AKA: Dexidoodle, Dexiboy, Doodlebug, Dexter Doodle Dandy
The decision to name him Dexter was easy. Mom had lived on Dexter Street in Seattle. After she and Dad got married, one of their favorite television shows was Dexter. So in the fall of 2012 when Mom and Dad first met the weeks old Labradoodle, it was if he already knew his name.
Dad and Mom were at the breeder’s home, enjoying the frolic and fun of eight small puppies. It might have been a difficult decision for everyone-which little guy shall they scoop up and love forever? But then, Dexter waddled over to Dad and gently placed his head on his warm, jean-covered knee. Lanie and John Paul smiled at one another. Dad picked up six week old Dexter and held the small ball of fur close to his chest. Mom pet Dexter on his head and kissed his nose. “Hello, Dexter. Do you want to come home with us?” Dexter’s tiny, curly tail began to wag. He stretched his small neck as far as he could and kissed Mom on the nose.
And so, a family was born.
Although it would be several more weeks before Mom and Dad could bring Dexter home, preparations began. A comfortable crate was donned with a soft, new bed. Toys and treats were at the ready. And at the breeder’s behest, puppy food lined the new “Dexter shelf.” All they needed now was a puppy.
It was difficult to discern who was more happy and excited about Dexter’s new home: Mom, Dad, or Dexter? When he was first put on the floor of his new forever home, Dexter let his nose guide him in to the different rooms. There was a bowl of food and water. Check. A bed and toys. Check. Ooohhh…Mom and Dad’s bed. Check!
Training a new puppy is a time consuming proposition. Thankfully, Dad’s job was flexible and he was able to work from home several times a week. This allowed him to ensure Dexter got outside to use the new facilities on the lawn every thirty minutes or so. Of course there was plenty of play and lovin’ going on before and after said potty break. However, in total, Dad was very firm about Dexter’s parameters. He was to sleep in the bed in his crate. Dexter wasn’t allowed to wander around the house unsupervised. And most importantly, Dexter learned to notify Mom and Dad whenever he needed the facilities. The training had been successful.
As he began to grow, Dexter was permitted to wander outside his crate into a gated area which surrounded it, where he could attack his toys. Soon the recipient of his ferocious bursts of canine courage was a simple, soft, squeaky toy. A snake. During family play time, Mom and Dad taught him that when they excitedly said “Snake!” he should find it, retrieve it, and bring it back to them. The three of them would pull and tug and toss the helpless creature-which made Dexter ever more eager to bounce about. It was difficult to discern who was having more fun - Mom, Dad, or Dexter.
It didn’t take long before Dexter learned that if he clamped down this wily green reptile, it would release a musical coo that secretly made Dexter laugh. He thought it so funny that he would squeeze and chomp on its head and body-looking for the sweet spot that would delight him eternally. Well, at least until Mom tried to pull it away. Game on! Dexter would dash across the living room, sliding into the fiend, shaking the life out of it. Yet it still made that silly noise. When Dad slyly approached and quickly grabbed one end, Dexter would pull and pull as he and Dad played tug. Dexter growled in joy. What could be better, he thought?
As he grew older, Dexter learned the importance of another word: “Shake.” At first Dexter thought they were saying “snake” and he would hunt down the devil he’d learned to love. But instead, Mom and Dad again and again lifted his right paw and pumped it. It had nothing to do with the snake? Ohhh…he readily began to associate this new word with that action. Best of all, he’d get a treat when he got it right! “Shake,” Mom would say lovingly as she offered her own paw. Dexter knew to place his, in hers. Together they would bounce their limbs up and down. Then! The treat! This is swell, he thought. He got head rubs, too.
One day Dad did something different. “High five!” he exclaimed in an excited voice as he held his hand up. Dexter offered his paw, but instead of pushing it up and down, Dad’s was raised upward and didn’t move. Confused, Dexter offered his paw to shake. Instead, Dad gently hit the bottom of Dexter’s paw with his own and again bid “High five!” Dexter titled his head at Dad, brown eyes inquiring. Dad repeated the command and again showed Dexter what to do with his paw. It took a bit of time (and treats!) but soon Dexter was able to shake or high-five appropriately, when asked to do so. Receiving head scratches, ear rubs, and kisses helped, too.
