He was just a little thing, black and fuzzy with perky ears and liquid brown eyes. She was just a little thing, too, with curly strawberry blonde hair and pink cheeks and shining blue eyes. They tumbled one over the other, flashes of black and blonde and blue jeans rolling over the grass. Quiet little yips and boisterous giggles abounded as they played together with abandon. Finally they both came to a rolling halt, breathing in huffs and gasps, one with her hands resting on her heaving stomach, the other's tongue lolling out of his puppy grin.
A girl and her dog, love at first sight. He was rescued from the local SPCA shelter, just a pup reaching the leggy, playful stage of youth. Why had his family given him up? Such a beautiful, shiny black coat, with a bushy, curly tail and those soulful eyes. His chin had a small patch of white fur just below his lip, as if he had been dipping into a bowl of cream and was caught just after licking his upper lips. Such a sweet puppy, not wild or nippy with a grasping preschooler. She threw her arms around his neck and hugged with all the love she could hold, and his jaw opened in that familiar grin before he licked her cheek full-on. She pushed back, giggling and sputtering and wiping her face with an "ewwww, pup!" They played for hours outside, simply entertained with chasing and wrestling each other.
She was so used to his friendly, easygoing nature that it came as a shock when one day he grabbed her shirt and pulled hard against her. Chubby hands pushed against his clenched teeth, but a low growl sounded instead of his usual yips. Her face showed shock and dismay, eyes wide open and pooling with tears as she tried to pull away from this new and upsetting animal. As hard as she pulled, he pulled harder and more insistently, twisting and turning to gain purchase against the ground. She didn't know what to do, what was wrong that her playmate had become so angry, so she stopped where she stood and let out a wail. He took advantage and let go, pushing his muzzle against her back and sending her over her feet in a heap. Then he ran to the mound she had been advancing toward and began to bark frantically.
It was only after the barking and the following yelps of pain that we understood what had happened to change our playful puppy into an unyielding sentinel: a nest of yellow jackets was waiting in that mound which she nearly had stumbled upon. It wasn't irritation with her childish play that had caused his change of attitude, but the presence of danger to one he loved so much. The pup took stings to the snout and ears while trying to chase off the bees and protect his charge, no matter what the cost.
People may talk of "puppy love" derisively, but in this family we know what true puppy love is. The forever-bent ear of our family dog is a testament to his love for his girl, who still curls up next to him, buries her long fingers in his thick black fur, and lays her head next to his, a picture of love and devotion between guardian and precious kept.
This post was written for Bridget Chumbley's "Hoping To Make A Difference… One Word At A Time" Blog Carnival on "Love." For other bloggers' thoughts on what love is, does, or means, please check out the links and Bridget's own post here.