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Pup's first year brings challenges, rewards

You may recall a year ago I wrote about getting a new puppy, Baci ("kisses" in Italian) and how I met many people in my neighborhood by walking her every day. Ardmore Place is a friendlier street now. I know most everyone by name. I said it was "like magic" and I could not wait to see what she would do for her "next trick."

Well, Baci is all grown up now and tricks are being performed every day. Unfortunately, they are all being performed by me. Sound backward? It is -- but look what I've learned.

I've learned that Old Navy fleece pants can double as sleepwear/dog walking attire. You can roll out of bed and take the dog out immediately. No one will ever know you're in your pajamas. But leave the slippers at home.

I've learned that you can sprinkle baking soda on your carpets to keep them fresh after a multitude of "accidents." If that doesn't work, just use that expensive carpet steamer you'll have to buy.

I've learned that my shredder is unnecessary. Just leave all your papers on the coffee table. Baci will shred them automatically. This includes important bills, letters and receipts. Oh, that $5 and $10 bill that she sniffed out of your jeans pocket? You can tape them back together.

I've learned that if you contort your body just so, you can comfortably sleep on only one-third of the bed. Baci, who is obliviously sprawled out in supreme comfort, occupies the remaining two-thirds. Sweet dreams.

I've learned to come when I'm summoned. Baci jingles a bell to let me know it's time to go outside. It's like Christmas year-round at my house -- jingle bells all day long. She rings, I come running. See how well trained I am?

It's been an adventure. But through it all Baci has remained playful, devoted and oh so affectionate. She always finds a way to teach me life's little lessons.

She's taught me to have great patience. She's taught me sleeping in late is not necessarily a good idea. She's taught me that daily walks are a good form of exercise for both of us. She's taught me that when I arrive home, rubbing her tummy comes first, even before checking the mail. And she's taught me that home is a place I can't wait to return to.

Yes, this adorable, curly-haired little devil -- are those curls or devil horns? -- has become my constant companion. Her overwhelming admiration for me seems undeserved and my attachment to her grows daily. This became more evident during a recent routine trip to the veterinarian. When the doctor entered the room, Baci cowered in fear and tried to hide behind me. Hmmm -- more role reversal here. She depends on me to protect her.

Don't worry, little one. I'll never let you down. You've made my life so much harder yet infinitely better. For you I'll parade outside in my pjs, replace my carpet if necessary, sleep like a pretzel and come running when you ring. You have entrusted me with keeping you safe, healthy and happy.

It's a job I signed up for and am happy to carry out. Because at the end of a long day when you curl up next to me and rest your head on my heart, I know all is right in the world. You gaze up at me with those soulful, adoring eyes and I realize that the most important thing I've learned in the past year is how much I love this dog.

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