With graduation nearing for Sandy’s youngest son, Blake, empty nest syndrome has started pulling at her heart. To help the cause, we took in a “baby” last week.

Our new arrival’s name is “Buddy” and he’s a 13-week-old dapple miniature dachshund. Sandy learned the young puppy needed a new home and quickly agreed to take him in. Of course I was told about this “life-changing” decision after the fact.

I’ve never experienced having an animal in my house. Well, I’ve never experienced having a four-legged animal inside my domain. I have raised, or helped raise, two-legged animals.

Since being welcomed with open arms, Sandy and I have quickly discovered how spoiled “Buddy” is. I’ve started recalling memories of raising my son and three infant grandchildren staying over.

The lungs this 4-inch tall beast possesses are like a full grown hound. I honestly thought, by the looks, the yelping would be of the high-pitch variety. Boy was I wrong. The sound he projects just doesn’t fit the body.

Sitting outside on the porch that first afternoon, “Buddy” came up to Sandy and started barking. She asked a couple of questions, like he was going to answer, before picking the “child” up and placing him across her lap. The yelping stopped and he laid his head down and just looked at me before closing his eyes.

Later that night, as we prepared for bed, Sandy gathered “Buddy’s” little doggie bed and placed it beside ours and placed him in it. As she climbed into bed and started pulling the covers, the yelping began.

Suddenly, I had flashbacks of placing my son, and the grandchildren, in the crib and the crying beginning. A warm bottle of milk usually did the trick.

Sandy, though, leaned over and picked “Buddy” up and placed him in the bed between us. The yelping stopped as his body hit the sheets. He cuddled up to Sandy and placed his head on a pillow. Again, he just looked at me before closing his eyes.

I’ve never, ever slept with an animal. I didn’t know what to expect. What happened next shook me to my core.

I eventually drifted off to sleep watching a re-run of Swamp People. I like seeing the cast of characters wrestle behemoth alligators. Later in the night, about the time I was dreaming of a gator’s tail swatting at my boat as I prepared for the kill shot, I felt something hit me in the back.

I’ve never experienced special effects in any of my dreams over the years. This made it seem real. The second swat woke me up from my sweaty encounter of trying to land a 13-foot, 1,000-lb. goliath of the Louisiana bayou.

The freakish timing scared me until I realized it was “Buddy”. As I turned over, I caught him just staring at me.

Rick Head is the editor of The Alma Times. He can be reached at editor@thealmatimes.com