Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Filling in the Gap, Part 2: Saying Hello...

Before we ever bring a dog or a cat into our lives, we know that we will only have them for a short time--perhaps ten or twelve years or, if we're extremely lucky, perhaps twenty or more. Knowing we will lose them, we adopt them anyway, believing that the rewards of sharing life with a companion animal are worth the emotional pain when they die. Whether from illness, accident, or old age, it is never easy to say goodbye. They are family, and just as we grieve the loss of human family and friends, so we grieve the loss of our furry friends who are also a part of our family.

Everyone handles grief differently. For some, the thought of bringing another animal into their lives is too much. They don't want to endure the pain of loss again, or they feel disloyal to their deceased pet if they bring another animal home. When our cat, Dickens died, we waited five months before getting another cat. But when Mindy died, we felt like our hearts had been run through a shredder. I couldn't sleep, food had no appeal, and the house felt empty. As my husband said, her absence was "loud." The only comfort was knowing that we had given her a good home and lots of love, and now her death opened the door for us to offer a "forever home" to another dog in need.

Paige enjoying her new bone, toys, and bed.
After two weeks, the pain of Mindy's loss seemed only to intensify. Not only did I miss my beautiful friend, but my health began to suffer because she was no longer there to meet those needs. I found brief moments of comfort by looking at dogs on the internet, but none of them "clicked." Then I saw a picture of a black, white, and brindle dog on the Humane Society of Chittenden County's  website, and felt drawn to her, so I called and asked about her.

On December 27, two weeks to the day of losing Mindy, we visited HSCC, and spent time with Paige, a Border Collie-Pit Bull mix, or "fuzzy Pit" as they called her. She was about three years old and had been rescued from a horrendous overcrowding/breeding situation. We were warned that she seemed skittish around men, yet she seemed to take to both of us right away.

Sometimes you're just too tired to make
 it all the way onto the bed!
Her appearance and background were as different from Mindy's as night from day. Paige was half Mindy's size, totally different color, and different breed. Mindy's first family had taken excellent care of her, including having her spayed, keeping her up-to-date on vaccinations, and providing a clean environment. Paige had had several litters of pups, had no vet care, and had been kept in a small pen with seven other dogs plus her puppies, up to their elbows in their own waste. Yet, in spite of her rough beginning in life, Paige was affectionate, intelligent, and eager to learn. The HSCC staff had taught her to sit, and when I gave the command, she quickly obeyed. Then I tried her out on a few other basic commands. After two or three times, she understood what I wanted and did it. We knew she was meant for us when we found out later that someone else had already begun the adoption process for her, but never followed through. We filled out the paperwork on the spot, and Paige became a member of our family. She continues to shower us with affection and puppy kisses, enjoys her training, and is doing well with socialization. Her biggest challenge is to remember that the cats are family, too. When she licks them, I'm still not sure if she's giving them kisses or conducting a taste test.

       Paige in her new fleece-lined, waterproof coat.
During those two weeks between Mindy and Paige, I learned that I need a dog in my life. Maybe it's because when I was two years old, I woke up Christmas morning with a puppy licking my face. Perhaps it's because, over the years, I've had the privilege of knowing and sharing my life with many wonderful dogs, each with its own personality, and each of whom taught me something about myself and about what dogs are capable of. Maybe it's because dogs were my confidantes and best friends when I was growing up, or maybe it's because of their unconditional love. Whatever it is, I do know that when I don't have a dog in my life I feel an overwhelming loneliness that nothing else can fill. And now, at this stage of my life, I need a dog to assist me with the stresses and tasks of daily living.

Maybe the reason God put dogs on earth was to teach us how to love, how to enjoy the simple things in life, how to be in the moment, and to mirror His love. Whatever the reason, I am grateful every day for this little "fuzzy Pit" that has helped to heal the pain in my heart, makes me laugh every day in spite of chronic pain, and fills each day with joy.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Donna,

    So feel as you do about animals. I have trouble waiting to adopted a new pet. Like your husband said our loved ones absence is so "loud." What a sweet addition you have here! My dog, Dora, sometimes called Fluffy, :D is a Border Collie-Lab mix, all black with just the web toes of a lab.

    Best Wishes
    You Friend,