Now I know how Dick Krol feels ... well, sort of.
As preseason football practice opened this fall, we learned that Krol -- the longtime head football coach at Stonewall Jackson High School -- was feeling some anxiety as the Generals transitioned to a new flexbone offense after years and years of running Krol's customary power-I. Krol was out of his comfort zone, at least for awhile.
I'm right there with you, coach, but my issue isn't the flexbone. It's the dog bone.
I'll lay it out -- for years and years, the Nations family household has been firmly in the cat-companion category. My wife and I, and later on our daughter, have always had a couple cats strolling around the house, lounging on the furniture, sleeping -- you know, cat stuff.
We were comfortable with that -- we knew cats. Had it been up to us parents, we might well have maintained our cat-exclusive status forever. It wasn't, of course. Five-year-old Zoe wanted a dog, or "toodle-poodle" to be specific, which we took to mean one of those pocket-sized dogs you see Hollywood starlets toting to the gym or wherever it is they go.
With Zoe starting kindergarten this past week, we caved -- three weeks ago, we got the "toodle poodle" she's long been desiring. It's actually a Toy Poodle-Bischon Frise mix (a Poochon, so I'm told), but you get the idea. It's fluffy, it's small, it sort of barks.
She was, of course, delighted with her new companion. So was Kathy, my wife. The cats and I, however, needed some time to thaw to this new development. What does one do with a dog, after all. The cats suggested hissing and running away -- sound advice, oftentimes -- but not really applicable to my status amongst the family.
Like coach Krol, I had to embrace this change -- study it, master it, thrive.
I was making progress, let me tell you. I soon got over my annoyance at this particular puppy's unseemly personal habits, his surprisingly sharp little yipping voice, his smell -- how can something so small emit so much odor? By two weeks in, I was starting to warm to the little guy -- Lucky, that's the name my daughter tagged him with right off that bat, so Lucky it is.
It may well be that the trauma of kindergarten -- for us parents -- was somewhat abated by the presence of a new puppy. He was, we found, a constant distraction and source of amusement. And here I thought we brought him home for Zoe.
This past weekend, while I was out diligently tracking down last-minute interviews for our upcoming football preview special section, the rest of the family -- sans cats -- headed to the local pet store for Lucky's training class. Within hours, I swear -- we had two puppies bounding up and down in our living room.
Apparently, Lucky made a friend heading into class. That friend, it turned out, needed a new home. Welcome aboard, Gambler (or as I call him, Kenny). The two newcomers are like long-lost brothers -- Gambler is a Maltese-Toy Poodle cross, the ever-popular Malti-poo (I didn't make that up) with a shrill bark that makes Lucky's little yips sound like a cooing dove in comparison.
The weekend was chaos, I won't sugarcoat it. There seems to be a whole new skill-set to master with two dogs. Just when I'd started to get Lucky to sort of walk with me on a leash, along comes Gambler to hopelessly tangle things up. Solution, for now -- walk them separately, which means double the walk for yours truly. That's a good thing, my wife assures me.
Lucky is play-motivated, Gambler could care less. Gambler walks like a champion, Lucky seems incapable of maintaining a straight line for more than two feet. Neither is anything at all like the cats I've long roomed with, although they aren't much bigger.
From what I've heard and read from Brad Fauber's stories on Stonewall Jackson, coach Krol has rapidly warmed to that new offense that once seemed so alien.
I can only hope I have the same resiliency and flexibility as we transition to our own new family dynamic. One thing is for certain -- we won't be bored for years to come.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>