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Valiant Pup

Our mini-schnoodle Carly is seven pounds of pure devotion. She greets (or threatens, depending on your perspective) all visitors to our home with insistent, cheerful yips. She seeks out warm laps, down pillows and fleece blankets. Dinner time for Carly is as close to heaven as life on earth gets. But she will drop everything for the chance to chase, trap, and test her squeaky ball.

She does not pout or sulk; she has never known a sour mood. Her go-to mindset is one of eager anticipation. She practically speaks each morning when she greets me. Oh, wonderful! You are here. I am here. It’s going to be a great day! I’m so happy to see you! I love you beyond measure!

Carly’s tail is a barometer for her emotions. When we head out for a walk around the lake, it is fully up and curled into a perfect letter C. When she is frightened, it is tucked all the way down between her legs. It’s quite a study in honesty. Imagine if human faces were so indicative of the person within. We would always know exactly where we stood with one another.

We picked Carly up from the breeder on a beautiful May morning. At just 8 weeks old, she fit into the palm of my hand. She had curly, jet black hair, as soft as a kiss. Her eyes were sparkling onyx jewels. On the way home, she trembled under the girls’ delighted inspection and nervously piddled on the car seat.

From the beginning, I had the job of training her. To this day, I play the role of the alpha. Carly is observant of me and highly attuned to my wishes. But her favorite person in all the world is my husband Joe. He spoils her much more than the rest of us do, and he is never angry with her. If Joe has been away from home for more than a day, her joy at their reunion is immense. She practically does back flips. Because Carly is so small, when she’s up on her hind legs, she just reaches his knees. She dances there, delirious with excitement until he scoops her up for some concentrated love. She sleeps at his feet every night, secure in the knowledge that she is right where she belongs.

Carly has a small wire kennel tucked under a bench in our kitchen where she curls up in utter contentment. It is her den, a distant call from her long-lost wolf ancestry.

She is extremely protective of all of us, and with her valiant heart, she has always behaved like a much larger dog. If she feels that another dog or person endangers the family, she never hesitates to lunge at the source of danger, never mind that she is the size of a bunny.

Now she’s nearly 14 years old. Her shiny black coat has gradually faded during her lifetime to a dusky gray. Her mother was a miniature poodle, so Carly does not shed. Instead, we make a thrice-yearly appointment for her to be completely shorn. She always returns from these spa visits looking slightly embarrassed, not quite sure whether the groomer was able to capture her inner beauty. On those days we give her a bit of extra love. As soon as she gets into the house, she runs straight to the living room carpet to roll off the memory of grooming from her little body.

Carly’s present moment mindset is a continuous lesson in mindfulness. She has no regrets, she has no plans, she does not covet possessions or fame or political advantage. The world, just as it is, utterly delights her. Our diminutive pup, the Dalai Lama of mini-schnoodles, is a bottomless well of unconditional, unlimited love.

About the Author

Elizabeth Castronovo has lived with cancer for 22 years. Through tears, laughter, and writing, she clings to the thread of sanity. She maintains a daily sense of awe while taking long walks around the lakes with her dog. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.


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