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Day 296: Nature vs nurture

Updated: Jan 8, 2022


Puzzle has been with me for 15 1/2 years.  We’ve been through multiple moves, multiple marriages, and several boyfriends.  He’s seen me at my best and my worst and I’m pretty sure he’s loved me the same throughout.

He’s not your typical cat.  He’s actually more like a dog in how he behaves and the affection he seeks.  Diagnosed with kitty leukemia nearly 10 years ago, Puzzle is a true fighter having been recently diagnosed with kitty cancer.  At this age, one of those diseases will extinguish his light…but until then, he’s still kicking it like a magical unicorn.

I never thought I would love a pet as much as Puzzle, until we got Sheba.  She stole my heart.  She reminds me of two dogs I had as a child, Fred and Lassie.  Both let me do whatever I wanted to them (including dressing Fred in baby clothes and pushing him in a stroller…hey, I was 4!)…were quick learners…gentle yet protective souls…and they loved me.

Sheba has all those qualities and a heart filled with so much love looking at her sometimes makes me cry.  Seriously.

She knows the difference between a dog and a puppy…between an adult and a child…and she adjusts her behavior accordingly.  She can play hard and fierce with an adult or older dog or be soft and gentle with children and puppies.  She is truly the most amazing dog I’ve ever known…and possibly the best pet I’ve ever had.

Having experienced this feeling of immense affection for two pets, I figured it would be no different for our newest family member.  Solomon is…well, challenging.

After we agreed to adopt him, we learned that he was an only pup.  Meaning, he was the sole pup in the litter so he didn’t grow up with siblings.  Instead, he grew up surrounded by mature bulldogs, most of them male. 

Given his behavior I’m guessing Solomon had to mature quickly and learn to defend himself from his surroundings.  I have no doubt he was loved and cared for but the two pups (Sheba & Solomon) couldn’t be more different in their temperament, at least at this point.

Solomon hates to be laid on his back.  This is a huge warning sign in a puppy signaling distrust….and that sums him up to a tee.

On the ride home, he was cute but stiff.  Keeping his muscles tensed and his legs out straight as if protecting himself from oncoming danger.  This tension stayed with him most of the night until he finally started to relax a little around bedtime.  I really only noticed the tension when I finally felt his little muscles relax…followed by a deep sigh.  It broke my heart.

To have had a puppy in Sheba that was so trusting…so loving…so happy…and to now have Solomon who is leary…slightly aggressive…guarded…well, it’s hard.  As I sat at the table this morning holding Solomon, I again felt his little muscles relax and heard the deep sigh.  I looked over at Sheba who was laying nearby on the floor and started to cry.

It’s obvious how much she loves Solomon, regardless of how often he bites her…barks at her…growls at her.  She continues to gently play with him…wrestle with him in a playful manner…and follow him around softly nudging him with her nose.  She even taught him how to use the dog door last night…and he’s been using it, at least to come back inside.  Now, if she could just teach him to go outside before peeing or pooping…

But despite all her love for him, I don’t love him like I did Puzzle or Sheba, at least not yet.  I see his potential…maybe…but feel the energetic disruption.

I’m hopeful that his little puppy heart will start to melt — and stay melted — but I’m worried that we made a mistake bringing another puppy into the home.  That the amount of time and effort it will take to properly socialize Solomon…to build his confidence and trust…is valuable time and love that we’ll be taking from Sheba.  And that makes my heart hurt.

I hope she understands…she seems to…but it’s impossible to know.  It’s hard to miss how much this little guy needs love, though.  And just when I think “What have we done??”, he walks over to me and raises his paw to be picked up.  I reach down and he nuzzles himself into my neck.  I whisper “I love you, Solomon”  into his ear and he lets out one of those deep sighs and his little muscles relax.

While I don’t love Solomon like I do Sheba or Puzzle, yet, maybe the lesson here is to learn to.  To witness the love Sheba has for him and to trust that she sees the puppy potential that I want to see.  To trust that he was put in our home for a reason and with enough nurturing will become another lovely…gentle…happy pet.

It’ll be a try experiment in nature vs nurture and the affects of love.


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