Led by Zeppelin

Puppy. No puppy…. Gah, we got the puppy!

How is it that animals rule our lives? We follow certain paths based on the needs of these creatures that we choose to place in our lives. The simple addition of a pet affects every decision we make. Our deterministic, creature-driven lives.

Dusty and I have each had lots of dogs in the past:

Dusty’s dogs — Todd, Sammy, Winston, Chanelle, Candy.

Sarah’s dogs — Wimpy, Tuffy, Heidi, Sadie #1.

Blended family dogs — Pepper.

Together dogs — Rescued Sadie #2.

Now, together — puppy Zeppelin.

The struggle to get a puppy was real. Both of us love dogs, but we always talked about the ultimate freedom of travelling — free of responsibilities like mowing lawns, paying taxes, cleaning up dog poop, scheduling oil changes, paying bills, voting. Okay, okay, we recognize that we can’t completely escape some of these things…there will always be dog poop to pick up with a dog around. The tax thing…well, they’ll have to catch us!

When all the kids were small in 2003, I bought a purebred Great Dane and fittingly named her Pepper for two reasons: 1) she was a beautiful salt-and-pepper harlequin dog and 2) we met the breeders to pick her up at the Pepper Pod restaurant in Hudson, Colorado. She was the best.dog.ever! I mean, I thought she was the best dog I ever had, but at some point in my life I realized that she was the best dog-mother the kids ever had. Pepper grew up with the kids, cared less about me, and cared more about replacing me as the matriarch in their lives. She existed for her kids, not for me. Pepper’s constant presence wherever the kids were assured me that they would be protected by her guardianship…ain’t nobody was gonna mess with a protective Great Dane, even if she was just a big sappy lover.

When Dusty moved in with our little family, he wanted to adopt another dog, so we later rescued and welcomed the unrelenting, energetic, overbearing, loving, hyperactive Sadie #2 to the mix. Since Sadie was a rescue, we’re unclear about her first year of life, but she’s a beautiful Pointer, likely mixed with a Pit Bull. Pepper showed her the ropes of how to be a dog in the family, and Dusty made sure she knew who was alpha in the house. Pepper has since crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, but Sadie is still around and has turned into, as Dusty says, a big patsy. (Sadie being a big patsy is all Dusty’s making, which is important information to have for the remainder of this story.) Her graying fur, stiff joints, and long naps have replaced the raucous puppy that wore us out. Thankfully, this ole gal is here to show Zeppelin the ropes.

Why in the hell would we get another dog when we have plans to travel? We sure weren’t going to, but unbeknownst to us, our decision was made two years ago before we even knew about this free-wheeling travelling life plan. During preliminary travel talks, we agreed the ‘no new puppy’ route would be best for quite a few years.

Enter my daughter, Sydney.

Two years ago, Sydney got a puppy, a little Texas Heeler. Named “Sister,” the pup acclimated quickly to her new life leading an 18-year-old human into adulthood. Sydney just has a way with animals, and before long, Sister became an ideal dog — loyal, trustworthy, intelligent, adoring. From the moment we met that phenomenal pup, Dusty said, “If that dog ever has puppies, we need one of them.” He sort of said it in passing. Well, maybe he intuited it. Either way, I heard it. And, talk about a big patsy, I knew Dusty meant it, even if he tried to take it back.

Low and behold, in August of 2017, I got a call from Sydney to inform me that Sister was going to have pups after an excursion to the neighbor Australian Shepherd’s house of indiscretions. The Heeler-Aussie pups would be ready by Thanksgiving! When I got the ‘you’re going to be a puppy grandma’ call, Dusty was out of town so I texted him that Sister was having puppies, and he knew exactly what that meant. He tried to pretend he didn’t know what he was in for, but my big patsy loves little puppies.

We hedged. A lot. We tried to talk ourselves out of it. Grrrr, to no avail! The timing of getting a puppy was not perfect, but I also knew this would probably be the only litter of pups for Sister. Not only that, but there are so many big life changes coming up that I also wanted to keep a little memento that reminds me of my Sydney, my favorite daughter, my sweet animal whisperer offspring. Not to be hyperbolic or anything, but this heroic puppy would be the only connection to my only daughter and my only means of mothering when the rest of my life is about to turn upside down into homelessness and loss of employment and an empty nest.

If you were to ask Dusty, his excuse for accepting a new puppy into our life would be for my benefit, but certainly not his. Sydney’s already out of the house; Connor is leaving for college; Westin lives with his dad nearby. Who would I have left to nurture if not a puppy? Of course, Dusty cares so much for my need to nurture something that he was willing to take one for the Writer&Rider team by getting a puppy…for my sake. Never mind the fact that my scruffy mountain man is (again) a big patsy and loves puppies! (For anyone who doubts this, contact me for a video of Dusty’s behavior around a puppy.) I’m so glad he’s around to nurture my nurture.

There was no turning back after meeting the dream-breed-for-cattle-herding pups over Thanksgiving. Of course, there’s absolutely no reason for Dusty or me to have a cattle dog, but no person of sound mind can turn down this adorable of a puppy! The final decision came down to two pups, so I left it up to Dusty and Connor (the 17-year-old who says he wants a yard full of Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernards, and Great Danes but, coincidentally, doesn’t like picking up dog poop). Anyway, they chose this little dude, whose name at the time was Kujo.

Well, this little guy is the first puppy Dusty and I have ever gotten together. Awe, our first puppy! So when we re-named him, we had to put aside our differences to come up with something mutually agreeable. History has proven, without a doubt, that we have very different preferences on names, so the challenge was real and present. (I honestly don’t know what he’s thinking sometimes, but obviously he’s not understanding how right I am.) Each of us tossed out names that we’ve tossed out in the past during casual-turned-contentious name conversations about fictitious characters in our life. Clearly, a new tactic needed to be applied.

So I suggested a name linked to something unique to us or our relationship, something that no one else can claim for the same reason. Aha! Dusty loves (I mean loves) music, especially classic rock, and on our first date we ended our late, Thursday-night rendezvous at a concert with an extremely talented lesbian cover band called Lez Zeppelin. The music was awesome, the company was a hoot, and the night was memorable, to say the least. (That night led to this upcoming life of homelessness for a couple armed with dogs and dreams.) When I hastily blurted out the name ‘Zeppelin,’ there was no argument! In fact, there was, instead, an immediate, “Yes! Oh my god, that’s perfect!” I already had my figurative fists in the air ready to fight when I had to talk myself down after this unanticipated, agreeable response.

So Zeppelin he is — loyal, athletic, goal-driven, and intelligent. He loves his humans and has asserted his dual purpose in life: 1) to herd Dusty and me through all our adventures and 2) to create peace in the world through the game of fetch. Now every single one of our vagabonding plans is affected by this little dude, and every decision we make is impacted by his existence. Zeppelin doesn’t even know his power, but he proves, yet again, how animals guide us in our decisions. The fact that we chose to have Zeppelin in our lives will take us down unique, pet-driven paths. And now our path is Led by Zeppelin.

Coming Summer 2018…Led by Zeppelin on Twitter and Instagram! Follow Zeppelin’s adventures through the U.S., hopefully via kennel on motorcycle!

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