Here's how life changes for 12-15 years in one choice. (For the better, I mean) : I walk Pearl on the beach, meet my friend Beth and her dog Lucy, and they have already picked up John walking his dog Buddy, and John says he and his wife Meg are tired, since they have been fostering puppies from the Haines Animal Rescue Kennel (HARK) over night, and then John says they are very nice puppies, part Lab and who knows what else, from Gustavus, via Skagway. Since there were nine in the litter the small-town humane societies shared them, so HARK took four, two brown ones and two black ones. Beth says, "You need a puppy don't you?" and I say absolutely not. Pearl and Phoebe are plenty. But my daughter has been saying they are ready for one. "Are you sure you want to tell her about them?" They both say and laugh. (We live next door.) A few hours later when the kennel calls me for a reference (which is pretty smart really, calling a mother who is the neighbor. The call is confidential.) I think about pee on my carpet, holes in the garden, the chickens, walking two dogs, as no doubt he'll join us, and caring for him when they are away, and what if he's too much with the babies and ends up for an extended stay over here, like Phoebe, who came home like this 16 years ago with another daughter and is still here, and has never really liked us, but like a beloved though cranky old aunt, she shares our home and thus lives. She has also come full circle in old age, peeing on the floor again. I know right at that moment, while the new woman who runs HARK is waiting on the other line for me to speak, that a positive response will change life as I-- we all on this beach even-- know it. I understand this with unusual clarity, for me anyway. What the heck, I think. Let's add a new puppy to the mix. This is the way it is with dogs: They teach us how to be better human beings-- the good ones and the not so good ones-- So, I say Stoli is great with dogs, and that I'm sure the puppy will be well cared for and never lack for attention. Which is all a long way of advising that if you want a little more love, or companionship, or happiness or laughter, and a few holes in your shoes and stains on the rug-- get a dog, because it will change your life for the better.