By Patty Hoffman
You might be surprised to know that my idea for a series of children’s stories about a funny little dog came to me before darling and silly Happy came into my life — or that I’d picked out Happy’s name before he was even born or had any idea what gender my puppy would be.
All I knew was how I felt about getting a puppy of my very own — Happy — and that I was feeling inspired to write children’s stories about a dog even before I knew what type of dog my Happy would be.
January of 2018 was rough. My Multiple Sclerosis was pretty bad and on top of that, my left hip was in dire need of replacement. The osteoarthritis in that hip was what doctors call “bone on bone” and I was in constant pain. It felt excruciating for me even to walk from the car to our apartment. Steps were a nightmare. Standing was a nightmare. Sleeping, whenever I was able to do it, was literally a nightmare. I had dark and anxious dreams anticipating hip replacement surgery in February.
I knew having hip replacement surgery would be a bigger deal for me than it is for most people in their fifties. I have MS-related nerve damage and it complicates many health issues.
Although I’d had cats in the past, I’d never had a dog of my own. My husband, Rob, isn’t a cat person and he convinced me to consider dog ownership. Growing up, my family had a few dogs for short periods of time but they never were a good fit for our family and always went “to live on a farm.” So I had it in my mind that owning a dog would take much more effort and responsibility than owning a cat.
We began our search for a dog at our local animal shelter. It is an excellent resource and I know many people who have adopted wonderful pets from it. Rob and I walked around the shelter and said hello to all of the dogs. I petted every dog who would let me. They were mostly large, many were barking, and some looked quite anxious about their circumstances. I felt sad for them but given my health issues and never having had a dog family member of my own, I worried these dogs wouldn’t be a good fit. If I was going to bond with an animal and the animal was going to bond with me, I wanted it to be a close relationship that would last for the animal’s entire life.
The dogs at the shelter appeared as though they would require more exercise than I would be able to provide. Also, I feared I would be unable to meet their social and training needs due to my inexperience with dogs. Somewhat sadly, Rob and I decided adopting a dog from a shelter wasn’t the right choice for us.
Given my physical limitations, I thought I needed a dog who was more of a couch potato and who wouldn’t be too depressed if I wasn’t able to take him for long walks every day. I was committed to walking as much as I could and I knew walking a dog could be a good way to keep me on track with my rehab after my surgery. But, I didn’t want a puppy who needed to walk several miles each day, or one who was jumpy and might knock me down during play.
I started researching dogs via Google and YouTube. That’s when I came across Happy’s breed — the Coton de Tulear. Coton de Tulears are from Madagascar and were considered royal dogs there for many years. Only royalty were allowed to own them. I thought the dogs were adorable but what really sold me on the breed was the charming personality and how brightly that personality shone through on every video I watched.
Coton de Tulears are sometimes called Clown Dogs because they are silly and like to play games and respond to tricks even more than many other dog breeds. They are smart and easy to train. Also, they have such a happy personality that they are sometimes called Antidepressant Dogs because, “it is impossible to be unhappy when you are around a Coton de Tulear.”
Although Coton de Tulears are sometimes said to have a big-dog personality in a small-dog body, they require less daily exercise than most breeds. They love to nap and are prone to longevity. They can keep up with a hike, if their owner is more active… but they don’t have to be very active in order to stay happy and healthy. Perhaps best of all, Coton de Tulears are highly empathic and make excellent companions.
I found a breeder in Michigan who had a litter due in early March and I sent a deposit on a Coton de Tulear puppy the week before my surgery on Valentine’s Day 2018. I knew when I sent in my check that I’d be naming my puppy Happy whether it was a boy or a girl. I knew Happy would be my muse and best friend forever. But I didn’t know that I’d actually get a puppy in the March litter. I might have to wait another six to eight months for my puppy. I was the fourth person to send in a deposit and the breeder said my chance of getting a pup depended on how many were born.
On March 10 I received a text message that three puppies had arrived and they were all healthy, two girls and one boy. The breeder wasn’t sure if I would get a puppy but she was hopeful on my account because she knew how ready I was. All three of the people who had put down deposits ahead of me had requested female puppies. I hadn’t specified gender. I didn’t care.
The breeder had to make sure that everyone who had put down a deposit ahead of me really wanted a girl and was willing to wait for the next litter. Fortunately, nobody who’d put down a deposit ahead of us wanted our boy, Happy.
We are certain that he is absolutely the best dog ever. We visited him for the first time when his eyes opened at two weeks.
It was love at first sight for all of us.
I feel incredibly blessed to spend my days with Happy. He is always at my side. He came to live with us when he was eight weeks old and I’ve never gone to the bathroom alone since then!