When we lost our Bella and Hurricane within two months of each other, I was devastated. I didn’t know life without a dog, and while my husband was ready to enjoy the freedom of not being responsible for yet another living thing, I missed it. Like, a lot.
I whined about it on Facebook and to friends. I cried about it in our quiet house when the kids were at school. I talked about nothing else to my husband who, understandably, was ready to muzzle me. Realizing he was not my ally, I quietly joined Petfinder, an online database of animals who need homes. Hundreds of furry faces began showing up in my inbox.
Thus began my clandestine search for Our Next Dog.
As silly as it sounds, it felt lonely. I was a child hiding candy under her bed, knowing full well if my parents found it, I’d be in big trouble. It’s not in my nature to be sneaky, but my husband’s grace period (the time he thought we should be without a dog) kept getting longer, from a few months to a year, and I didn’t think he would understand my desperation. Despite our friends trying to reason with him (“your wife loves dogs, you love your wife, you get another dog”), he wasn’t budging. So I continued the search on my own, stashing Snickers and Twix in pillowcases, purposely not involving the kids as to not get their hopes up.
But my hopes were up–way up!–because there were all these sweet fur babies who needed a home, Petfinder said so! I’ve always visited shelters or friends trying to find homes for the dogs, so I was used to meeting the animals one-on-one. Such was not the case this time. I had to fill out applications, give proof of residence, provide references! Look, I don’t mind doing the necessary work to ensure a safe home for an animal, but like a pal who works for the ASPCA said, dealing with some of the organizations was like the Spanish Inquisition.
Yes, I own my house.
Yes, our back yard is fenced in.
Yes, we have a vet.
I work from home; the dog would be with me all day.
Three children, ages 9, 7, and 4.
I did this song and dance about twenty times before realizing it didn’t guarantee I’d be getting a dog! More questions, someone else wanting a pint of blood, saliva sample, piece of my soul. I got a little discouraged. I had been under the impression the organization would contact me with a match or potential furry friend, but negative. What made it even more difficult was the competition. By the time I’d submit another, specific application for a certain dog, it would take a few days to get a response, by which time the dog was usually gone. So I had no choice but to become hyper-vigilant, or obsessive if you will. I was a stock broker on Wallstreet, buckling under the pressure of immediacy. Wildly and without much thought, I began submitting applications for any dog I was remotely interested in, even if it meant traveling hours to get it. There was neither rhyme nor reason to my panicked searches, and as lame as it sounds, it really took an emotional toll on me. Many times, no one would respond. Or I would comment on a Facebook pic, which I learned is the never-explicitly-stated-yet-totally-standard-protocol for inquiry: “Is this one still available?” The answer was always no. Incessant nosedives into sheer disappointment consumed my day. I did receive a few direct responses from some very unpleasant people who made me feel like a criminal each time I asked about a dog. I understand these individuals are volunteers with limited time, but some of them are ridiculous, doing the animals more of a disservice, what with their ego getting in the way and all.
What struck me was that these fellow animals lovers never once expressed their condolences for our recent loss of Bella and Hurricane. Okay, fine. I don’t need coddled, but still.
Then early one Saturday morning, Scarlet popped up in my newsfeed. She was an easy two hours away, but she was a gray Labrador Retriever with soft blue eyes and I MUST HAVE HER. I made a plan to call the shelter the second it opened at 10am. I waited. So many butterflies in my stomach. I was so sure Scarlet was the one–I even loved her name! At 9:59, a pleasant voice answered the shelter phone and I almost cried!
Wait, what? How could someone else have paid for her over the phone fifteen minutes ago? You guys don’t open until 10! Oh, your hours changed? But you forgot to update your website. Okay, no problem. Thank you anyway.
Knife to heart.
I understand people have real problems in life, and as far as severity goes, losing a dog I never technically knew doesn’t begin to compare, but I had a hard time shaking that one off. I was in a funk for the rest of the day, unreasonably angry with my husband who–bless his heart–was totally oblivious. He had no idea my heart was broken, no clue about my obsessive searching. I kept telling myself, “It should not be this hard.” It had never been this hard with any of our previous dogs. We just…connected. I’m sure that sounds a little weird and a lot dramatic, but I’m telling you, we were meant to have our other dogs and they were meant to have us. There was just…a feeling. I don’t know how else to describe it.
Finally, and on the heels of a raging case of PMS, I concluded my husband didn’t really know me if he didn’t understand we would always be a family with a dog. I explained my oh-so-rational thoughts in an even tone that didn’t at all resemble shrieking: “I’VE HAD DOGS LONGER THAN I’VE HAD YOU! I THOUGHT YOU KNEW THAT WAS PART OF THE DEAL! LIKE BASEBALL IS PART OF YOU, DOGS ARE A PART OF ME, AND I THOUGHT WE JUST MERGED THAT SHIT WHEN WE GOT MARRIED! LIKE, IT’S NOT EVEN A QUESTION!”
Big finish: “I’M GOING TO DEFY YOU AND BRING A DOG HOME AT SOME POINT, SO YOU SHOULD JUST GET ON BOARD NOW!”
He blinked at me.
That night, our 7-year-old daughter started crying as we tucked her in. Friends had recently and unexpectedly gotten a puppy, and she was inconsolable, missing our Bella and Hurricane beyond reason. I feel you, girl. “When can we get another puppy?” she sobbed.
