Our New Norm

Midlife Sentence | Our New Norm

We did something recently I said I’d never do. We got a puppy. Actually, we bought a puppy, so that makes two things I said I’d never do, and if you know me in real life, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about said puppy, and also kind of wondering what the hell got into us.

If you don’t know, I’m a big fan of ready-made dogs, the house-trained and temperament-tested and ready-to-fit-into-our-family kind. Adult dogs. Turnkey dogs. The last time I had a puppy, I was six. I distinctly remember picking her out at a pet store at the Karcher Mall. I remember her long ears and stubby legs but I don’t remember any housetraining issues or sharp puppy teeth or the endless chewing, although I’m sure those were part of the picture.

Introducing Norman: now nine weeks and twelve pounds of pure, angsty want all of the time. Unless he’s unconscious, Norman doesn’t do less than 100 percent of anything. Norman is also hypoallergenic and of a breed that is supposed to be pretty cuddly, which checks off a couple of boxes for us and is the story of how he ended up here. Colin picked out the name before we’d even brought him home. Otherwise, I think by now we’d want to call him something that better fit his nature.

Like Bitey McRazorteeth, or Sir Peesalot.

Norman is Colin’s dog, the emotional support animal we talked about earlier (yeah, Colin wasn’t any more stoked about the pet rock idea than you’d think). If you’re a parent, you know what that means. It doesn’t matter who the dang thing belongs to, the responsibility for making sure he doesn’t ruin our furniture, run into traffic, get mauled by our other dog, or grow up to be a complete asshole pretty much falls to me. It’s okay. I knew that going in.

I thought I was ready. I didn’t realize I wasn’t. In fact, I was profoundly unready for a puppy.

As an example of how this creature has completely upended our lives, where my morning used to start with a relaxing hour of coffee and procrastinating writing projects scanning Twitter headlines, now I take the first Norman shift after Colin has had him for the night. Consequently, the first forty minutes of my day now look more or less like this:

  • Take dogs outside to pee, give Norman a treat for doing so, Penny gets one too (although at nine years old, her routine is well established, thank god, but she still thinks she deserves a treat).
  • Get dogs breakfast while Norman barks like I’m aiming a blow torch at him until I set the bowl down. This does not appear to wake anyone.
  • While he eats, arrange elaborate baby gate system to make sure the puppy can only destroy one section of our home at a time.
  • Norman finishes breakfast. Grab coat and shoes to rush him outside, before he has an accident.
  • Come back in, chase Norman while he races around the couch with a dishcloth he grabbed from the laundry.
  • Try to film Norman barking at the dishcloth because it’s so dang cute.
  • Notice there’s water on the floor, wonder if it’s pee, melted snow, or water from his bowl. Clean and sanitize as though it’s pee, just to be safe, while Norman destroys the dishcloth.
  • Sit on the couch, let Norman up on my lap when he jumps up and cocks his head at me.
  • Put him back down when he bites hard enough to almost pierce my nose.
  • Try to shush Norman when he sees Penny’s still half-full dish through the baby gate and starts barking. Move dish out of his line of sight.
  • Let him continue to bark for a bit while I grab a cup of coffee and think about my life choices.
  • Wonder when someone will wake and take this damn dog off my hands.
  • Grab a handful of treats, donning coat and shoes to take Norman outside to pee again.
  • Come back in, distract Norman with a tattered tennis ball so I can open my laptop and scan emails for seventeen seconds.
  • Yell when I catch him peeing on the floor, roust Colin to come watch his damn dog for five freaking seconds while I mop up. Again.
  • Wash my hands. Grab the last Christmas cookie out of the tin on the counter. Drop it on the floor. Chase Norman when he grabs it and runs.
  • Catch him, pry the damn cookie out of his mouth, consider eating it myself for one hot second before tossing it in the garbage.
  • When Norman is momentarily distracted by the spot on the floor where the cookie fell and a crumb remains, return to my email.
  • Pull Norman up on my lap when he asks nicely again.
  • Try to coo and pet him into a nap, but he wriggles off my lap, grabs my glasses case and runs across the couch, climbs onto the sofa table, and slides off the other side, dragging Colin’s schoolwork, yesterday’s mail and four coasters down with him.
  • Mike enters. Observes the puppy’s limp and wonders aloud what I’ve been doing while I should have been watching him. Catches my look and asks if he can refill my coffee.
  • Pick up the puppy, feel around for broken bones.
  • Mike sits on the couch. Norman crawls over to his lap, curls into a ball, sleeps.

So, we’ve got a routine. Next, we need to address the naming structure. Since this is Colin’s dog, I thought at first Colin would be “dad.” But then we’d be grandparents, and that feels wrong on multiple levels.

Instead, I’m thinking Colin’s is Norman’s “boy.” Mike and I are mom and dad, but still get to wake Colin when he sleeps in, saying “here, come take your boy back,” which, as I understand it, is not unlike grandparenting.

And also not unlike grandparents, we are posting gobs of photos and videos, which I kind of thought folks would be sick of after a couple of weeks, but we’re getting a fair amount of encouragement from people who want their regular Norm fix.

I apologize if you’re NOT one of those people, but hey, it’s a pandemic. You’ve been spared the travel stories, the half marathons, the group gatherings in my media feed this year. In their place you’re getting zoomies and cuddle videos. You can expect more where those came from. At least for a while.

You’re welcome.

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