My boyfriend introduced me to the new love in my life. I didn't expect to fall head over heels in love that day. It had been a busy week and I was focused on running errands and getting back to school supplies bought for my daughter. The three of us, Mike, Gillian and I, headed to Target that evening. I was all business, as usual, focused on the task at hand, and checking items off my list. Before too long, Mike and Gillian grew bored and disappeared to the toy aisle to find some fun. I kept shopping, but they didn't come back like they usually do. After about ten minutes had passed, I called Gillian to find out where they'd disappeared to. She told me they were outside. I asked what they were doing. "Oh, nothing. But don't come out here." What? Of course I was curious and pestered her with questions. "Why? What are you doing? What's outside that's so interesting?" I walked outside as I was talking to her, looking around, but I couldn't see them. "I'm out front. I don't see you." Now I was getting exasperated. I had things to do! "Mom, you can't see us? We're down by the curb, look to your left." I turned in the direction of the sporting goods store and PetSmart and that's when I saw them. They were sitting on the grass playing with a litter of eight Yellow Labrador puppies.
I walked towards them, determined not to be drawn in by all the puppy cuteness. My determination didn't last long. It only took a few seconds before I was down on the grass with a puppy in my arms. Immediately I knew I'd be taking one home, but still I tried in vain to reason my way out of such a crazy, impulsive purchase. People don't just go to Target for school supplies and come home with a puppy for Pete's sake! Besides, I already had a puppy at home, a nine-month old Shih Tzu-Schnauzer mix named Lucy. Gillian looked at me, beaming. Mike, wisely, kept pretty quiet. I started listing out loud the many reasons getting a Lab puppy didn't make sense. Finally, I said, "You know I can't make a rationale decision about a Yellow Lab. Why did you even let me see these? I can't just buy a puppy on impulse. Let's go to dinner and talk about it."
|Me with baby Lucy|
The really funny thing is, until nine months before I wouldn't have imagined having one dog, let alone two. Not that I dislike dogs, I just haven't wanted the responsibility of owning one. That all changed in January when Mike's dad brought home a 6-week old puppy with the intention of giving it to his grandmother for companionship. She didn't want a puppy. Mike debated keeping the puppy, but his erratic work schedule just wasn't conducive to pet ownership. I decided to keep her, and Gillian and I welcomed 6-week old Lucy into our family. Nearly everyone who knows me thought I'd lost my mind. You see, I'm just not a "dog person" and suddenly I was completely enamored with Lucy. I couldn't even explain it myself.
|Mike and Lucy Lou|
Oddly enough, before Lucy, the dog I'd become most attached to was my sister's dog Phoenix. He was a big, hyper, somewhat neurotic Yellow Lab with a tail that wagged so ferociously that it could knock over small children. Although he was endearing, his hyperactivity and his lethal tail really annoyed most people, causing them to keep their distance. For years, I too mostly tolerated him. That changed when I began going to stay more frequently with Julie at her place. Phoenix would sleep next to her bed. When I visited, we'd share her bed. This always put Phoenix in a state because he didn't know who to protect. He'd spend the night pacing back and forth, ultimately taking turns sleeping on both sides of the bed, guarding both of us. Eventually, I even welcomed Phoenix into my home, because I didn't think it fair that he'd have to stay in a kennel when Julie came to visit. Julie used to laugh at me because whenever we'd go out, leaving Phoenix behind, I always told him goodbye and said we'd be back soon. Slowly, he'd managed to work his way into my heart.
|Easter morning at mom's with Julie, Phoenix, Buster, Hannah and Mason|
When Julie died, I was tormented for weeks thinking about her last hours. It broke my heart knowing she'd died alone. Then one day it dawned on me. She wasn't alone. Phoenix was there with her. I'll never know what he did in her last moments, or for the many hours after when he was locked inside her apartment. I'm sure he was very distraught. But it does give me some comfort knowing he was there with her. I wish I could describe the emotions the first time the family saw Phoenix after her death. It was then that I knew beyond a doubt that dogs absolutely sense human emotion and suffering. Phoenix came to each of us individually and nuzzled us. When he got to my sister Amy, probably the most heartbroken and suffering right then, he quietly climbed up into her lap, looked into her eyes and nuzzled and licked her, burrowing his head into her neck. It was like he absolutely understood her despair and was comforting her any way he could.
Phoenix now lives with Jason, Julie's former boyfriend and dear friend. For many of my visits to Colorado after her death, I stayed at Jason's. Phoenix would abandon his usual spot next to Jason's bed and sleep in the guest room on the floor next to my side. Having him there with me on those nights brought me unbelievable comfort.
|Taking Sophie home|
After our dinner, and my weak attempt at pretending to weigh the pros and cons of getting a Yellow Lab, we headed back to the Target parking lot. By then I'd admitted this was mostly an emotional, illogical decision, which was okay. Everything in life doesn't need to happen because it makes perfect sense. Sometimes the best things happen by throwing caution to the wind and listening to your heart. That's what I did that day. I scooped up my fat, squishy, velvety soft, brown-eyed puppy and opened up my heart.
Not too long ago, I was playing with Sophie, completely caught up in our little moment when Mike said "You know she's going to be the great love of your life, right? Embrace it. Enjoy it." I am.
|Gillian with Lucy and Sophie|
|Lucy and Sophie|