On the week of my 23rd birthday, I found myself in a tiny pet store in a small town just outside where I was living. I had drove there straight after work with one of my friends and co-workers on a whim.
It was an icky time in my life. My young marriage had crumbled and I was about a week away from moving back home with my parents. It was spring, and the air was exciting and fresh and I was exhausted and lonely. I had decided that my birthday gift to myself would be a new puppy. Real original, I know. But in defense of women who adopt puppies after relationships die, it was like I had a deep need to love something, and to take my mind off of my current situation. So I jumped on board with the cliché.
Anyway, my friend and I walked into the store and instantly heard the little yelps of puppies. And then I saw her. She was the tiniest puppy in the whole store, snow white fur and black eyes. She could literally fit in one hand. And she was terrorizing a large, roly poly golden retriever puppy by barking as loud as she could at him. The poor sweet little golden puppy, who was roughly 7x the size of the little white ball of fur, was cowered in the corner shaking while the white puppy jumped around him, barking like crazy.
My friend took in this whole situation the same time I did. Then she turned and looked at me and said, “What a bitch!” [and she was not referring to the fact that this was a female dog] while gesturing to the white, yippy puppy. But it was too late. I was already in love. I scooped the little white ball of fur up in my arms and I KNEW this was my puppy. My friend scooped up the sweet golden retriever to comfort it and looked at me like I was crazy.
I walked up to the pet store owner, holding this incredibly tiny ball of energy, trying to think of how I would hide her at my apartment until I moved out the next week. I asked the woman how much this puppy was, because I was going to pay anything. ”Oh, that one?” The woman looked at me apologetically. “I’m sorry, she has already been sold. The family just can’t pick her up until next week. Could I interest you … “ I stopped listening because I literally felt my heart drop. The heart that was so so sore already and had started feeling like it was slowly healing as soon as I laid eyes on this ball of fur. Finally this woman convinced me to leave her my name and phone number in case they got in any more puppies like this one over the summer.
I traveled home that weekend for my birthday. It was a rainy, cold, gray day. My mom and sister and I drove around all day searching for a puppy for me. And I met other adorable puppies, but they just weren’t quite right. As I shut the car door outside of the last stop for the day, I felt the full weight of the year that had just passed. At that point in my life, it was easily the happiest and most terrible year of my life. I had swung high on the excitement of an engagement and wedding and starting a new life with my husband, and then crashed lower than the lowest low for the next 7 months.
The following week was moving week. That could be a blog post all its own, so I will just say it was exactly as terrible as you imagine. There is nothing like dividing up objects and packing away almost brand new wedding gifts to make you feel like a complete failure. There is nothing like an empty apartment that once seemed so exciting to make you feel incredibly alone. As my parents helped me pack the last box into a U-Haul and I shut the door for the last time, I completely shut off the part of my mind that let me feel emotion. Because if I started crying then, who knew if I would ever stop?
As I pulled out of the town I had called home for the past four years, I felt my spirits slowly lift. I passed mountains and fields with wildflowers and the sun was shining and I was going home. The whole drive it was like I was peeling away layer by layer of the bad memories and tossing them out the window. Is driving not one of the most therapeutic things in the world? I had a feeling then, that everything was going to be alright.
Ok. So, another thing I have learned in life, that I know is true, is that sometimes you can’t get what you want until you let go. And when I say let go, I don’t mean saying out loud “I’ve let go”, and really still secretly hoping what you want will happen. Trust me on this, because I have tried. I mean really letting go. As in, cutting your attachment to an idea or person or desire and accepting what is right there in front of you. And being ok with that. And damn if that isn’t the HARDEST thing to do, but probably exactly what you need to do. I felt like on that drive home, I was really, really, really letting go. That feeling. It’s an amazing one.
I was unpacking my room the next day when my phone rang from an unfamiliar number. And guess who it was? It was the pet store owner. And guess what else? The family who had bought the white ball of fur had decided it was not a good idea anymore. And so the little puppy who stole my heart was for sale again. Did I want her?
So two days later my sister and I traveled back to that God-forsaken town to pick up my sweet, sassy little yorkie-poo, Bitsy. And you know what? She did help heal me. We took naps together on the couch while she lay across my chest. Every night I brought her in my room with me and looked into her little eyes before I fell asleep. That spring/summer was rainy and cold and miserable until around mid-July, and every time I took her outside to go to the bathroom, I had to wrap her up in a fluffy towel and dry her off since the cold, wet grass was as tall as she was.
In the middle of the night we would get up together and I would put on my pink rain boots and we would walk out into the pitch black silence of night and shiver together. And sometimes I was mad at the world and sometimes I was tired of the world and sometimes I was just so thankful for my life. And she was there for all of it. Sometimes she made me crazy and I wondered what possessed me to take on the responsibility of a new puppy when I was still not quite healed and didn’t quite possess the reserves necessary to be patient with a young life form.
But Bitsy and I both grew and I did all the hard parent stuff like taking her to get shots and get fixed and cleaning up poop on the carpet, and poop stuck to her fur, and poop in her blankets, and basically, just a lot of poop stuff. Not a lot unlike being a parent to a human baby. And we did all the fun puppy stuff like cuddling and playing and generally absorbing all of her cuteness at pretty much all times. And my family fell in love with her, and she with them, and she would leap onto Will whenever he came over and snuggle into his arms.
And when I finally was completely healed, and was about to re-launch myself into life with a new degree, new job, and new relationship, Will and I searched for the perfect home to bring Bitsy into. It was imperative to have a big fenced yard and a place that welcomed dogs.
We finally found the right place and moved in. We brought Bitsy the next week to her new home, and she promptly had a puppy anxiety attack after coming from a home with four people and three dogs to a home with two people who were gone at work all day and no dogs. After I was sure she was dying [I don’t want to get too graphic here, but it involved blood. And diarrhea. And merge the two and you pretty much know what was going on with her], we took her to the emergency vet who ran a bunch of tests. She called me in and asked me if Bitsy had gone through anything “stressful” recently. I told her about the move and the vet nodded her head knowingly, and told me there was nothing wrong with my puppy. That she was super stressed and not doing well with the change.
A neurotic creature that doesn’t do well with change? Like mother, like daughter.
So that is how Bitsy decided she didn’t need me anymore, and much preferred the company of her grandparents and sisters at home. And every week when I visit, she jumps up and down and wags her little tail and yips at me just like the day I first saw her. And is very happy when I leave and don’t take her with me.
She got me through some long nights and hard feelings and forced me to focus on the here and now rather than the yesterday and tomorrow. I owe a lot to that little ball of fur who helped heal my tired heart.