As healthy young studs (with or without!) are inclined to do, Dexter had become interested in a lass named Chloe. Although two human years young than he, Dexter was smitten with this stunning Vizsla. Usually Dexter enjoyed scuffling with smaller and younger dogs. But when his nose had a whiff of this beauty, his heart quickly followed. When they are fortunate enough to have their humans get together, Dexter and Chloe would chase and tumble and roll and run. When finally they’d collapse, it was together. One of them would most certainly place a head on the other’s paw, back, or shoulder. Isn’t love grand?
But Dexter’s greatest love is his own Mom and Dad. Early in their relationship he tried several times to casually climb onto their bed. But early on, Dad insisted that Dexter would be just as loved if he slept in one of the three beds dotted throughout the house. Surely, Dad thought, the Dexter bed in the bedroom would be just fine. Indeed, Dexter’s many daily naps include him flopped, belly up, in a revealing and relaxing position in one of his beds. In reality, Dexter doesn’t need an actual bed to spread (eagle) when the spirit moves him. The floor is fine. So is the grass. But the bed with Mom and Dad – well, that would be the best.
One blissful day, Dexter forgot all about beds and snakes and treats and even Chloe. He discovered - the beach! When Mom and Dad released him from his leash on this warm, soft, wet parcel, his nose and ears and eyes were bombarded with all things dogs were meant to conquer. The soft ground was like a trampoline beneath his mighty paws. He ran and leapt as the curls on his ears seemed to lift him higher; he felt light as if he was flying. Yes! The sea was the wind beneath his ears! The waves were beating like a drum to his gallop. He found a stick and threw it in the air with great abandon. Joy! Freedom!
As he turned quickly to see if Mom and Dad were watching him, a seagull dove down to attack him. Game on, he thought. Maybe he couldn’t catch them when he was in the city, but now the rules had changed. He bolted down the beach as the gull screeched, taunting him. But Dexter knew he had the advantage. He was bigger and stronger than any one of them. And so it began.
Dexter chased the gulls with unhinged delight. After a few minutes, it didn’t much matter that he hadn’t yet caught one, the joy was in the chase. Anyway, Mom and Dad were watching and laughing. They cheered him on, encouraging his prowess and agility. He couldn’t remember a day as perfect as this one.
But then it happened. Dad beckoned him to the water. Mom’s feet were covered in the wet stuff. There, she held the stick he’d so proudly divined. And now she was using it to trick him. He approached them timidly but hastily retreated as the wave washed close to his paws. Playfully, he jumped backward toward the dry land and then cautiously dashed to the water, but several yards away from Mom and Dad. A safe distance. A drier distance. And after a short time, Mom and Dad acquiesced, tossed the stick up the beach and laughed as Dexter dashed after it. They walked leisurely in the water as Dexter had his way with the beach. And the sticks. And the gulls. Well, someday, the gulls.
That evening at home, Dexter crashed on his living room bed as Mom and Dad enjoyed a dinner of fresh salmon and asparagus which he had helped them choose on the way home from the beach. He could hear them chat and laugh about the day. As they finished their wine, Dad glanced over to see the euphoria of what appeared to be a dream that Dexter was having. Dad signaled to Mom. There was Dexter, flat on his back with all four paws flailing in the air. His mouth succumbed to a soft woof as he gave in to his dream: He flew through the air, missing the gull, but plucking out a feather. As he gently landed on the cool sand he thrust high again, giving the next seagull a fright. Wind tugged at the curly fur on ears. It was clear to him now, in his vivid dream, that the beach was the only place he could catch a seagull. And probably a squirrel, too.
The next morning Dad woke at dawn and let Dexter out into the back yard. They both returned to the bedroom. Dad of course, slithered lazily back under the covers which Mom had kept warm for him. Dexter knew what this meant. It was a “special day” when neither of them left the house right away. Softly, he danced to Mom’s side of the bed. His eyes were bright and his tail was wagging. Mom looked down at him. “Okay. Up you go.” Before she could finish her invitation, Dexter had, in one smooth leap, landed between the two of them. This was his place on these special mornings. Mom and Dad moaned as he stretched out on his back, accidently kicking their legs and arms. One of his fuzzy ears grazed Dad’s nose.
After wrestling into the most comfortable position he could find, Dexter quickly and effortlessly slid back into his beach dream. Mom and Dad began to quietly titter as Dexter’s paws began to glide through the air and his mouth gently uttered a muffled bark as he again warned the seagulls that in dreams, anything is possible.
And so it was - the dream that Lanie, John Paul, and Dexter become a family. A forever family.