How I Learned to Love My Dog

26 Mar

 

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One would think I should be a dog lover seeing as though I have one, but it took me quite some time to learn to love my dog. I had not been able to completely warm up to her until an unexpected experience left us with more in common than I ever could have imagined.

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. 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 to block the view. Then there was the baby bat in the bushes who had a broken wing. 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.

Four years ago, we succumbed to the pleas of our two young boys and got our first family dog, Chloe. I would pat her on the head and throw her a ball, going through the motions of a good dog owner, but I remained emotionally distant from her. Part of our arrangement with the breeder 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, and then go back to the breeder’s house 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. As planned, she got pregnant and as her little belly continued to grow, I found myself identifying with her more and more as she waddled around the house. When she went through a phase of not eating, I would look at her sympathetically as if to say, “I feel your pain, sister.”

To our surprise, she went into labor two weeks early. It was 3am and we ripped the boys out of bed, threw everyone into the minivan and set out on the 45 minute drive to the breeder’s house. I sat on the floor of the mini van next to Chloe praying that I would not have to deliver puppies on the highway. With every contraction, my panic intensified as I frantically yelled at my husband to drive faster. We made it in time, but because this was a rather abrupt arrival, my husband went home with the boys and I stayed behind to keep Chloe calm. I felt like her Lamaze partner.

Chloe was confused and scared, but she relaxed as I sat by her head. To our disappointment, the first seven puppies were dead and the next three passed soon after birth. She was miscarrying. Of course Chloe was unaware of what was happening, but in that moment I had such an unexpected wave of compassion for her. Tears sprang to my eyes as I chuckled at the irony that the only girls living in our household (me and her) struggle to have successful pregnancies. 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.

I’ve had four miscarriages. My husband and I experienced three losses before our oldest son was born. Those early days are a blur of blood draws, genetic testing and inaccurate diagnoses, all with an undercurrent of the fear and confusion that arrives when you learn that your fertility is not in your control. We went on to have a text book second son and the trauma of those years began to fade. But just when I thought I had control over my fertility again, I was reminded that I, in fact, have none when our attempt at a third child resulted in another miscarriage.

And so, sitting on the kitchen floor in a virtual stranger’s house at 4am, I began to let Chloe creep into my heart. We had a unique bond that only I was aware of, but it helped me begin to love her. As I stroked 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. 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 we both might have lost our pregnancies, I can say with confidence that we both found comfort in a most unexpected friend.

But she still can’t sleep in my bed.

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12 Responses to “How I Learned to Love My Dog”

  1. Lisa March 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    While I’m glad you got a chance to bond with Chloe, I’m sorry it had to be over her losing her puppies, how sad for all of you. My heart went out to you each time I heard that you had a miscarriage, and now my heart goes out to both you and Chloe.

    As a confirmed dog person I hope that you and Chloe continue the bond you have started. Mr. Mo was always there when I felt down or out of sorts, asking me to pet his head or take him for a walk. You’d think he was just being a selfish dog, but so many times I felt better afterwards, even if it was just because I finally got out of my own head for awhile. I miss that now that he’s gone. I have to work just a little bit harder now to get out of my own way, with Mo not there to remind me.

    And I never let him on my bed, or on any furniture for that matter, he understood.

    • pieeyedbaker March 27, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

      Lisa, thank you so much. I know how much you loved your Dog and I admire how you gave him a lifetime of happiness and kindness. I’m starting to see that Chloe can really be a great part of our family. Slowly. 🙂 She’s home now and everyone has showered her with attention – even the neighbors!

  2. Marg March 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    Chloe is seriously adorable. I love her!

    Margaret

    • pieeyedbaker March 27, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

      Oh good, you can dog sit next time I’m in Urbana! 🙂

  3. Annie March 26, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Oh Emily, your words are beautiful and heartbreaking. Thinking of you and Chloe tonight.

    • pieeyedbaker March 27, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

      That is so nice of you – I didn’t realize it would read so sad. She’s home and doing much better!

  4. Teresa March 27, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    Such a heartbreaking story. I’m glad she’s crept into your heart, now.

    • pieeyedbaker March 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

      Thanks so much, Teresa. Never expected it would take this random connection to warm up to her. 🙂

  5. Jana Champ March 27, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    This blog really touched my heart. So sad for both of you to share one another’s confusion and sorrow. I hope you continue to give and receive comfort from Chloe. You will be amazed at how she will instinctlvely recognize when you need love and support. And she will give it to you unconditionally.

    • pieeyedbaker March 27, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

      Thank you for such kind words. I think we have many good years ahead of us with Chloe. She’s home now and being very well loved! 🙂

  6. Jeanette March 27, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    I loved your story about Chole. So sad, tender and so well written. Very nice.
    Jeanette

    • pieeyedbaker March 27, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      Thank you so much – never expected I’d identify with a Dog of all things. Guess we were meant to be together!

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