The time has passed in a flurry of housebreaking and puppy proofing. It sure didn't take me long to realize that I'd never raised a healthy puppy before. Holy smokes, a tiny thing sure can have a TON of energy!! A couple of my friends have said "Boy, I don't envy you one bit in that puppy stage", and while I'll admit it is a lot of work, it's also been full of joy, which is something my house had been lacking prior to the puppy's arrival.
This is the first time I'd acquired a dog that I had chosen to get ahead of time. There are many great things about rescuing a pet and I've done that several times in the past. At this point in my life, still grieving the loss of Ritz, I knew what I wanted and needed from my new canine companion and I knew which breeds would be the best fit for me. I went on a search for a Boston Terrier and found the best one I could ask for! This puppy has been everything I needed and more, in ways that even I wasn't aware of.
He is like Ritz in ways that make me laugh: he'll steal the cat food in less than a second, he'll perch on the back of the couch, and he humps my older dog, Charlie, with great enthusiasm. Then he's different from Ritz in ways that make me sigh with relief: he loves to be held, to snuggle close, and he greets visitors to the house eagerly with a wagging tail. This was the first Halloween in three years that we greeted trick or treaters without Ritz locked in our bedroom upstairs, loudly voicing his unhappiness with all these strange kids coming to his house! It was a sad occasion because it made his absence painfully obvious but it was also a relief to be free of that worry. It reiterates to me that I am in a new stage of my life, where I no longer need the security of a dog who will protect me.
People often ask how I came up with Tinsley as the new puppy's name. I'll admit it's not very original to name a pet after a celebrity, but I knew he had to have a name that was unique and held some meaning for me. I've written before about my love for Dave Matthews Band (see here and here) so I won't go into a lot of detail. I'll just say their music has been a huge part of my life and they mean a lot to me. I knew that I would name the puppy Beauford (after DMB drummer Carter Beauford) or Tinsley (after DMB violist Boyd Tinsley). I was actually leaning toward Beauford when I traveled to Denver in August to see the band two nights in a row. There are a lot of things that made this trip special: it involved ten hours driving each way, it was the first time I had seen a dear friend in six years and it occurred on the weekend of my 35th birthday. It was also the self declared end to my Summer of Sadness.
After the first night's concert, I managed to attend a gathering that Boyd held as a meet and greet for his fans. It was smallish, about 70 people, milling around chatting and waiting to talk with him. I rehearsed what I wanted to say to him over and over in my head as I waited for my turn. I had met Boyd in 1998 when I was a young college kid. To meet him again 15 years later, after his music was the soundtrack to so many important parts of my life, felt unreal. How often do we have the opportunity to truly thank our personal heros for the inspiration they provide us? It's amazing! Boyd turned to me and embraced me in the way a close friend would. My voice quavered as my rehearsed words spilled out at him. I said "I turn 35 tomorrow and that means I've been listening to you guys for more than half my life. I can't thank you enough for what your music has been to me". My eyes welled with tears and I got another hug as he wished me a happy birthday and thanked me for my words. "I love you guys", I uttered as my boyfriend took some photos. "And I love you", he replied. The incredible thing about this is I know it's true. I could feel the compassion and gratitude flowing from him. He didn't have to be there. He spent time with each and every person in that group (even my boyfriend got a hug he wasn't looking for!) because he truly wanted to and he appreciated the fact that we love his music. I have wanted to write about this ever since it happened, but each time I try I simply can't find the words to express what this experience meant to me.
I picked my puppy up less than a week after that trip to Denver. The breeder lives in another state, a six hour car drive away so she had agreed to meet me half way. The roly poly baby dog tumbled out of the lady's car stretching and yawning, his eyes half closed. When I squatted on the ground, he came right to me, tail wagging, and put his front feet on my knee. I picked him up, he licked my face and I immediately knew that he was mine and that his name was Tinsley. There was never any second guessing or considering other names.
When I explain his name to new people, I don't go into this much detail. Of course those who know me well have heard all of this and have seen the photos. When I first shared the pictures on FaceBook during my trip, I could feel the genuine excitement that my friends felt for me. They recognize how significant this experience was. Not a single friend batted an eye or acted surprised when they learned the puppy's name. It's totally "me" and it makes sense.
I like that there's a story here that not everyone gets to hear. For me, there are so many different things wound together in the puppy's name. It's a way that I am constantly reminded of the importance of gratitude and joy. So when I look at this sweet puppy face, although I am sometimes hit with a rush of missing Ritz, I'm also reminded of all the beautiful things I've been able to experience and appreciate since his passing.