I laid there in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking of my responsibility-free life, and voiced out loud to my husband You realize, right, that these things can live up to, like, 15 years?
Yeah, why did we say yes to this, again?
I don’t know. But my mom said we can give it back if it doesn’t work out.
The next day, we met my mom to pick up our puppies – she had two “picks” from a litter as she finished up her chapter as a dog breeder. She had pre-picked a possible pup for us. And she was the cutest by far. But shy and timid, too. My husband spotted a rambunctious sister hopping around the yard and asked if we could consider her, too.
Since my experience in puppy-picking had last been exercised around age 10, I didn’t exactly have a game plan, but we stepped away from the people and the other pups to see which one of these we’d experimentally take into our home, again reminding ourselves that if it didn’t work out, no matter which one we picked, my mom would take her back.
We placed both pups down on the ground and I walked a few feet away before turning and saying “Here, puppy … “ to which the small one eagerly trotted over, while the rambunctious one wobbled her head and looked around.
Almost convinced, I tried one more test. I placed them both side by side again, walked a few feet away, and said “Here, Abby … “. Sure enough, as though she already knew that was her name, the small one trotted my way and the rambunctious one bounced and hopped in clueless circles.
So, did we choose our pup or did she choose us? I’ve often wondered.
Everyone likes a puppy. I mean, really, they are one of the cutest things this side of heaven. And a cavalier puppy – oh stop it, I mean there’s just no way to even describe the cuteness. Gone were the doubts of the night before.
Until the night after. When this adorable ball of fur Would. Not. Stop. Whining. My responsibility-free life had just been rudely interrupted.
We stumbled through the first few nights with Abby in our home, charmed enough by day to try one more night, growing in sympathy for parents of newborns that have to wake up every two hours. But wary – very very wary – that even when she was full-grown and house-trained, she would still need things like food and water and attention, and we couldn’t just pack up our bags for a weekend without, you know, thinking about her.
I know, I know, the life of the childless is so easily interrupted.
Three days in, I sat my exhausted self down on the cold tile of my kitchen floor. And this little three-pound ball of fluff crawled right up into my lap, and into my heart. I can still see the moment so clearly, because she knew exactly where she belonged, and she’s insisted on that spot ever since.
She crawled into my heart that day as if to say that I wasn’t as carefree as I’d thought. As if to say there was a little puppy-shaped hole inside my heart that she was ready to occupy. I’d never thought of myself as a dog person – things like drool and barking and feces aren’t really my thing. Ironic since I’d been trying to have a baby, but at least they don’t bark.
And there I sat in my fuzzy white robe on the cold kitchen tile, realizing that there really was a space just for her. That I wasn’t really afraid of losing my responsibility-free-lifestyle, but I was afraid of caring for something too deeply, including a dog – or maybe especially a dog. Having a wee little life in our house that wasn’t the baby we’d been hoping for was at once comforting and alarming – I did not want to become “that couple” that treated their dog like their child (spoiler alert, that plan didn’t work. My last shred of personal dignity is that I don’t put my dog in people clothes).
All at once, I remembered my first dog – Heidi. She was a blonde cocker spaniel, with wild bangs that gave her personality. I got her when I was five years old. I can still see the sun shining through the trees as my mom and I went to pick her up. My very first dog.
When I was ten, my sweet, precocious Heidi was hit by a car. We were out of town when it happened and she had survived the hit, but was curled up beneath our porch in pain – her pelvis had been crushed. The vet gave us two options: she might survive a surgery, but it would mean losing at least one hip and back leg. The only tri-pod dogs I’d ever known were objects of jokes between my brothers, so I couldn’t imagine that life for her. The other option was to put her down.
In that moment I had to grow up a little bit. Do I put my dog down or try to save her?
I wish we had tried to save her.
But I didn’t know that until I sat on a cold tile floor and held this new, precious, vulnerable pup. I cried tears for my Heidi in that moment.
I have been governed by practicality for many years and many days. Little did I know that on the day this pup crawled into my heart, she was nudging out parts of my practical self. She would teach me to make decisions with my heart and not just my head. I would spend enough money on her little self to make someone say “e-gads” (also, I think “e-gads” should be reintroduced to our language). I would miss her when I left town. I would delight in the ways she loved me and others. I would marvel at the idea of a dog providing therapy. And no, not just to me. But maybe starting with me. And that’s okay.
She crawled into my lap and straight into my heart that day. After I picked myself up off the cold tile and crawled back into bed with my husband, I said Do you realize that she might live for, like, ONLY 15 years!?!?