Autumn has brought us a gift, not just in the guise of the leaves turning colour on the trees and the evenings drawing in, but in the shape of a new arrival. Ike, the oh-so-adorable ten week old lab puppy who will live with us to be socialised for the next year to 18 months.
It will be our third time over four-ish years to take on a puppy for Irish Dogs for the Disabled, and I think we're just about getting the hang of it. Ike is, as they say in these parts, a dote. I spent his first afternoon with him on my lap while on the sofa, cuddling (who wouldn't, do you see that face?) while Christopher Lee the pug looked on somewhat jealously before grumpily accepting a rawhide bone which he took to his crate to gnaw on in peace. Loud puggy sighs issued forth from the hallway as he mourned his status of Only Dog. He'll get used to the new puppy and help us to teach him - sit, stay, wait, take it, no, come, give us a kiss, Christopher Lee should really get a lot of the training praise.
Our house has been turned upside-down again, with the early-waking, yipping youngster. Treading in little presents while en route to get a(nother) morning cup of Earl Grey is the norm, howls from the back of the car taken as read, remote controls and cushions a thing of the past, tv guides and newspapers in shreds, cats and kittens chased into Halloween caricatures. 'Muuuum! Ike ate my Skylander!,' the youngest wails.
But then, then, you see how gentle he is, you see how his coat and eyes gleam, how he trips over his paws (he's going to be huge), how he hasn't quite gotten running down pat yet, zigging across the grass with his ears flopping.
His confusion at meeting new people, quiet at first, and a tentative wag of his tail, a sniff and curling up at the feet to settle down. The delight at being brought for a walk on the beach for the first time, shaking his paw to dislodge the grains of sand stuck between his pads, snuffling at the sea.
Things you thought you'd never hear yourself say and that people would think you were absolutely barking should they hear you, 'we do not eat cat poop out of our garden,' or 'we do not eat the wildflowers, they're for the bees,' and on it goes.
The love is immense and reciprocal.
Ike came on his first charity collection last weekend, and we met again the young girl who at the same time last year sat in her wheelchair. This time, as Ike attracted most of the attention, she stood with her stability/assistance dog, a beautiful salt-and-pepper coated labradoodle, no wheelchair in sight. It's not often you get to experience something like that, and I'll never forget the look on her face or the devotion in her dog's eyes.
All of that is well into Ike's future, for now he's a romping, rolling (in what I won't say), galumphing bundle of joy. We love you little doggie, even though we'll live without soft furnishings, remote controls, papers and enough sleep for the next while.