled addition is a constant object of curiosity for eyes, nose, and teeth. This is to say nothing of leaving wrapped presents where little claws and mouth have easy access. They will now be tucked away until occasions for opening them present themselves later in the month.

One of my own little joys about this time of year was spending moments of solitude near the tree, taking in its soft light and allowing myself some excitement about the growing pile of gifts for loved ones stored underneath.

The dog changes that. It's now something to be guarded, and some elements can't be set in their usual place. And as a result, the view has changed.

When your source of peace has been disrupted, how do you recover? I'm pondering that question this season. Something has been added, but something has also been removed. We ask that same question in other ways this time of year, even though the cause differs. For some, someone is no longer around to join in the celebration. For others, a living situation has changed. And maybe there are unexpected joys hidden in those changes that we haven't discovered yet. Maybe such disruptions only bring further uncertainty and peace will skip a year, to be uncovered sometime later.

I haven't yet found my own answer. But with my little terrier now settled on my legs, I'll study the tree's lights, waiting for it to reveal itself.

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