So, this happened. Her name is Coco and she’s nine years old and she’s a seven-pound bundle of fluff and enthusiasm.
I didn’t want a dog. More precisely, I didn’t want to want a dog. I’m still mourning Lila, and I wanted a year in Santa Fe without responsibilities other than myself. I signed a lease that said “no dogs” and figured I’d re-evaluate next June.
Thing is, I desperately missed having a dog. I’ve had at least one dog my entire post-college life, with some small between-dog gaps. I know myself enough (and I’ve had enough therapy) to understand my urge for caretaking and companionship. I was trying to enforce something different for myself; it wasn’t working. So I asked my landlord about a dog, figuring if he said no, that would answer the question for the time being. Instead he said yes, possibly encouraged by the fact that I’d explained my options were restricted to about five no-shed, low-allergen, small foofy dog breeds that are not exactly thick on the ground in these parts. I commenced with applying to various dog rescues here and in nearby states, filling out their extensive paperwork, etc., putting the general word out to friends here and sending my intentions out into the universe.
Then last week a friend sent me a link to a small terrier mix at the local animal shelter. That particular dog likely wasn’t the dog for me (again, allergies) but it was a gorgeous early fall day and hanging out with some dogs sounded nice, so I went. I played with the pup out in the meet-and-greet yard for about an hour, tossing sticks and balls and enjoying the change in the weather. A young woman, a staff member I’d met on an earlier shelter trip, shadowed me, watching me play and asking a lot of questions about me and what I was looking for. I didn’t mind; I figured it was part of the vetting process. I showed her pics of Lila on my phone and waxed poetic about her various quirky charms, explained my allergies and that I knew I’d be waiting awhile for my particular haystack-needle. I mean, I’ll talk your ear off about dogs, and plenty of other things.
And then she offered me a toy poodle.
I was a little slow on the uptake; I thought she knew about a dog coming to the shelter. But no, she was talking about her dog, and would I like to meet her? Because I seemed like a kind person, like the right person.
I met Coco in a parking lot after this young woman got off work. It took, oh, three seconds of seeing her across the lot to know I was all in. We walked and talked for awhile, and then I volunteered to pick her and her things up early the next morning before the woman left for work. And that night I waited and held my breath. The woman loved the dog, it was clear, and/but wanted better things for her, a different life where she wouldn’t spend most of her days in her crate, alone. It was both a hard thing and a brave thing this woman was doing. I knew she might change her mind. But she did not.
And so here we are. That top photo is literally the first photo I took of Coco (one of my favorite perfumes, as you know) when we got to my house, and I swear she looks less loony in person but this picture makes me laugh. She’s playful and funny and both reminds me of Lila (same size and breed) and is very different. We’re still getting to know each other. I’m letting her know it’s going to be okay, giving her cuddles when she wants them and space when she doesn’t. She is awesome on a leash, which surprised me, I don’t think she got walked much. We’re exploring the neighborhood, the two of us, with Coco enjoying lots of stops and sniffing about, greeting other dogs, and pets from strangers. After the first couple of nights she scootched up the bed and now sleeps on the other pillow, right next to me.
The universe is a wild, amazing thing, isn’t it? I didn’t expect to wind up with another toy poodle, wasn’t sure I wanted one after Lila, and I didn’t really want an older dog. I said to a friend recently, it just makes the heartbreak come that much sooner. And this friend replied tartly that none of us knows how much time we have, and if we’re wise, we’ll take each day we get and be grateful. I also know that grief is the price we pay for that desire — to love and be loved – and how much emptier our lives would be without taking that chance, over and over again.