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Furry Tails: Gotcha Forever

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A 12-week-old, 14-pound, mixed breed puppy.

Brown fur with white patches on her chest and toes. A long tail and black whiskers. Piercing eyes the color of honey.

A rambunctious, mischievous, stubborn, relentless handful.

One year ago today, I adopted that puppy. What a year it has been. Equal parts wonderful and challenging.

But most of all, a fantastic adventure.

Today marks one year since JJ's Gotcha Day. The day she found a forever home with me. Who knew I'd need her as much as she needed me?

I named her JJ because her foster mom called her Joy. I added a flower name to the front of it because all my dogs have been flowers – Rosie the beagle, Camellia the golden retriever, and now Jasmine the mutt. Put Jasmine and Joy together and you get JJ.

(Photo Credit: Heather Lang)

Her name she took to right away; but potty training on the other hand, not so much. Oh, yes, there were a ton of accidents, but nothing some urine destroying carpet cleaner and a heavy-duty brush couldn't take care of. Frustrating at the time, but hard work and persistence paid off.

JJ knows the basics – "SIT," "DOWN," and others like the "Look" and "Touch" commands. She also loves the "Treat Lady," which is what the teacher of our obedience classes calls herself!

(Photo Credit: Heather Lang)

JJ has also found a favorite spot in the house. Perched on the arm of the loveseat, which is nearly worn now, she spends countless hours a day looking out of the living room window. Sure, you could call her the Neighborhood Watch; but really, she's more like the Neighborhood Neb-Nose, as we say here in Pittsburgh.

Being a neb-nose is just the start of what puts her on Santa's naughty list though. Barking at birds, deer, other dogs, the delivery driver, the mailman, anyone really. She knows her territory and she's here to stand her ground, one loud "WOOF" at a time. Unless she's down the street romping around with her best puppy friend, Oreo, the black lab-boxer mix.

Her favorite game is definitely Finders Keepers. Socks, slippers eyeglass cases, stuffed animals. If she finds it, she takes it, making her getaway, teasing all the while, "Come chase me!" Yes, because she's so very starved for attention (you can't see my eye roll). It takes a bribe of Milk Bones or Cheerios to get my Harry Potter collectibles back. Oh, she's chewed many of those too (you can't see my angry face).

Perhaps her sneakiest trick is the kitchen counter sneak. A spot of gravy, a tiny bit of sauce, a crumble of bread. If it's there, JJ's radar turns on and she's suddenly peering over the counter, stretching like a contortionist to lick it up. Who knew a dog could bend that way! But I suppose for a drop of gravy, most dogs will do anything.

(Photo Credit: Heather Lang)

But it's not about the potty training or the obedience classes, the zoomies she runs nightly around the house, or the tiny bone-shaped treats she loves so much.

JJ's presence means so much more.

Her personality may be larger than life, but the best parts of her are wrapped up in the little moments. The nudges with a toy in her month – "Play with me, please!" Watching her sleep on her pillow. The puppydog eyes she flashes when she begs for food. How excited she gets when she wants to play with a group of kids. The wet kisses and ear nibbles that she loves to give. Her tail wag, her whines and her ear wiggles.

The biggest one for me though is her warmth. It radiates. It calms. It feels like home. When she falls asleep beside you or lays her head on your lap, there's no more soothing presence.

One year ago, I adopted JJ from a rescue in Homestead. One year later, with all of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, the East Coast, our entire nation in self-isolation because of a horrific pandemic, she's rescuing me. Calming my anxieties, making me laugh, getting me outside for fresh air and sunshine, and warming my heart when it all gets to be just a little too much.

Who would have thought one little creature could do so much. But she's done that for me and so much more.

(Photo Credit: Heather Lang)

In one of my favorite books that also made me cry so hard I almost couldn't finish it, journalist and author John Grogan writes of his dog Marley: "Give [a dog] your heart and he'll give you his. How many people can you say that about?"

That unconditional love, that pure heart, that playful spirit, it's exactly what I needed and need now more than ever. I'll never be able to thank her for what she's done. But I have a feeling all she wants is a bit of my dinner and for me to "throw the ball already, PLEASE!!"

(Photo Credit: Heather Lang)

Here's to many more adventures with JJ, and many more Gotcha Day anniversaries.

Stay tuned animal lovers for more Furry Tails! You can follow me on Twitter at @HeatherLang24


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