I want to start by thanking everyone for their kind words and thoughts last week as our family was grieving the loss of Nittany. We were overwhelmed with how many people reached out to share with us their thoughts and memories of Nittany. It did not take us long to realize that our family and friends may actually have preferred the company of Nittany over the company of us…and I really don’t blame you. Nittany was by far the coolest member of our family.
We’ve gone through a lot of the stages of grief and will continue to for a long time, if not forever, but there are more smiles and laughs than tears and for that I am grateful. We are remembering the good times, the crazy antics and just trying to get used to the new norm of being a family of three. The one that is probably taking the new family dynamics the hardest is Paterno. Important Note: Paterno is our epileptic, soon to be 10-year-old, golden retriever that we rescued from the Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue when he was going to be killed by his owner because he had a birth defect and one deformed paw. Paterno is suddenly in the family spotlight and we aren’t sure if he is quite ready for that responsibility. I will start the next thought by saying we were not neglecting Paterno in any way, he was always healthy and well fed, but for the past several months Nittany and her health have been an all-consuming part of our lives. This allowed Paterno to sneak under the radar and a couple balls got dropped. While going through medical records we realized he was a little late on some vaccines (not really the important ones) and he was possibly getting a little pudgy because he was (not so) secretly eating the food Nittany would leave in her bowl. We also realized we couldn’t exactly put our finger on the last time he was groomed. So, as the spotlight shifted we began “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever.” Paterno was groomed within the week and vet appointments set to get him update-to-date on vaccines and get a good overall physical from the vet. The last piece of “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” was to work on his physical stamina. Paterno is not the most athletic dog in the world (having three good paws on one mediocre paw keeps expectations low) but we decided that some sort of regular physical exercise would do him good. So daily walks commenced. For the last week and a half the family has set out on family walks every night (except Sunday because, you know, that’s the day of rest). Each day we have lengthened the walk and we are proud to announce we might be up to a half a mile. Paterno is actually much more excited about the walks than the first couple days and his stamina is improving daily. We do have a small issue with his bad paw bleeding from where he rubs it on the cement, but we are working on it. All in all I feel like “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” is progressing very smoothly.
As Paterno has transitioned to the top dog in the house we have noticed some peculiar characteristics that we may not have fully embraced in the past. It did not take us long to realize that Paterno is not your average dog and, in fact, there are times when we question if he is actually a dog. Apparently his dog like characteristics were just him mimicking everything that Nittany was doing and in reality we had never taught him how to be a real dog. I suppose this is very similar to what happens to parents and their second child. You spend all your time and effort on your first child making sure everything is perfect and by the time you get to the second one you are just too tired to really care and you just figure it will all turn out okay. Paterno has never been a barker, in the past his barking was always instigated by Nittany. In the past week and a half he hasn’t made a single sound. It’s like he’s a dog mime. The silence is a little creepy and it’s taking a little time to get used to. He does not ask to go outside or let us know when he is hungry. If he needs either of these things he just silently lays in the kitchen until one of us passes through and guesses what he wants. He does not greet you when you come home or really acknowledge your existence at all. His complete lack of interest in interacting with us actually had us Googling the symptoms of autism in dogs (on a positive note we think we have ruled this out). He is not excited by the arrival of delivery food and just lays quietly until the food has been paid for, we’ve had a nice conversation with the delivery man, and we get the food on to plates. At this point he may come over to investigate further, but if he’s really comfortable where he’s laying he probably won’t. Paterno also has no interest in other dogs. On a recent walk we must have passed 10-15 dogs on one block and he didn’t glance at any of them. The dogs were barking and racing up and down their yards trying to get his attention and he just moseyed by. A guard dog Paterno is not. Nittany did not let anyone come within a quarter mile radius of our house without her alerting us to their presence. If someone broke in to our house Paterno would simply leave us to join their family, all Dug style from Up.
There is a ton of adjustment going on in our family right now and I think we will all get in to the groove of the new normal but I have my doubts that Paterno will ever turn in to a real dog, and I guess that is our new norm.