Cheesy but true—I love my dog. Here at Little Dog Big Philly, Dipper and I are celebrating our one year Adoptiversary. March 23, 2015 marks the first time we met, and rather than write his biography—there’s still so much to tell!—I’ve decided to celebrate with a list of my favorite things about him.
This list reveals a lot about us both, and I think it’s a great way to talk about the good. Having adopted a formerly stray shelter dog, it’s easy to focus on the bad. So here it is: five things in particular I love about Dipper. Some of them I’ve loved since day one, and some I’ve only recently discovered.
Dipper’s eyes were what drew me to him. They spoke volumes when he had no voice. His eyes made want to help him, and they continue to make me wonder how anyone could have treated him badly in the past. For a long time, his eyes conveyed only fear. I can confidently say that’s not true now.
Aside from all that mushy stuff, those big ol’ make him, like, super cute. They must make up at least 40 percent of his face!
“He’s not going to bite you, I promise. He’s smiling!”
Thus begins any introduction between Dipper and another person. My next statement usually goes something like, “He does this thing called ‘submissive grinning.'” Long story short, when my dog gets excited, all of the muscles in his face seize up and he exposes his teeth to say, “Hey, I’m no threat!”
All the science aside, it’s the goofiest, dumbest looking thing in the entire world and I love it. It’s the best possible way to be greeted after a long day, or to wake up to five inches from my face in the morning. Whenever I get bummed about Dipper not knowing any cool tricks, I remind myself that, while he may only sit 70% of the time, he smiles 100% of the time. And no one else’s dog can do that.
His bark (or lack thereof)
It was a long, long time before I ever heard Dipper bark. It was a running joke in our family—the only noises he ever made were huffs, sniffs, the occasional growl, and paired with his accompanying smile, a sneeze. When you’d ask my young niece what sound a dog made, she’d stick her tongue out and pant.
But behind the hilarity of his sniffs and snorts was a sad possibility. The first time I ever heard Dipper bark was months after he came home with us. Spooked, he let out a high-pitch, raspy bark. When I went over to comfort him, he looked at me as though I were about to strike him. For the next few months, whenever I heard that rare bark, it was followed by the same look of fear. Whoever had him before me was clearly not fond of barking.
That fear has since subsided, and I like to think that his bark, though occasional, is a testament to his growing comfort in his new home. Dipper’s since barked enough for me to know they range from that high-pitch, alert “berk!” (primarily for squirrels), and a low-pitch, warning “boof…” (for things that go bump in the night). That he feels comfortable enough to bark in our home is also evident in . . .
When I adopted Dipper, he was a scared, timid little thing with hardly a will in the world. I remember his foster mom picking him up and flipping him over for us to inspect and opening up his mouth for us to examine his teeth—all with zero resistance. Dipper was honestly as much fun as watching paint dry, which was, oddly enough, one of his favorite things to do. He would just sit around and stare at walls for the first few months in my home. Like barking, I think he was afraid to do much else.
But in the months since, something has changed. He has more autonomy than ever before. He even got into the trash the other day! Most people don’t think fondly of their dogs’ stubbornness, but to me, it’s another indicator of how far he’s come. I’ve also been told that his stubbornness matches my own personality, whatever that means. Thanks, mom.
Despite whatever it was Dipper went through before he was mine—let’s not think about that—he’s a happy little dog. He’s eager to give and receive love. Rather than fearing the worst as he used to, he expects the best. He doesn’t cower when I pull something out of my bag (maybe it’s treats!), and he doesn’t flee from an unfamiliar noise (maybe it’s a toy!). His favorite things include cheese, walks, and babies—this dog looooves babies. Seeing his excitement when he gets any of those makes me so happy. And happiness is only one thing he brings me.
Thank you so much for reading about our journey. We hope to share many more stories with you in the future!