I obviously had been going about this all wrong. Recalling the days when I, fellow Daddy’s Girl, could persuade my dad into doing just about anything, I watched as my husband curled up to our daughter, and marveled at her already expert level tactics.
No. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t use my daughter as a pawn against my husband. Even though I was sad about the dogs, which translated into illogical anger directed specifically at my husband for no apparent reason, I still couldn’t play the Divisive Card. Husband and I were a team, a united front, yada yada yada. This, of course, made me even angrier at him. I am a prize, I tell ya.
Later that week, likely beaten down and hating life, my husband gave his approval for an initial dog search (initial, he’s adorable!). I admitted I had been already been looking and friends had been helping and when he rolled his eyes, I’m pretty sure it meant, “I love you and want you to be happy.” Still, after all the rejection and disappointment, I wasn’t confident his approval would mean anything.
But I was wrong.
A local reader responded to my pity party on my blog’s Facebook page, suggesting I look into the Norwin Petland, as it sells rescue pups. I hadn’t even considered chain pet stores because of the horror stories I’ve heard; apparently, I’d been missing out on a diamond in the rough! My kind reader linked me to the Norwin Petland’s page where I saw this face:
There was that heart aflutter feeling. I tamped it down as best I could, trying not to get my hopes up. I continued reading about the dog:
German Shepherd mix (Husband was adamant he wanted another GSD mix!)
Hurricane Michael rescue (my brother’s name is Michael!)
Born July 26 (my son’s birthday!)
Those eyes–they were so familiar…
Okay, hopes undeniably soaring. When my husband’s first comment was about the dog’s kind eyes, I knew it was meant to be. Convinced the Universe heard my husband and put this animal in our lives, I felt…it. The feeling with our other dogs, the connection. Still, I was leery. It was 5:59am, surely no one would answer, but if I learned anything from Scarlet it was to make the damn call. I rolled over in bed and dialed the number.
I sounded gross, words laden with thick sleep, but after a lot of throat clearing, I was able to vocalize my interest in the dog listed as Queenie. I basically gave the woman our entire history and when I paused to take a breath, the first thing she said was, “I am so sorry for your loss–that has to be incredibly hard.”
Ready to give her a kidney, I continued asking questions.
When all was said and done, I learned this dog came from North Carolina, was crate trained, had been fostered by a family so she was used to people and kids, and was already spayed, microchipped, up-to-date on all vaccinations, and if we went through with the adoption, there were all these amazing perks like a free night’s boarding, three free days of doggy daycare, and more. I wondered why not everyone adopted from this place!
Husband and I threw the kids in the car the next day, telling them we were running errands. As it was a Friday and they would have much preferred to be playing with their friends, they were none too pleased with the trip. I could tell my son sensed something was up, and he actually guessed we were going to get a dog before we got there. My girls aren’t as attentive, especially when they’re pouting, so we were able to properly surprise them! They squealed when they saw our name on Queenie’s sign:
We were able to take the pup into a little cubicle so the kids could hold her. My son started crying. I didn’t expect him to be over the moon thrilled like his little sisters, but the crying took me by surprise. I stole a few minutes to talk with him and learned he was still reeling from the loss of our other dogs: “Why would we get another one when they just die?”
It was then I realized what a profound impact family pets have on all of us. For a dog lover like myself, it’s obvious. For someone like my son, it’s not. But we all love them in our own way, and that kind of connection is important. I knew getting this dog was the right move, for more reasons than I originally imagined.
I knew he’d appreciate being able to make a few important decisions about our dog, so my son and I decided on the name Charlotte (because North Carolina and he’s quite literal, my boy), Charlie for short. He also picked out her red name tag that clashes with her purple collar and my OCD cringes but whatever it’s totally fine. He got her a special toy and some treats, too. By the time we were back in the car, he was vying for her to sit on his lap like the rest of us.
He has since kept an eagle eye on her, reminding everyone within ear shot to shut the front door, keep chocolate out of reach, and basically regurgitating all the information he has learned about puppies. The girls just rub her belly with pure joy.
Aside from the obvious valuable responsibility that is having a puppy, my kids are learning what it feels like to have someone depend on them, to really need them. At least once a day, someone says, “I’m so glad we got Charlie!” Well, unless Charlie is stealing their toys and trying to bury them in our floorboards…For the most part, they’ve stepped up to the challenge of having a pet and have fallen head over heels for this dog.
I had forgotten how much a puppy is like a newborn in the sleep department and a toddler who’s just learned to walk in every other department. I’m pretty tired, saying No-no! a lot, making sure she doesn’t put bad things in her mouth, and potty training like a champ. Last night was the first Charlie didn’t grace me with her 2am wake-up call and I’m hoping we’re on to something here.
During the day, she forces me to go outside when I don’t want to, which is a blessing because I need to stretch my legs but wouldn’t if it weren’t for her. When she’s not following me around, she’s content to nap in her crate which is beside my desk or attempt to claw her way into the shower and join me. She’s almost 5-months-old now and tipping the scales at about 18 pounds. We’re hoping she’ll at least double in size, mostly so she can’t fit through the pickets of our fence, but also because I’ve already “lost” her under beds, like, four times.
I’m grateful to my husband for putting up with my antics and to the kind, competent do-gooders at Petland Norwin. They’re in the business of saving animals and I’m so appreciative of their work. I mean, WOOK AT DIS FACE! How can you not want to give it a home?! Welcome to the family, sweet Charlie!