Inspired by Artemis, Lured By Joy

My friend Barb Cook shared a video of six squirming black puppies. I watched as a vet checked each one before handing it to an assistant for comfort.

I’d wanted a pup for a year, but it’s hard to find a young rescue in my area. My son Anthony suggested I contact Barb who I met in the 1970s. I sent her a message in July. She  didn’t know of any pups then but would keep her eye out, so I raised Monarchs and waited. In late September, Barb sent the puppy video from the Chemung County SPCA and said the pups would be fostered five miles from me. We set up a time to visit.

Barb Cook with 3 of the pups

Barb introduced me to the loving, patient foster mom in her roomy walk-in basement. The foster situation was A+. The six pups were slightly under six weeks old and would stay with their litter and foster mom for a few weeks. Barb told me their history: a Black Lab mom rescued in FL, father(s) unknown), a large litter divided for fostering with two families in my area. They were handled with love.

How could I choose when they all had soft trusting eyes and beautiful puppy faces? I wanted a female, so we put the two boys in a separate play area. I sat in the middle of the floor with legs crossed meditation style and waited.

The four girls waddled over to check me out. Sniffing, nibbling my clothes and fingers with sharp little teeth, moving on to roll a toy or pee. Puppies have a short attention span, but one stayed, crawled into my lap, settled in, and relaxed.

That’s my girl!

That night, I fretted. What have I done? Isn’t this too much considering the challenge of adjusting to cochlear implant hearing and neurological fatigue? And what about time to write? Instead of sleeping, I made a list of possible helpers.

The Mansfield family hounds

My son Anthony lives three miles away and will help with day care and more. My NC son David has three dogs and will help if needed, but he’s far away. Barb will help me polish my training skills. My dog Willow is energetic enough to enjoy a young friend and she’s 100% reliable and gentle with puppies, kids, kittens, and guinea pigs. Willow may be the best support of all.

I’d agreed to give two workshops on hope and loss in Rochester and Webster, NY on November 5 and 6, so I needed to arrange overnight care. I’d also signed up for a dream workshop November 22-24.

The next morning, I remembered to contact an artist friend Lisa Baechtle who knows dogs well and paints pet portraits along with nature-inspired symbolic images. Lisa was staying a few miles from me, so I asked if she’d be the puppy’s auntie and stay at my house when I need to be out of town. Within hours, Lisa said she would help. She went with me on my next visit to the litter.

There will be late nights and lost sleep. There will be times I need puppy care and can’t find it. There will be snowy mornings when I don’t want to walk first thing but we’ll walk anyway. I’m choosing joy, despite the challenges. I’m lured by dreams of puppy snuggles, oxytocin rushes, and a loving, well-trained companion.

Artemis (Diana), Musée du Louvre, ~1550, School of Fontainebleau, Artist Unknown

I thought about the Goddess Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology), Lover of Solitude and the Wilderness, New Moon, Childbirth, and much more. I’ve embraced this archetype since my husband’s death. When given her wish by her father Zeus, Artemis doesn’t ask for a temple, offerings, or jewels. She wants to live alone in the wild with her hounds. As the story goes, “Artemis visited Pan, the god of the forest, who gave her seven female and six male dogs.”

I love puppies, but since I’m only human, I’ll adopt just one.


Willow at 8 weeks

By the time this is posted, the pup will be home with Willow and me. Maybe she’ll even get a name–and I’m leaning toward Joy. How do you foster joy? Do you stretch to invite that energy into your life?  For a post about my childhood dog Amigo, my major grief support friend when my dad died in 1959, see He’s Only A Dog. For another post about Artemis, see Lessons from Artemis, Goddess of the Wild.

  1. Puppy Girl Chooses Me could be an alternate title to your heartwarming story. What a lass, that Joy, if you choose to call her that. I love the trusting eyes and sweet friendship that is developing.

    You are in the middle of your own mythology, Elaine! And I love how resourceful you have been before taking the plunge: “Lisa was staying a few miles from me, so I asked if she’d be the puppy’s auntie and stay at my house when I need to be out of town.”

    The couple we stayed with during our visit to PA had a bunny rabbit, two cats, and bird they were babysitting. I can imagine having a “bird” pet. Birds are not cuddly like puppies, but they (well, some of them) can chirp and chatter, maybe even learn to talk “human.” 🙂

    Here’s to the realization of hopes and dreams!

    • I named her Joy. Nickname so far is Cupcake, but she comes to any silly human sound and looks directly into my eyes. Eye contact is the first step in positive training and a good relationship. She has that down. I have to protect my dear old Willow who is a puppy magnet. It will be challenging. It already is, but I knew it would be. It’s all good when I want to stay home, but until she’s housetrained, she needs constant vigilance and outings. She was raised entirely indoors (as SPCA recommends for fostering pups), but that means the whole big world from gravel to sticks to trails is new to her and a little overwhelming–but wherever Willow goes, she trundles behind. I would have named her Shadow because of her relationship with Willow, but it has too many “shady” connotations so I didn’t want to saddle her with that. We’re going for Joy.

