The urine patches in our backyard had finally started growing back into a solid carpet of green, no brown spots. Our good rugs and nice furniture had been brought back into use. The chewed table legs and sofa arms have been repaired.
The mailperson no longer braces at the front door, poised for the snarling dog hurling against the door. Our pricey trips to Barnes Supply Store for dog food and treats are just sweet memories.
There’s been no ratty dog toys strewn about – chew ropes or gummy Kongs. And the house has finally lost it’s animal smell over the years.
In a way it had lost some life, to be honest.
I was resolved – toughened like rawhide, to accept the reality that moving to Switzerland with all of the perks of European travel was the best tradeoff I could ask for. Exchanging family and pets for a life abroad.
And for four years it has been worth it.
But I went to the local shelter on our first week home for the holidays.
The noise was a cacophony of howls and whines; it was deafening and I felt sorry that they had to listen to that all day long. The pens were small but fairly clean.
And there he was, staring out from the chain link fence with his big brown eyes and long droopy ears. I held him and played with him for 10 minutes and then had the volunteer put him back in his pen. And I went home.
And I saw his soft eye-lashed eyes when I closed my own eyes before sleep. And I remembered the continuous tiny howl that he made, and the way he stood up with front paws on the wall of the concrete dog run as he watched me walk back to my car. His liquid gaze kept following me the whole way. And, of course, I had trouble breaking eye contact too.
What an inconvenient thing to get a dog right now.
What a messy complication that made no sense for my life in Switzerland – and with all the travel it entailed. And I knew full well it would be nearly impossible to transport him back to Bern. It would cost thousands of dollars and I wouldn’t want to put a new puppy through all that.
No, it wasn’t a good idea.
Adopting a dog would put the brakes on going back to Switzerland with my husband.
Sometimes you just know you have to follow your heart. You see an opportunity, a tiny possibility, that might change your life forever, but not in any rational, predictable way.
You’re not sure but you sense that things will never be neat and tidy again. And for some reason you want it that way.
Love is like that.
It is contradictory.
It is inconvenient.
It is not fully reality-based and doesn’t consider the outcomes, the difficulties, the way it can up-end your world.
And that’s what makes it so.
Since my dog Tucker died 3 years ago my husband has watched me as I covet the dogs I see in our neighborhood when we are walking. I always point out which ones I want and the ones that I don’t care for.
I lusted, I longed. It was my way of emotionally grieving this space in my heart where a dog needed to be.
But we needed to wait until we were back in the U.S.
But I was so tired of waiting.
The puppy is here. He is a mess. He is sweet, smart, friendly to all (even the mailman), mischievous and in need of a whole lot of training.
He needs to go outside nearly every hour, he wants to chew and play all day. I get nothing done. I grocery shop when he’s in his crate, but even that has fallen down. I’ve eaten baked potatoes (with no butter) for 4 nights this week.
My son came by and asked what I’d been doing all week. This, I said, pointing at the floor covered in toilet paper shreds and bits of rawhide.
Having a dog again reminds me of being at home with a toddler, but the difference is that a dog never leaves home. They stay by your side, reliant, dependent and devoted. Until they die, which hopefully is after many long years.
And that’s just it, they entrust you with their their lives, their entire hearts, from the moment they come to you.
You are their center and they are never leaving. Forever.
So I think I understand now what this dog is doing for me.
I am here, I am tired of travel. I want to be tied down again. I want to be that center of some dog’s universe. I simply want someone that relies on me to take him for a walk.
But no more weekends in Paris or Stuttgart. No new countries to discover, worlds to explore. Because now it’s the wide world of a puppy, a neighborhood to discover together. Walks and balls and treats and end of the bed snoring.
A kind of therapy for me but really just a dog. A puppy named Theodore – Theo for short.
Sometimes I play a little mental game just to re-check my decision. I bring back the memories of how it felt to be in Europe and free to travel, to go to any exotic place that I wanted.
And then I picture that velvety little muzzle inside his crate, waiting for morning to come, when he will jump and lick and wag his entire long body just for me to pet him.
And I think what it would be like to take him back to the shelter.
And a stab of loss fills my heart.
It’s only been a month and this little hound dog has embedded into this child-free life of mine that used to be unencumbered by household responsibilities.
Love is like that.
It quickly latches onto you with it’s sharp little puppy teeth and takes you home.