My birthday was really hard for me this year. Not because I turned another year older but because we put our dog, Livie, down. That day was perfect storm of everything that could go wrong and a testament to the power of friendship. In the end, we made the right decision for us and our dog. And I swore – vehemently – that I would never get another dog.
Famous last words. The following Monday, the Girls were back at Temple and Dave was on a business trip. I came home like always, walked in, and said hello to Livie. Instant tears. People would post photos of their dogs on Facebook. Tears again. My sister, Bridget, adopted a black Lab mix from her local shelter. Sobbing yet again. We came home to Ohio for Christmas, and the part I looked forward to the most was seeing Charlie, my sister Erika’s dog.
What I didn’t tell my family was that in November, I started looking at various rescues on-line to scope out dogs. I love Labs, and knew that I wanted a Lab mix. More specifically, I love black Labs. Puppy or adult? Shelter or rescue? Would we be okay with an older dog? Did I really want to look at getting a baby?
Christmas came around, and it was time to come clean to the family. Yes, I was hunting for a dog. I commented to Bridget that I was going to come see her in Dallas this summer. “Will that be before or after you get a dog?” asked my oldest. Painful that she knows me that well, right?
In January, Laura posted a photo of a dog that she and her family were thinking of adopting. He was everything adorable, and I was so happy for them. Then, I copied and pasted an image of a puppy that I was smitten with. “What do y’all think about this?” I asked. Immediately, I got hit with notes of encouragement from my friends, and I filled out the on-line application, pending a conversation with Dave. When he got home from work, I asked him if he would be open to another dog. “If you want a dog, get a dog. You know that I won’t say no,” he responded. And so, I hit send on the form and immediately was filled with dread.
Home visit? God . . . so much clutter and the fence has gapping holes that Livie just knew to stay away from. Put your dog down? Please, please, please understand why we opted not to seek treatment. Work full-time? Sorry, but someone has to pay for college.
The woman who runs the rescue called the next day and we talked for long while. No home visit . . . she got the form from another rescue and couldn’t figure out how to take it off. But it does, she noted, keep people honest. I broached the subject about putting Livie down, and she said, “You had a 13-year-old Lab that you loved and made the choice you did. I’m not going to fault you for that. Not when you vet cleared you.” So the ball was in my court.
I spoke with the foster mom in Alabama about the puppy. Not much you can say about a puppy other than she played well with her littermates and she enjoyed getting affection. I’m pretty sure that there would have been little she would have said that might have made me say no.
Fast forward a week to January 27, and Dave and I were waiting in the PetSmart parking lot for a van bringing the puppy up from Alabama. At first I thought it would be just us, but it turns out that there were about 20 other families waiting to welcome a new dog or cat into their lives. Our local animal shelter took in several puppies, including a few from our pup’s litter, and a cat rescue claimed their foster cats. The adult dogs – beautiful, nervous, timid, excited – all came off next. Then the puppies started coming. A name would be called, and the new family would step up, take their puppy. We waited. And waited. And waited, the whole time with anxiety filling up my entire body. Would she like us? Would we be good pet owners? What was it like to have a puppy again? What the hell did I get us into?
“Nadia! Are Nadia’s parents here?” enquired one of the women with a soft, Southern-drawl. “That’s us,” said Dave, and they put her in our arms. This tiny, jet black puppy looked scared to death, and I’m pretty sure that she was thinking the same thing. When we were waiting online to pay the transportation fee, the puppy – we called her Lucy – looked around at the birds chirping and the other noise in PetSmart. She lifted her head towards Dave’s chin and licked him a little. And then she put her head down on his shoulder to rest for a bit.
When we got her home, you could tell that there was more than enough fear going through her body for everyone. So we backed away and let her explore on her own a little. Slowly but surely, she decided that we were ok (there was food and water here, after all), and that these toys were pretty cute. I ran back to PetSmart to pick up some items only to come home and find her sacked out on the couch snuggled up next to Dave. “What? She was tired,” he grinned.
Lucky for us (and I won’t say this very often), we had a snow day the 28th, so Lucy and I got to play fetch and sleep all day. I remembered quickly some of the quirks of having a puppy. She wouldn’t do stairs on her own unless you showed her how. The doors scared the shit out of her. Ironically, the cats did not . . . but they were not amused by this bundle of energy who wanted to play. Gilly took it in stride, but Olive was downright pissed.
So far, so good. Yesterday was the first time she had an accident in the house, and truly, it was my fault completely. We started puppy classes last night at PetSmart, and I know that we have a lot of training to do. Because Lucy is so tiny, no one seems to worry about her coming over and jumping to say hi, but I know she’s going to be big very, very soon. So this week, we’re attempting to master “Watch Me” and “Sit.” Wish us luck!