The Puppy and the Toilet Brush

What’s the last present that brought you unlimited joy?

Two weeks before Christmas, Russ and I climbed into the zombie truck and took a ride to Bishop, California. We aired up the tires, stashed emergency items under the seats, and told people where we were going. A big storm was predicted for that weekend, clogging up Donner Pass with snow and inundating the Reno area with rain.

We could have waited another weekend, but we’d already postponed this trip due to lack of funds. It was now or never.

My presents are rarely high-dollar. May through July get expensive: we pack in Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays for my husband and both kids, and my $150 massage license renewal into three months. By the time October rolls around, there isn’t much left; if there is, it’s used for canning season and stocking up for winter. So, this year’s birthday and Christmas were lumped together. And it was the most expensive present for anyone in the family.

Ripley was born on my birthday. Her mother is German Shepherd, her father a leopard Catahoula, both weighing 70 pounds.


Each moment with her has been either joy or exasperation. Hot or cold. Because she has two speeds: sleeping or psycho. Her nicknames include Psycho Puppy, Monster, or Turd Bucket, depending on what she has just done. And she answers to all of them.

Gozer, our almost-four-year-old German Shepherd, is a great big brother. He rarely loses patience with her and loves to have a playmate. We didn’t expect such tolerance. Whenever Ripley is in Psycho Puppy mode, we can tell Gozer, “Hey, take the kid outside.” And he’ll lead her out into the yard to roughhouse.


She loves toys, and we’ve bought a few for her, but her favorite is a toilet brush that she discovered on her second day home. And we let her have it because it was relatively clean, the damage was already done, and there were worse things she could be chewing on. (We do live on a farm.) Soon her second-favorite toy, a stick with yarn wrapped around it, got merged with the brush. She recently discovered that she can chase my 17-year-old son with the brush and he will run. It’s hilarious to watch this just-over-20-lb puppy chase an almost-grown kid around the yard because he doesn’t want to touch the brush.

Yesterday, while purchasing rabbit and chicken pellets at Green’s Feed, we also purchased a basted pork bone. I know, we should have bought three, for all three dogs. But I wanted to save the extra $20 for Zambia.

The bone went first to Ripley as Gozer looked on, an injured expression on his face. He and Tater got storebought bacon-Playdough-type treats. But it didn’t take long for Gozer to steal the bone. Ripley was not happy with that. She knew it had been given to her first. As Gozer lay on the floor, gnawing the bone, Ripley barked. She’d whine, look to us for help, then bark again. Finally, she decided to negotiate. Running outside, she grabbed her beloved toilet brush and dropped it beside Gozer. Then she barked, nudged the brush closer, and barked again.

Such a selfless offer. I wonder why Gozer didn’t want the toilet brush instead of the bone?

What gift have you received which has brought joy? I want to hear about it!


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