Miss Independent

My little girl is growing up.  Yes, it’s totally cliché – bad when voiced and worse when written, but it’s true. Galen will turn two in October, and according to the famed Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, that means she’s pushing 21.

A post on Milan’s blog states that the oft-cited “multiply by seven” rule to determine a dog’s age is a myth. Apparently, dogs mature fastest in their first two years and then age an average of four human years each year thereafter.  Admittedly, I was one of the misguided. I thought Galen was just now entering her teen years, but apparently we’ve already lived through them. I can only hope that when my human daughters reach those potentially tumultuous years that they navigate them with as much grace and as little drama as Galen did.

Galen’s physical size exploded seemingly overnight.  It shouldn’t have come as a surprise – all large dogs grow quickly – but still, the transformation from soft, sweet-smelling puppy to full-grown dog happened much too fast.

Galen entered our lives at eight weeks old, the size of an adult Chihuahua, and in less than nine months she was pushing 50 pounds, her legs had grown long and slender, her snout pushed forward, and her blue merle coat had lightened. I love that the bronze fur that topped her floppy ears as a puppy still covers them today.

Galen, about 13 weeks old, on the two-inch thick dog bed in our kitchen.

However, the biggest change from Galen then to Galen now is in her personality. She came to us so needy. I spent a good many hours over the course of a good many weeks sitting on a two-inch thick dog bed on our kitchen’s hardwood floor; Galen would curl up on my lap and gnaw a bone, chew her stuffed hedgehog, or nibble on my fingers with her teeny razor-sharp teeth. She needed human contact in a way that our previous dog, Gryffin, rarely seemed to want. Gryffin had entered our lives as an aloof puppy, and he remained that way his entire life. My husband and I took to calling Galen the anti-Gryffin.

Fast forward 22 months and in many ways Galen has taken on the personality of the brother she never knew. As I write this post, I’d love to say that she is curled up by my feet or sleeping soundly on the rug steps from my desk, a Norman Rockwell vision of the writer and her best friend. But Galen’s nowhere to be seen, because she has decided she is a yard dog. She spends her days sitting on our deck surveying the backyard or lying on the driveway waiting for either the postman – he usually tosses her a treat – or the school bus.

Yet even with this new-found independence, Galen still welcomes the girls home as only the most submissive dog in the world can:  tail wagging, rump pointing to the sky, head reaching to the ground, right ear scraping the driveway, whole body inching forward while sounds that resemble a horse’s whinny escape her mouth.

I don’t expect Galen’s submissive nature to subside in her lifetime, but I am enjoying watching her grow from needy puppy to independent adult. I can’t read her mind – though I attempt to all the time – but I see her autonomy as a sign she’s happy and secure in the love my family has for her. I hope to see a similar arc of growth and confidence take shape in my daughters.

We just have to survive their teenage years.

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