  2. Your pup is a cutie! I love that you are trusting this new life, with all the sweetness and chaos it promises. Can’t wait to meet her!

    • C-h-a-o-s and sweetness. It’s a little tricky getting my coat on while holding a pup that hasn’t peed all night which means I don’t want to put her down until we’re outside. She sleeps through the night and I’m grateful.

  3. This is too wonderful Elaine! She’s bound to bring you joy knowing also that she’ll be a companion for a long time to come as well as one to Willow. Joy is a lovely name for her, so is Artemis:) I’ve loved seeing photos of her on FB …

    Lisa’s paintings are lovely, she captures the dogs so well. Willow at 8 weeks is gorgeous!

    • Lisa has many dog and horse portraits at her website–and many are out in the world. She sketched my two dogs yesterday when I went to the grocery store. When I got Willow about 14 months after Vic’s death, all I wanted to do was raise a pup. Life is a little more complicated now, but we’ll figure out the balance. Right now, like a human babe, she needs lots of reassurance and attention.

    • Thanx Susan Scott, for your compliments!

  4. As always a beautifully written heart-warming story. We. I don’t think you ever met our pup Moose but he came to us by his own choosing. We’d been offered him and declined thinking one dog was enough. As a party at the friends house who was fostering him I was sitting down talking with a friend when this little boy came running over with my shoe in his mouth and dropped it at my feet. Guess who came home with us that night?!?!?

    • I heard a lot about Moose, but not this story. I knew you when he died, but don’t think I met him. This little Joy is doing well. She doesn’t like the weather, so we’ll play in my barn today where we pushed all the tractor stuff into one area so there’s room for a pup to run and chase balls. I’m signing up for puppy classes and introducing her to new experiences and laid-back or young dogs every day. She already knows sit and watch and comes when I back up and call her name. We’re working on house-training and she seems to be getting it. It all takes so much time and focus on my part. I’m grateful my friend Lisa is around a lot and helping.

  5. Oh my Goddess what Joy! I’m so happy for you and Willow now that your beautiful puppy has moved in. She’s just adorable! I’m already looking forward to hearing all about her latest adventures in the weeks, months and years to come. No doubt she’ll put a spring back in Willow’s step too with all that young, vibrant energy!

    Knowing the happiness that’s coming your way Elaine fills my heart with (guess what?) joy! How wonderful it is that you’ve chosen to become a “Mother” again following on from your summer of mothering your beloved Monarch butterflies … I’m so very happy for you! Lisa’s painting is awesome! Warm autumnal wishes, Deborah.

    • Not only is Lisa’s painting awesome (check out the white polar bear hibernating under a rainbow at her website), but she has excellent dog skills and loves being with Willow and Joy. Lisa is a huge help right now and I’m grateful. For one thing, she babysat last night so I can keep going to my weekly writing group. My son will babysit tomorrow so I can go to a hospice training.

      Joy is a puppy which means she’s challenging, but she’s also easy to teach and train and almost always cheerful if she’s not isolated. I’m fortunate I can be home with her and focus on her needs until she learns the ropes. Willow is great with her, so I give Willow extra attention and got her a new thick cushion bed. She deserves it for being so sweet and tolerant. Joy copies Willow’s every move and that’s a good thing. We’re having cold rainy and windy October days, but the oaks and maples are red. Today, winter is in the air. Sending you love and peace.

  6. I’m so glad you have Joy in your life now, Elaine. Inheriting my daughter’s dog has made such a difference – daily. I’m the one who didn’t want a dog, hated the idea of house-training, and could hardly take care of myself for many grief-riddled years. But yow – this fuzzy bundle of energy gets me laughing and smiling and singing out loud in the driveway. Even rainy days feel spectacular with my Sweet Suki. I take her out hiking 3 to 5 days a week. Nothing and no one can make me feel better about myself and life in general. I wish you much magnificent time with Willow and Joy.

    • I got Willow after Vic’s death and had an older dog when she arrived. I needed to focus on new life then. I wasn’t writing a book or volunteering at hospice or giving an occasional workshop or doing anything other than trying to get through the day and learn how to take care of this house. Now my son lives nearby and will do lots of day care and my friend Lisa has been here until her place is ready in early November. It’s working out smoothly. Lots of time spent housetraining, teaching her to watch me (she’s got it and also knows how to sit to watch), signing up for puppy classes, socializing. How is Suki with young pups? We could get lost in my woods again. All for Love and All for Joy.

