When I look back at old pictures of my impossibly cute puppy, Clover, and me, I realize something sad – I spent most her puppyhood freaking out.
Of course, I cuddled her and oohed and ahhed over how cute her little fuzzy face was, how tiny and prickly her little teeth were, and how fun it was to snuggle her in my arms, feeling her soft, precious puppy fur beneath my fingertips.
But I was also terrified of her. Yes, I was terrified of a tiny, 10-pound, fuzzy, funny Golden Retriever.
Like any puppy, she was like a newborn baby in her inability to control her pooping and peeing. But the thing that makes that even worse with a puppy is that (A) they don’t wear diapers (Although, why not?) and (B) they’re free to and very good at roaming around all over the place, places where I might not have glanced in months. Places that were not easy to clean. Places that were, well, everywhere.
Having this kind of pooping and peeing machine walking around our apartment – never mind her need to chew on anything she could reach – was absolutely horrifying. To a perfectionist, that is. What does a person who tries to make her life and living space perfect do when something’s walking around making everything, well, not perfect?
She freaks out. And then she runs.
I ran to work, and found solace in my eight hours of only having to worry about meeting my deadlines. At home, I had to watch the clock and take puppy Clover outside every 30 minutes, begging her to “go potty,” which would usually end with her not going potty, and then promptly going potty as soon as we got inside, on the kitchen floor.
At least, this is how a crazed perfectionist saw this period of her life.
My much more laidback husband was fully engaged in Clover’s puppydom, not fretting over the poop and pee everywhere (and I do mean everywhere, both in the house and in every inch of her fur). Sure, he didn’t like coming home to her covered in her own you-know-what and scrubbing down every crevice of her crate each time this happened any more than I did. But he saw the bigger picture – this is our puppy! It’s her only time to be this tiny, cute little thing, and it’s awesome!
While of course her cuteness and the fun of watching her learn how to walk on a leash and climb stairs wasn’t lost on me, it was certainly mixed in with a fog of wondering if we had enough cleaning supplies, if a walk to the store on a nice spring day was really worth the mess I would most likely return to, and so on.
Freaking out about all of this to a friend, I’ll never forget her saying, “Renee, you’re being ridiculous. You have to leave your house. It’ll be fine.”
But the horror of having a major clean-up project upon my return was not only making me think twice about running errands, it was making me look at her as an unpredictable mess machine, not the adorable, most awesome little puppy I could ever ask for. (I knew this then, of course, but wasn’t able to enjoy it.)
Sadly, I can’t get those precious first weeks back. But I can file this away for the next time we have an unpredictable little mess machine on our hands – I’m thinking … a baby … someday?
I’ll be sure to surrender to the ride, and embrace all of the messy, un-perfection of it all. And that, by then, will be my new perfect.