IMG_6668Just right now, and right out of the blue, my neighbor Pam dropped off a Christmas gift on my front step. When I opened the festive bag, I discovered an adorable stuffed turtle and a beautiful little book entitled, “Really Important Stuff My Dog has Taught Me.”

Thrilled and touched, I flipped through it briefly before deciding that I would read it together with William tonight. But it’s got me thinking about how much I have learned from Fitz in the past year and how much he’s changed our lives. And so, for this last column of the year (I’ll miss next week because I’ll be in Canada with my family), I will write once again about my beautiful baby-dog, Fitzgerald.

Right now, he is curled up beside me, occasionally putting his chin on my laptop for extra warmth. We are on the bed in the basement bedroom, where I have been frequently working over the past 11 months. If you don’t find us here, we are on the bed in the master bedroom.

Why am I working on the bed where I am slowly developing carpal tunnel as a result? Because how do you resist a little puppy who only wants to be beside you all morning? If I’m at the desk, he’ll ask to come up on my lap by putting his paws on my legs. This worked well when he was a baby, but now that he’s a big 23 pounds, he only fits if I keep him anchored with one arm around him. But one-handed typing? Slow going, people.

The other big accommodation we’ve made is we allow Fitz to sleep with us at night. I’d like to say William had some say in this matter, but the first time Fitz and I had a nap together, I realized it was the best thing in the whole entire world. So nearly every night, once I’m in bed reading, William presents Fitzi to me like a gift, where he immediately dives under the covers and cuddles right next to me.

Incidentally, the word “cuddle” used to make me cringe. Made me think of needy boyfriends that you really want to break up with but don’t know how. Now, because of Fitz, doesn’t bother me a bit.

I’d like to say that Fitz sleeps like a stone, but oh no. He moves, he farts, he stretches, he scratches, he dreams, he snores and has a tendency to sleep diagonally. He also likes to cuddle against me, but straight-arm and -leg William whereupon he pricks his back with his claws. But William loves him so much, he puts up with it.

That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned from Fitz: what it’s like to have a baby with William. When I moved to Kentucky, my stepdaughter Gabrielle was already 4 and then, of course, William and I weren’t ever able to have a baby of our own. And so this has been the next best thing. And getting to hear William, my strict, serious William, talk babytalk? Watch him say goodbye in the mornings in goo-goo voice? See the way he holds Fitz protectively on his lap every evening? That’s some good stuff for the heart right there.

The night sky has been another thing Fitz has helped me rediscover. Around 8 p.m. each night, Fitz develops what my friend Hannah has coined “the Zoomies,” which involves him barking, biting, running at full speed and, in general, being a very, very bad boy. So often we’ll take him out at night so he can run his energy off. This has resulted in me running and walking around our yard hundreds of times over the past 11 months and, in the process, remembering just how beautiful a clear, starry sky is.

Fitz has also taught me how much I love Swiffers. I’d never had one before him, but now? It’s my new best friend. I mean, come on, how light is that thing? And how well does it round corners? And how good does that Swiffer juice work when you use the wet pads? It’s a bloody dream after the lunky, stinky mop I’d been using up until then.

Of course, Fitz has also taught me that I just can’t keep the house clean like I did before. The floor? It’s getting scratched. The couch? Has hair on it. But, honestly, I don’t really care. I mean, who were we saving the house for anyway? Imaginary company?

Lastly, Fitz has taught me how pure and rich pet love feels. It’s uncomplicated, big and just so sweet. So I wish you a Merry Christmas, dear readers. I hope you receive gifts that are as great as the one we’ve enjoyed all year. Be safe and eat lots.

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