  7. Elaine, I’m so happy for you! I’ve never trained a puppy, most of the dogs I’ve had were given to me as adults. How do you keep Willow from running into the road? How often do you have to walk Joy? You are so lucky that she is sleeping through the night. Frankly, I’m envious. I’ve been talking about wanting a dog for the last two years. Unfortunately, Jennifer is really allergic and Zeke, my grandson is afraid of dogs. If I have to choose a dog over my family, the family wins. I can’t wait to meet her.

    • When Willow was younger, she never went outside without me, so I taught her not to go in the road. Every time the pup wakes up from a nap, we go outside and she’s learning to pee right away because it’s cold out there. We walk a few times a day at least, but weather is wild on this hill today, so I’ll take her to the barn to chase balls and explore. She’s a FL girl and then was raised inside, so she needs to toughen up. She’s still sleeping through the night because I let her sleep with me. I vowed I wouldn’t let that happen, but it’s happening because I can’t function without decent sleep. She loves being warm and next to me, so it’s good for bonding with her, too. I’m introducing her to a crate by feeding her inside and my friend Lisa threw all her toys in the crate so Joy gets used to going in and out. I’m signing up for puppy classes and the whole deal. It’s all pups all the time.

  8. Oh, this is wonderful Elaine. May you all be happy together. I think Joy is a great name for the joy she will bring to your life. 🙂

    • If she doesn’t get a ridiculous amount of exercise, she doesn’t live up to her name. She’s walking and playing 3 times a day which means Willow and I are, too. It’s not easy to find writing or reading time, but I made this choice knowing that. So here I am in Puppyland.

  9. If only I lived closer, sigh. I’m not sure who is the more blessed you or Joy., or maybe Willow. Our first dog looked much like your Joy. The one thing our black dog didn’t understand was that we could always see her in the snow. She would run a little and stop and never realized how quickly we found her.

    • I wish we could get the pup together with Millie. Joy met 2 little girls this morning and their young dog, so she’s tired. Willow and I like the pup best when she gets lots of exercise, so we’re all getting lots of exercise. One new experience excursion plus 2 hikes a day. Puppy classes begin in early November. She’s much wilder and more daring than Willow was as a pup. Willow is a good influence. I have to get a collar I can see at night which won’t be a problem when she’s leash trained. I’m working on the leash, but she sees it as a tug toy. So I guide her nose with a treat and hold the leash with my other hand so she’ll get the hang of it. She’s snoozing in the sunshine at the moment so I get a little time without chasing her around.

  10. Love the name Joy which I’m sure she will bring to you. She will be loved.

    • I love the name Joy, too, but she’ll have to live up to it. Last night I wanted to name her Terror. She was wound up. She’s sweet and innocent today.

  11. Oh, Elaine, it is so delightful to read of your brave venture into Puppyland! What a difference it must make that Willow is so wonderful with her and that you have such a great support system. I’m sending wishes your way for lots of snooze time for Willow in between active-puppy times. And don’t forget that your readers will want to have Joy and Willow updates from time to time.

    • She’s a full time job, Anne. Similar to a baby, but much shorter in duration (I hope). Training classes begin in early November, so that will add more structure to her play. It’s now about learning to wear a collar, walk on a leash, fetch a ball, and come when called. I have deeply appreciated support from my friend Lisa and my son to get through these puppy days. She’s not housetrained at her age, so many trips outside no matter what the weather. Willow goes upstairs for a break whenever she wants to, but she’s so helpful for tiring the pup out and teaching her dog manners. At night and for naps, the Pupster is in a crate which she likes. In late evening, she and I have an session of snuggling on the couch with her lying on my belly and chest while she’s still small enough to do that. She wants the bonding and I do, too. The name Joy isn’t sticking, so I’m back to being unsure about her name. (Not being able to find the name is a new experience for me–and a pup needs a name other than Pupster.) I want a name my local son likes, too. He’s been away and returns on Monday so I’m having a puppy naming dinner. I have a list and we’ll get her name right. I think I know it now, but will wait until he and I talk.

  12. I have no doubt you’ll get her name right, Elaine, and it’s lovely to think of you and Anthony having a puppy naming dinner tomorrow night! Names really can be so important, and I’ve been thinking that I probably say my dog’s name, Olive, (she’s a black lab mix) more than any other name.

    • Anne, her name is Disco. One of my sons is a serious disc golf player and designs courses in his part of the world. The other runs a sound/dance camp called Disco Knights at Burning Man (and makes Disco Knights hot sauce from his summer bounty of hot peppers). I came up with the name, the pup responds to it, and all agree. She’s a party animal–good medicine for me.

  13. Well, Disco just makes me smile. A special kind of joy, indeed!

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