This past weekend was a turning point for me on my journey to becoming a fan of dogs. One would think I would already love dogs seeing as though I have one, but I have not been able to completely warm up to her until now.
It’s surprising that I am so luke warm about animals. Look, I don’t want to see them hurt, but I also don’t want them in my bed. As a child, I was a PETA advocate in the making when it came to animals. I have so many memories of a young me shedding buckets of tears over all things living. One of my earliest memories is of watching a pet mouse die a slow death from a tumor. I would stare at his cage sobbing until my Dad finally put construction paper on the glass so I couldn’t see in. Then there was the baby bat with a broken wing in the bushes. I had grand plans to nurse it back to health, but those went out the window as I shrieked in horror watching my dad put it out of its misery with a shovel. I cried over a chicken that lived on the side porch that was sent to a farm, I cried over a rabbit that broke out of his cage and died in the yard, I cried over a parakeet who I found lying on the floor of his cage (to which I later found out my Mom stopped feeding it because I would not take care of it). Hamsters, dogs, fish – you name it, it had tears shed over it.
I don’t know what happened to that passionate little girl who brought home stray kittens and would have snuggled up with a hermit crab. For years, I have tried to rekindle my passion for animals by reacquiring some, but I just haven’t crossed that boundary to LOVE.
Two years ago, we got our first family dog – Chloe. She’s a good dog. I pat her on the head and throw her a ball, going through the motions of a good dog owner, but I’ve stayed at an arms distance emotionally. Part of our arrangement when we got Chloe was that we would let her have a litter of puppies (yes, the people who just kind of like dogs signed up for this situation). It seemed good in theory. She would get pregnant at the breeder’s house, and then go back a few days before she was due to have the puppies. No puppy business in our house and we would get a mini dog vacation. She got pregnant in early February and as her little belly continued to grow, I found myself identifying with her more and more as she waddled around the house. Dog or human – having a belly is no fun. When she went through a phase of not eating, I threw her a nod as if to say, “I feel your pain, sister.”
This past weekend, she went into labor 2 weeks early. It was 3am and we had to throw everyone in the car and rush Chole to the breeder’s house. My husband and the boys drove back home and I stayed behind to keep Chloe calm since this was a rather abrupt arrival. I felt like her Lamaze partner.
Chloe was confused and scared, but she stayed calm as I sat by her head. To our disappointment, the first 7 puppies were dead and the next 3 were barely alive. She was miscarrying. Of course Chloe was unaware of what was happening, but in that moment I had such a strange wave of compassion for her. I chuckled at the irony that the only girls living in our household (me and her) just can’t have successful pregnancies (I’ve lost four). Sure, she’s a dog, but my heart went out to her after trying to grow ten healthy puppies. I know what it feels like to trust that your body knows what to do; and I also know all too well what it feels like for your body to totally let you down (over and over and over and over).
And so, sitting on the kitchen floor in a virtual stranger’s house at 4am, I began to let her creep into my heart a little. We had a small bond that only I was aware of, but it helped me begin to love her. As I pet her head and smiled at her, I remembered how the first time I let her lay in my lap was when I was having my last miscarriage. For some reason, one of the few times I cried over that miscarriage was when I let Chloe come near and lay by me while I wept over another lost pregnancy. She sat with me through my miscarriage and now here I was sitting with her. And while neither one of us became mothers, I can say with confidence that we became friends.
But she still can’t sleep in my bed.