When I lost my 15, almost 16, year old Labradoodle Molly over a year ago, I really grieved. She was such a good girl. Well, most of the time she was. I overlooked the barking and digging and taking off when she had the chance and the chewing (when she was a puppy) because she loved me so much. I loved her too, but she was a big bundle of big love directed at me. It’s impossible to resist that. I still have my 15 year old Westie Annabelle who became my little sidekick. We were too old ladies in our routine and she was pretty easy if I overlooked the barking. Sigh.

I didn’t want to replace Molly, but I missed her and have to realize that, no matter how lively Annabelle still is, she too will be gone, hopefully before I am. I’m 76 and all the arguments for not getting another dog – or cat – are there. What if I outlive it? Do I have the patience to train a puppy? Do I want to adopt an older dog? What kind of dog do I want? I’ve had all kinds through the years so I’m open to different kinds. Do I want to spend the money it takes for a pet? What do I do when I travel? Isn’t it nice not having pet hair around?

The pandemic pups were everywhere. One friend I’ve known forever adopted two puppies as her older dog aged. Those years were some of the best with my dogs as I was home and they had me all to themselves with very few absences on my part. I made it through that period without worrying about the possibility of not having any pets.

Note here: I’ve also had fish, hamsters, lizards, birds, rabbits, ducks, chicks around the house, none of which appealed to me as a pet at this stage.

Not having any pets seemed like a good idea for about an hour. I’ve always had dogs around and cats here and there. I didn’t realize I took them for granted, but they were always there. Schmidt, Baroness, Pumpkin, Cookie, Sugar, Pepper, Salty, Guy, Tim – Dachshunds, English Setters, Pointer, Westies, mutt. black, white, brown, red. All kinds of dogs had stolen my heart. It was inevitable that I would see pics of all kinds of dogs.

My friends posted pets all the time on social media. I looked at every rescue dog and cat, waiting for one to click. I looked online for breeders and looked at mutts. I went back and forth. One day I went through the Craigslist pets for one more time and found several dogs I was interested in, all puppies. Yikes. I was going to make a big commitment to be patient, train and raise a baby although I’ve raised and help raise four children and eight grandchildren besides the other pets. To be honest, I found one online that turned out to be a puppy scam, but my bank stopped me. There was one I checked on that looked too much like Molly and I didn’t want to try and replace her and I remembered that I sometimes didn’t see her and tripped over her since she was black and hard to see at night. I remembered my age.

Anyway, I found a puppy that looked good and the price was pretty reasonable. I really wasn’t going to pay thousands for a puppy since I’ve never done that before. One dog I paid $10 for and she was a delight. Annabelle was a rescue puppy. Anyway, this puppy was meant to be. The owner called her an English Doodle, but, when I asked if she owned both the parents, she told me the mother was an English Setter and the father was a Standard Poodle, which makes her an English SetterDoodle. The ears were pumpkin colored, just like my husband’s old setter, Pumpkin, way back. I drove 1 1/2 hours with my almost 13 year old granddaughter to a small town I’d never heard of and met the owner and her young son. It was instant love. For some reason, I thought I’d change my mind, although I knew that was pretty unlikely.

I mean. That face! The pink spots on the nose, the color around the eyes. She felt like a soft cotton ball. I was all in.

Of course, she threw up after we driven a block. We stopped and took care of that and she slept in the back seat with my granddaughter on the way home. I really hadn’t thought about what I would do when I got her home because I didn’t want to get a lot of stuff and then not get the dog. She was 8 weeks old and the owners probably weren’t going to breed their dogs any more. I think they’d had two litters – not exactly a puppy mill. I think she’d only been around her littermates, her parents, chickens and goats and a little boy. Really a baby.

I had a small sack of the food she’d been eating and an extra bowl at home. Hmmm. We stopped and picked up a dog bed and a toy and headed home. I’m not a very good crate person, although I know they are wonderful and my kids have loved them. Annabelle was fine with the new addition. I’m sure she realized she was just a baby and they were about the same size.

The first night, I really was tired and didn’t want to deal with her crying so I just put her on the bed with me. Annabelle sleeps on her bed beside me until we both get up in the night and she joins me on the bed. Amazingly, the puppy did just fine. That was just plain luck.

Oh – her name. I decided that, because her ears are orange, she should have a name connected to my alma mater, OSU. I couldn’t think of a name that went with cowboys so I tried to think of any red-headed cowgirls. She’s Jessie after the red-headed cowgirl in Toy Story. Random, but it works. We like feisty girls in my house.

The first time I had to leave her, I put her in the bathroom and had to leave this pitiful scene.

I ended up getting a crate for $10 from a friend and left her in it a couple of times. Of course, Annabelle wasn’t crated, so it was a little confusing. I actually quit the crate, although it still sits in my office and Annabelle has slept in it a couple of times. Jessie is doing fine. She recognized her name right away and learned to come, although we need to work on that.

Right away she learned to sit and now shakes hands. Jessie is 16 weeks old now and has been to the vet for shots twice and to the beauty shop. She rides in the car sometimes and I finally got her to walk around the block on a leash for the first time this week. Before, she was just not going to do that. We start puppy classes this week. She’s doing ok on her housebreaking – not perfect, but good. Mostly, like a toddler, I need to take her out every time I stand up. She will wait in my office with Annabelle while I’m out and is just fine until I get back, which is amazing.

And, she’s grown. I was told she would be 40-45 pounds when grown, but we’ll see. Molly was supposed to be 50 pounds and she ended up 80. Jessie was 11 pounds at her first vet visit here and 20 pounds a month later. It’s ok. I’m all in.

She’s going to be a counter surfer unless I can get that to stop (I’m trying).

She and Annabelle chase each other all over the place. She has perked up the old dog who mainly slept and chased a squirrel here and there. Amazing. Because they are old and young, they both wear out and flop for naps. It balances out. She’s grown into a bigger baby. Like all my little ones, human and animal, I’m watching to see how she’ll look as an adult. Pretty cute so far.

Did I make the right choice? Of course. She’s more work, but she’s funny and fun and keeps me moving so that we might grow old together. She’s a bit of light in a world that seems so dark right now. She’s a bundle of love who warms my heart on the days I need a boost. The day the dogs went to the groomer, the house was deadly silent and I realized that I need to have some movement and noise, some responsibility, a living being to talk nonsense to and another warm body to cuddle.

I mean. That face.