Jovi McWaddles (Photo by Eliza Blue)

Recently, I sat down at my desk to write and I found a small scrap of paper with the following words scrawled on it:

See Joy.

Seek Joy.

I’d written the words a few days before, contemplating New Year’s resolutions, and then forgotten all about them. In truth, I’d only meant to write “Seek Joy,” but a slip of my pen had made me write ‘See’ by accident, which is why I’d written it again, correctly, just below. 

In the interim, we’d gotten a puppy. A puppy my children (especially my son) had been imagining for quite some time. He wanted a small dog who liked kids and wanted to play games like fetch and tug-of-war. A dog who would snuggle. A dog who knew how to play just a little wild and how to have fun – something ranch dogs, like parents, weren’t always good at remembering how to do.

I was not, however, ready to take on a puppy, so I’d decided the small dog of my son’s dreams would have to wait until he was older and would be able to do more of the puppy-rearing himself.

Then, a few months ago, we lost our English shepherd, Zuzu, suddenly. I was heartbroken, but my son was devastated. Though we’ve lost beloved animals before, this one cut deeper probably because he was finally old enough to understand the permanency of the loss. Every night for weeks he’d lay awake asking me through tears, “I am thinking about sad things. How can I stop thinking about sad things?”

I often had to answer through tears myself, “Sometimes we just have to let ourselves be sad,” but I was also reminded of the quote: “Grief is love with no place to go.” Which is why, when we found out a neighbor had a litter of corgi mixed with miniature Australian shepherds that were born at the exact time – almost to the minute – Zuzu died, I couldn’t help but think one of them was meant to be ours.

Even before we brought him home, however, I was worried this new puppy was a bad idea. Zuzu was the dog of my dreams. She was a second mother to my kids, my constant companion, as loyal as she was sensitive and intelligent, and her only fault was being so good I didn’t sufficiently appreciate her because she so rarely required anything of me. How could a new dog ever live up to that?

My fears were well-placed. We picked up our new puppy the day before Christmas Eve, and whereas Zuzu had snuggled peacefully on my lap on her first ride home, Jovi McWaddles howled nonstop. And he kept on howling. After a few hours, he finally curled up on my shoulder and fell asleep, but I was already exhausted and dreading the long night ahead too much to appreciate his sweetness.

The next few days unfolded much as you might expect. Jovi got used to us pretty quickly and the howling abated. He is absolutely adorable with his short corgi legs and Australian shepherd floof and everyone who sees him can’t help but giggle. He floats across the floor like a furry Roomba or a feather duster with no handle and already comes when he’s called mostly because he rarely leaves our sides. 

Meanwhile, he is less than a foot tall, but still has managed to overturn houseplants, chew tiny pinpoint-sized holes in nearly every surface that’s chewable, and many of our Christmas decorations did not survive to be displayed next year. In other words, he is both the best of times and the worst of times all rolled into one hilarious, exhausting disaster.

He is also the reason I chuckled when I found the scrap of paper I’d left on my desk. “Seeking Joy” is a bit like seeking perfection – it’s an endless quest. “Seeing Joy,” is a different thing altogether, because it’s always there if we remember to look. And sometimes it looks just like a rambunctious, short-legged puppy chasing his favorite humans across the yard, barking wildly, while they laugh in delight.

Eliza Blue lives on a ranch in northwest South Dakota. She’s a musician, mom, author, and shepherd. She writes a column for newspapers in her region and produces audio commentary for South Dakota Public Radio. You can learn more about Eliza on her website.

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