The World According to Rico – And they called it puppy love

In 1960, Paul Anka recorded the song, “Puppy Love,” and it was remade 12 years later in 1972 by Donny Osmond.

It was a super popular tune and my mom can still sing it by memory.

It’s a slow song all about young souls being in love and people not taking the relationship seriously because of their age.

The lyrics say, “And they called it puppy love. Oh, I guess they’ll never know. How a young heart really feels and why I love her so. Someone help me, help me, please. Is the answer up above? How could I, oh, how could I tell them, this is not just puppy love.”

I don’t know anything about young romantic people love but I do know a thing or two about puppy love.

Ever since I found her. My first.

A week or so ago, I spent time at the dog park in York. I was terrified as we entered the front gates because this was the first time there were a lot of other dogs present. Before, the folks had taken me at weird times of the day and we were the only ones there. Not this time – it was hoppin’ as running and barking was in full swing.

Subsequently, upon entering the hot spot, I knew I was probably going to have to make new acquaintances because my mom seemed so hopeful I’d have a little social interaction.

I met Minnie and Joey and Duckie and Ray and others whose names I can’t remember. They were all little like me because we were on the small dog side of the facility.

This was really the first time I’d spent a substantial amount of time with a number of dogs at one time so my head was spinning. I didn’t realize I possess the quality of being shy until that moment.

I was taken aback by how welcoming they all were and temporarily froze.

Gone was my over-the-top personality and aggressive tendency to encourage playing at all costs. I reverted into myself and almost had an out-of-body experience as they wagged their tails and danced around my head as I laid on my back in the grass and leaves.

Mom and the other dog folks chatted about how to make homemade dog treats, house training and other stupid things fur-parents talk about.

The clouds floated by overhead and the many tree branches rustled in the wind.

Big dogs chased squirrels next door and I thought I saw some balls being thrown around.

But in my space, all I saw were yapping little mates who partied and danced while I was simply scared near to death in our dog version of a nightclub.

That’s when I saw the object of my affection. There stood the sweetest little number with black curly hair and watery brown eyes. For a moment, I was mesmerized by the blue halter with red straps, but the connection was about more than just looks.

My sweetheart’s breath smelled like MilkBones with a hint of chicken jerky, so I knew we had things in common.

My new-found canine soulmate had a yippy voice which sounded like an angel singing and there was something sticky on a front paw which indicated a sense of intrigue and adventure.

We stared at each other until I eventually felt my anxiety attack begin to lessen and the chaos around me calmed. Then the vision in blue jumped on my chest and planted a kiss on my little Keeshond lips. Instantly, like a lightning bolt, I was struck in the heart with an arrow dipped in emotion.

This must be love, I thought. Puppy love.

The love-at-first-leap moment only lasted a second, but it washed away my fears and filled my heart with gratitude for my newfound sweetheart.

As I basked in the glow of infatuation, I started to whimper out a sentence, to express how I was feeling. But nothing came out except a belch and a short hacking cough. My declaration of puppy love was embarrassing, even humiliating.

The unimpressive comment left me in limbo as my hopeful partner in life suddenly sprang from our embrace, running toward a faraway tree and a little white dog with black spots. I watched the curly tail wag away, into the pending sunset.

I was left lying there, with a dead dandelion stuck to my ear and a mom nagging me about going home before it became dark. Damn time change was blocking my game.

“But what about the newfound love of my life?” I quietly barked to her. “I can’t leave now! I have to tell her how I feel!”

Mom had different thoughts and insisted it was time to go. I planted myself to the ground, refusing to walk. I tried to find my puppy love magnet, but there was no black curly hair in sight. Alas, she was gone.

And soon, I was too. Due to my utter refusal to use my legs, Mom made good on her threats and carried my stubborn butt to the car.

I haven’t forgotten that mysterious beauty at the dog park or the moment we shared. Sometimes, as I lay under my mom’s desk, I daydream about those eyes and the way her little nails were expertly clipped. Occasionally, as I wait for kids to walk home from the bus stop, I fantasize she will be with them and I can whisk her away to my neighbor’s big tree where we can chew on pinecones together.

And I hum what Anka and Osmond understood so long ago . . . “They called it puppy love. Oh, I guess they’ll never know. How a young heart really feels and why I love her so.”

Ah, puppy love.


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