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Steven Manchester: Puppy Love

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Bella 9

Although I consider myself an animal lover, I absolutely adore dogs. I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always felt a deep connection to the canine species. Granted, there have been a few times when I’ve experienced fear caused by our four-legged friends—most taking place on my paper route. For the most part, though, dogs and I hit it off very well.

From my earliest memories, my family has always had a dog or two we adopted as family (never just pets). Most have been mutts, mix breeds like most of us, with different temperaments and personalities. And I have loved them all, completely and unconditionally—exactly the way they taught me to love. The average size of these furry family members has ranged between fifty to eighty pounds, hearty creatures that could lick your face off if you let them.

Four years ago, my wife and I decided to adopt a new friend for our daughter, Bella. At the time, for many reasons, our family situation was best suited for a small breed; a lap dog. We looked around for a while before ending up at a local breeder that specialized in tea cup poodles. “There’s no way,” I told my wife in the driveway. “I love dogs, big dogs…not guinea pigs with wagging tails.” We went in to meet the puppies anyway. There were two new litters to look at.

From the moment Bella saw the little balls of fur, hopping around like hyperactive bunny rabbits, I knew the decision had been made. “How big do they get?” I asked the breeder. “Some can get up to four and a half pounds,” he said. Oh my God, I thought. I just ate a bigger breakfast than that!

Weeks later, Santa Claus kept his promise and delivered a female teacup poodle; Bella named her Sophie. Sophie whined so much that first night that I actually slept on the living room floor with her. In the days that followed, she relieved herself in a litter box—yup, just like a cat—before she was fully house trained. And I quickly learned that we’d never be able to take her for a walk. Nope, her legs are so short that she’ll become hypoglycemic and collapse due to exhaustion. To overcome this challenge, we ended up purchasing a baby stroller—in Bella’s favorite Cheetah print—so the dog could explore the world outside our yard.

I could go on but suffice to say that today, four years later, Sophie weighs just under four pounds. Although she’s full grown, she looks like a puppy and is treated as such. When she barks—to protect our family—she sounds more like a squeak toy than a dog. She’s nothing like those big mutts I’ve adored my entire life. She’d rather than snuggle than play fetch, or play with her cat toys than bury a bone in the yard.

I’m a fairly big guy with a background in law enforcement and the military. That being said, I’m sure you can understand that my self-esteem has been tested multiple times because of Sophie. At the veterinarian’s as well as the groomers, while other guys are walking out with their bulldogs and German Shepherds, I’m walking in with a dog that weighs half of what most house cats weigh. But truthfully, I couldn’t care less. I’m not sure I’ve ever loved a dog more than I love Sophie. We love each other, completely and unconditionally, and as an added bonus she has a knack for reminding me not to take myself too seriously.

When push comes to shove, I’d do anything for this wonderful dog—except push a Cheetah print baby stroller. Don’t get me wrong, if Bella’s not home to take Sophie for a walk I’ll get on the floor with the fur ball and chase her around the living room—but we all have out limits.

manchester author photo

Steven Manchester is the author of three #1 bestsellers. His latest novel, The Changing Season is due out this spring. Please visit his website for more.

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On October 21, 2015
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