Blog: The Day I Brought Thurber Home

He wanted nothing to do with me.

After a long 6 ½ week wait — after another sleepless night in which I’d become a 10-year-old boy eager to reunite with my new puppy — I was invisible to him.

I left too early, again, to drive from Pittsburgh to Punxsutawney to get him. I had to kill time at McDonald’s, trying to get work done on my computer to no avail.

Finally, 10:00 a.m. arrived, our agreed-upon pick-up time, and I drove a half mile to Mike and Maryanne’s to greet Thurber.

Thurber happily settled into our truck when it was time to drive home!

Again, I was greeted with a four-alarm doorbell, as Thurber’s mother, Sunny, and father, Tank, barked to the high heavens.

Sunny and Tank greeted me enthusiastically as Mike let me into the house, and then I saw my puppy.

He was playing with Chief, his black-haired brother. Chief had been the runt of the liter and also had an incredibly gracious and welcoming personality.

Chief rushed over to greet me with his puppy warmth.

But still, Thurber wanted nothing to do with me. I was invisible to him. He wanted to play with this brother and mom and dad — he couldn’t have cared less about me.

Don’t Overreact to the Rejection, Tom

Maryanne, sensing my disappointment, explained that Thurber had lived his whole life in the basement below — that he was moved upstairs only 30 minutes before I arrived, and that he was exploring his new world with curiosity and playfulness.

“He’s overwhelmed with the newness,” said Maryanne. “He’s experiencing information overload.”

That made sense to me, but I was still feeling rejected.

My expectation was that my puppy would rush into my open arms, playing and tussling and that we’d begin our lives together with a big affectionate puppy event.

But it was not to be.

I lay on the living room floor and called him over to me, to no avail.

I crawled near him and tried again, but he ignored me, as his focus was 100% on his brother chief.

I got up and sat at the dining room table, dejected — but not giving up.

“Maryanne,” I said, “Could you pick Thurber up and put him in my arms?”

Maryanne was able to catch the wily little bugger. He didn’t want to be held, though. He wanted to play with his brother.

She put him my arms and, unlike the first time I’d held him 6 ½ weeks before, he was restless this time — at first.

As soon as he sat in my arms and I rubbed the side of his head, we were good to go!

He was restless until I began to stroke the side of his head.

Just Like that I Knew My Life Was Forever Improved

He grew calm instantly — as though he knew, at that moment, that I would care for him through thick and thin for the rest of his earthly life.

Just as I’d experienced 6 ½ weeks before, as Thurber settled contentedly into my arms, I felt a deep connection with him.

He’d only been a living, breathing creature 8 weeks at that point, but he affected me deeply and permanently (and he still is as I write this in his 21st month on earth).

At that moment, he stopped seeking his brother at that moment.

He stopped exploring the living room.

He stopped responding to stimulation overload and responded only to my touch.

He made me feel euphoric — as though I was the next great dog whisperer whose mere touch could tame any canine.

But it wasn’t any canine I was connecting with that morning.

It was my puppy, my best buddy, the best decision I’d ever made.

I didn’t know how or when, at that moment, but I knew my life had changed in ways I never could have envisioned.

Life would be richer.

My laughter would be deeper.

My patience would grow stronger.

My capacity to love would expand to levels I did not know I was capable of.

The drive home was surprisingly easy. He looked up at me much of the way. I stroked the side of his head the entire drive and that kept him calm.

The Ride Home

He’d nod off for a time, then wake up looking at me.

“I’m putting my life in your hands, Tom,” his look was saying to me. “But I trust you fully to take care of me.”

I do take care of him, too.

When we got home later that day, Thurber fell into a deep, restful sleep in my arms.

I loved him as a puppy the day we met and continue to do so through month 22.

He trusts me completely and he knows he can rest deeply because he is safe and secure with me.

Thurber is the best decision I ever made.

And when I drove him home from Punxsutawney some 20 months ago, here is the absolute truth: It was the very best drive I’ve ever had in my life!

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