Tomorrow is a special day, because it’s the second anniversary of the day we adopted the adorable creature pictured at left.
There’s a lot we don’t know about her past, including her age (when we got her there were two different forms in her file, one of which said that she was 1 and the other that she was 2, so we figure she’s about 3.5 by now). We also know that we’re at least the third(!) home she had in the first 1-2 years of her life, which is sad and also remarkable, because she’s the sweetest, most low-key dog on the planet. After a slightly tumultuous settling-in period, she quickly became the ideal pet and we’ve never looked back.
There’s a lot I could say about our dog. I could talk about how her whole body wriggles when I get home from work every day. I could talk about how I don’t mind getting up early every morning as long as my furry alarm clock is smiling and licking my face. I could tell you about how everyone, even the vet, is amazed by her soft coat and asks what we do to keep it so silky (answer: nothing. I give her a bath when she smells, which is every few months). I could tell you about how gentle she is with little kids, how her doggie kisses are soft and somehow not the least bit drooly, how she became a celebrity when we still lived near campus (students I’d never met would greet my dog by name). I could tell you about how she can hear the sound of the cheese grater from half a mile away, and waits politely to lick the peanut butter off my knife when I make toast in the morning. I could tell you some other things too: how she likes to eat poop, how she’s somehow killed two squirrels on walks with my husband(!), how she ran away once and my husband tracked her down for FOUR HOURS until he found her covered in mud and ticks and happier than she’d ever been in her life. I could tell you all the commands she recognizes: sit, stay, come, down, off, heel, paw, and zombie (or “beg” in normal dog parlance — I taught her the “zombie” command instead because when she sits up her paws stick out in front of her and she looks like a zombie).
But given the theme of this blog, I thought I’d tell you a couple of other things too. After our daughter died, one of the only things I found comforting was snuggling with our dog — and she kindly obliged me, over and over again. When I thought I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, I did it for her. When I lost all motivation, she still needed to be walked. Walking outside with my dog was the only part of my day that I looked forward to for many weeks after my daughter died. After the appointment when we discovered that there was no heartbeat and they gave me the medication to induce labor, my husband and my dog and I went for a walk in the woods at sunset, and I remember it as stunningly beautiful — the last time the four of us were all together.
I’ve read that after a late loss, a lot of women become afraid that they will die too. But after our daughter died, I had two strong and persistent fears: that my husband would die, and that my dog would die. On walks I kept her on a short leash to make sure she was out of traffic. I made sure she didn’t get dehydrated. I triple-checked that her electric fence was working. I didn’t want to let her out of my sight.
Our dog is incontrovertibly part of our family now. My husband was a little skeptical at first, since this is his first pet, and I was the one who really wanted her, but she eventually won him over and now he’s at least as smitten as I am. Sometimes I look at our goofy little family and laugh. We’re quite a bunch. The nerds who were late bloomers and thought they might never get married. The dog that nobody wanted. But somehow, together, we’ve made something bigger than the sum of our parts, and we’ve survived something that I could not have survived on my own.
When the time comes, our dog will be a wonderful big canine sister. Until then, she keeps me from taking life too seriously, and reminds me that family you choose can be just as real as family related by blood.
P.S. Happy belated Pi(e) Day! Have some photos from our celebration today: