I was in the middle of having a private lesson for two ladies in Saburtalo when my phone rang. “Raughley, you have to help me.”
“What’s up, Jenni?”
“I think I’m about to adopt a puppy.”
I’m a dog person. Ever since I was just a little kid I’ve wanted a dog. When I was five we got Tilly from the shelter in Baltimore. Tilly was certainly the most noble, kind, and patient dog I’ve ever known. I took her to my kindergarten class for show-and-tell. She pooped all over the back of the Volvo station wagon and then ran across the laps of all my classmates, freaking some out, delighting others.
Tilly was a member of my family for 17 years. That’s right 17! By the end her systems were failing her. The nerves in her hindquarters were frayed and dying leading to a loss of bowel and bladder control. Even more sadly, sometimes her back legs would just go out from under her. She had pretty bad arthritis, chronic ear infections, and mild-sever blindness and deafness. When I was 22 my family had to put her to sleep.
Lucy came onto the stage next. She’s a lovely dog, to be sure, but boy is she a trouble-maker! She’ll eat anything that isn’t nailed down, and some of the things that are to boot. But she’s a great companion for my mom and there’s nothing sweeter than coming home to find the two of them sprawled on the couch together, mom reading, and Lucy snuggling/keeping watch.
Meanwhile, I’m living here in Tbilisi, dogless. I can’t count the number of times I’ve caught myself daydreaming of snatching a puppy off the streets. When, how, and with what money could you possibly take care of a puppy, you fool? I have to remind myself every time.
And then Jenni came to Georgia.
Jenni and I worked together at CTY this summer and when she expressed interest in coming to Georgia this fall, I put her in touch with my people. She got hired right away (no surprises there) and quickly found herself jetting halfway around the world to come live and work in a foreign country that most Americans have never heard of.
For her first two weeks or so, Jenni was crashing on my couch while she found an apartment. This was, of course, a great pleasure for Morgan and I, but it was also a great danger. As we wandered around the city, Jenni and I frequently found our conversation turning to the possibility of adopting stray puppies and kittens. We wandered in and out of petshops and wistfully admired the cute packs that roamed Kolmeurneoba Square (Farmers’ Union Square) across from my house. We even spent one rainy evening chatting on the balcony and watching some dogs play below us.
Fast forward a few weeks to the phone call that opened this post.
“I think I’m about to adopt a puppy,” Jenni said.
Taken aback, but not surprised, I did my best to talk Jenni out of taking a puppy off the street. She had been leaving work one night and heard some crying coming from near the dumpster. Two puppies were staggering around on the ground, too young to easily walk.
“So, I was petting one, and then he fell asleep on my chest, and then–“
“You picked him up? I can see I’ve lost this battle already.” But in reality there was no battle. I think Jenni knew that calling Raughley “The Enabler” Nuzzi was a surefire way to get some support for a fellow puppy-hopeful. She was right. I agreed to meet her at Smart to get some supplies and figure out what to do with this puppy.
As we shopped for small blankets and dog food, I laid out some tough-love ground rules.
1) Take care of the puppy for a few days, then bring him to the shelter.
2) No naming the puppy (if you name him, you can never give him up).
3) NO NAMING THE PUPPY.
I told Jenni she could only call the puppy “Puppy,” or its equivalent in Georgian. Due to my misremembering how to say puppy in Georgian, we accidentally named him Kitten.
We took the puppy to her house and began to prepare his new temporary home for him. While holding him, I noticed that he was crawling with fleas. It was actually kinda disgusting. They were weaving in and out of his nostrils and across his eyes. They were in his ears and under his “armpits.” Across his back and along his tail.
So, that Thursday night Jenni and I spent the better part of two hours washing, rinsing, and flea-picking our needy little puppy. He struggled at first, but pretty soon the warm-water massage that is nit-picking lulled him to sleep in our arms as we removed probably 90+% of the fleas that plagued him. Not a bad effort, if you ask me!
He went nuts for his lamb flavored dog food and dove right in, literally. He walked right onto his little plate, flipping it up and spilling on the floor. We didn’t know where to put him for the night, though. He still had some fleas and we didn’t want to give Jenni an infestation. The perfect solution? We made a nest of blankets in Jenni’s shower!
I walked home, with a promise to watch the puppy the following morning while Jenni was at work. Pauli and Vivien were visiting and they could take care of him for a few hours in the afternoon when I had work, I figured.
The next morning, Jenni came by with one blanket, some dogfood, a few bowls, and a puppy. She looked tired.
“I didn’t sleep. He wouldn’t stop crying,” Jenni explained. Apparently, once he had woken up, Kitten had been alone and distraught. He started crying and howling until Jenni came into the bathroom to keep him company. If she held him, he calmed down, if not, he wailed. Also, he had pooped literally everywhere. Then, as he had with his food the previous night, he stumbled through it and spread it all around.
So, with that in mind, I took Kitten for the day. I found the same problem to be true: Putting him down meant instant puppy-tears. We guessed that this little guy was too young to be away from his mother and he needed to be held close and feel the warmth of another body.
Pauli helped me rig a fake mother for the puppy. We filled a plastic bottle with hot water, wrapped it in a blanket and squished it into a bowl. We then made a nest of the rest of the bowl for the needy puppy. I held the puppy, bowl and all, until he fell asleep. Gently tucking him in, I oh-so-carefully laid him on the ground by the stove.
When he woke up, he would either sit up in his bowl or, struggling, flop out of it. He’d cry and howl. Once, he reared back to let out a strong puppy howl, but his vocal cords didn’t cooperate and so he mimed howling. It was possibly the cutest thing ever.
We noticed that Puppy had a lot of mucus in one of his eyes. It was even kinda crusted shut. Googling “Mucus in Puppy Eyes” gave me two possibilities: Conjunctivitis or Brain Damage. We hoped for the former.
Pauli, Vivien, and Morgan all pitched in that day, this despite Morgan’s flu. She took him out to use the toilet and he was the talk of the street! Everyone commented on how cute he was and how healthy he looked, potential brain damage aside. He didn’t use the bathroom, though. Well, not until he got back into the kitchen, anyway. Then he was a real poop-champion.
Jenni and I came home from work and she took a little nap while the puppy was sleeping. She gathered up his bowl and other accoutrements and brought him home again for another sleepless night of crying and howling and pooping.
We were planning on taking him to the shelter the following morning, but it sounded like a long shot. I began reaching out to my friends in Georgia to see if anyone could adopt him.
It was looking bleak. Everyone wants a puppy, in theory, but no one has time/space for him. He’s too young to be left alone, or Jenni and I would’ve gladly kept him. After a dozen or two fruitless searches for a new home, I had nearly given up.
Then my former student Elene agreed to take him. She would pick him up the next afternoon and take him to the village in Kakheti! She was over the moon about him and Jenni and I were thrilled that he had found a good home. From dumpster to Kakhetian village in 36 hours. Not a bad rags-to-riches if you ask me!
Elene whisked Kitten away and immediately fell in love. “Raughley, help me think of a name for him,” she asked. This was against rules 2 and 3, but it seemed fitting at this juncture. I consulted Jenni, and we decided that Elene should call him ნიდი. Needy the puppy.
Two months have passed since Elene adopted Needy. I haven’t seen him since. I get occasional adorable updates from her about his growth: “He’s permanently got a great mood, keeps playing and jumping, he just makes all of my mornings be fantastic! Love him much!!!! I mean Needy Jenni Stobiecki Raughley Nuzzi”.
Yes, I am jealous.
I asked Elene to post some photos of the growing Needy. She obliged, and my god! He’s hardly recognizable! Our Needy’s all grown up!