Of Dogs and Women

This was Darla. I got her a little over 6 years ago after my house had been broken into twice in less than 6 months and I decided that my pomeranian mix was not quite intimidating enough. I ended up finding this girl, who was 4 years old at the time. She had been adopted and returned to the shelter not once, but twice. The second time, the “owners” didn’t even so much return her as abandon her in a park and disappear.

Not cool. Save for serious illness or sudden homelessness, pets are a lifetime commitment.

So I decided she was going to come home with me, and never see the inside of a shelter again. I kept the name she’d had at the shelter. She had been through enough, I thought; I wasn’t going to add to her stress by making her learn another new name. And come home with me she did, and she quickly became the reason that I couldn’t have nice things anymore. She tore up the vinyl flooring in the kitchen, scratched the paint off one entire wall, and broke down the half-door between the kitchen and dining room. She was never much of a guard dog – although luckily she was big enough that her presence alone was probably a deterrent to would-be intruders.

But she also wagged her stump of a tail adorably every time I got home. (Her tail was already bobbed when I got her. I would never bob a dog’s tail because I think it’s cruel and unnecessary, but I have to admit that her wagging stump was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.) She was sweet and gentle with children, and completely oblivious to cats. The first time she met my youngest niece, Charley, who was 2 at the time, she was curious and approached her, but she was completely calm and gentle, even in the face of Charley’s obvious fear at a dog who was bigger than her. She simply sniffed at Charley and gave her tentative kisses until Char calmed down. She got nervous when she was separated my pomeranian, Daisy. (Daisy, on the other hand, is a self-involved diva who couldn’t have cared less about being apart from Darla. I’m not entirely sure that Daisy has even noticed Darla’s absence.)

I knew when I brought Darla home that my time with her would probably not be as long as it was with other pets. Already 4 years old, and a medium-to-large breed mix, not to mention the fact that she came to me with some minor health problems, I was probably lucky to have gotten six years with her. But it was still a surprise when she suddenly went on a food strike, and then wasted away in front of my eyes within just a few days. Less than a week. She’d gone on food strikes before, and had always bounced back, so I didn’t worry soon enough. But then last Thursday, she started refusing water, too. And a day later, when I got home from work, she wasn’t jumping at the back door waiting to go out. She was lying on the floor, unable to lift her head.

She still wagged her stump, though. And she licked my face when I moved her to her bed.

I stayed up with her as long as I was able to keep my eyes open. And by the time I got out of bed Saturday, she was gone.

The night she died, I had a dream about my grandfather. I don’t remember any details about the dream, but he was there. And he loved dogs. Before he died, one of the first things he always asked me when he saw me was, “How are your doggies?” I actually didn’t bring Darla around him much because he would have fed her mountains of cheese – and completely ignored me if I’d tried to protest; he was hard of hearing, and played deaf when it suited him – and that dog was gassy enough as it was. But when I remembered the dream, I realized why he was there – he came to take Darla with him. And I’m sure, wherever they are, he is feeding her cheese and hot dogs and any other table scraps available to both of their hearts’ content.

While I’m still mourning her loss, and wondering why it never freaking occurred to me to get some video of her wagging her stump when she saw me, I’ve also been keeping it in perspective by thinking about how much money I’ll save on dog food now, and how maybe I can replace the torn up vinyl tiles in the kitchen now, and repaint the wall and fix the door.

So when I started looking at dogs available for adoption on petfinder and local shelter websites, it was purely academic. I had no intention of actually GETTING another dog. I still have a dog. AND three cats. It’s not like I’m lacking in the pet department. I mean, surely someday, down the road, there is another dog in my future. But that’s a long ways away. It hasn’t even been a week since Darla died. I’m just researching. Seeing what’s out there.

And I’m definitely not getting a senior dog.

From a kill shelter.

Who probably only has one more chance at a forever home.

Who most people are going to overlook because he’s so old, and has clear pitbull features.

Whose name just so happens to be my grandfather’s nickname for me.

I mean, he would have loved this dog, but it’s not like that’s a sign or anything.

And just because my sister-in-law is going to go to the shelter with me to check him out in a couple days doesn’t mean he’s going to come home with me.


To be continued…