A week ago this past Saturday, Mom and I traveled with Diamondqueen, That Poor Man, and the Hooligans to an adoption event called My Furry Valentine. There we met up with a sweet beagle mix and her foster mother. Mom had decided she needed a new dog sooner rather than later, and she’d seen Lilly on the Recycled Doggies page on Facebook.
I didn’t expect Mom to be open to getting a dog for months, maybe not even until next year. Even before Rusty passed, she’d said she would be wary of rushing out to get another dog, she was too old, there was too much going on, and so on.
However, the house was so quiet. You wouldn’t think a small home with two active adult women would be that still, but it was. I didn’t notice it only late at night when I was alone; I could feel it in broad daylight, with Mom right there in her computer/sewing room, working away. I was afraid to tell her how bothered I was by it, but it turned out she was feeling exactly the same thing. We’d both been colliding with the void and feeling the worse for it.
One morning a couple of weeks ago the subject came up in a roundabout way, and Mom said she was hesitant to get a new dog because of what it would demand of me, especially if she was sick. I replied that I was respecting her feelings. I was ready for a dog any time she was.
As I said, Mom had spotted Lilly, who was exactly right: a beagle mix, around two years old, good natured. Diamondqueen later called Mom’s attention to the dog as well. They inquired about her and discovered she would be “introduced” to potential adopters at the My Furry Valentine event. Mom filled out her adoption application in advance and we all plotted to get to the event as soon as the doors opened so Mom would have first shot at Lilly.
I knew Lilly immediately from the pictures I’d seen. I went up to the woman cuddling her and asked, “What’s this dog’s name?” When she told me, I cried, “So this is Lilly!”
“Oh, you must be Lillian!” said Shera. I said no, Lillian was my mother. Then Shera thought I was Diamondqueen, and I said no, that was my sister. By that time our crew had caught up to me and were leaning in toward Lilly, who shrunk away from all the strangers and their attention and tried to hide behind Shera.
Mom adopted Lilly right away. Lilly was very shy and hesitant with us. In fact, That Poor Man had to carry her to the shuttle bus stop, lift her onto the bus, carry her to the van, and hoist her into the van. Lilly rode on my lap on the way home. She was putting up with the situation, but she wasn’t really relaxed.
On the drive over to My Furry Valentine, we’d been discussing a new name for the dog. S.Hooligan was pushing hard for Viola, no one knows why. She also liked Emily. I suggested Addie, thinking of the character in “House Without a Christmas Tree,” one of Mom’s favorite Christmas specials. Diamondqueen sneered because she thought first of Tatum O’Neale, who played Addie in “Paper Moon.” However, she reconsidered and admitted Addie seemed a good name. At first we went with “Emily” because S.Hooligan was raising a fuss, but once we got the dog home, everyone but S. thought “Addie” was more appropriate. That’s what we’ve stuck with ever since.
Addie is a sweetheart of a dog. Everyone told us she was, but she exceeded our highest expectations. The first couple of days she cowered if we even tried to pet her, and she seemed reluctant to enter the kitchen at all. We had to hoist her onto the futon for the first couple of days, but the more familiar Addie became with her surroundings, the more spirited she was about jumping up on furniture and making herself very comfortable. She really seemed to resist the crate, so the first two nights I slept with her on the folded-down futon so she wouldn’t be alone in a strange, dark house (although Mom and I leave our bedroom doors open anyhow). She wasn’t that enamored with having sleeping company, so from the third night on I left her alone on the comfy futon in sofa position with the cushions, her new toys, and her quilt. Before I go to bed, I make sure she’s covered up, like a baby. Often she sleeps with her head on one of the cushions.
What we couldn’t adjust to was the fact that Addie never barked. She whined a bit if she saw something of interest out the window, and once I heard her whine while I was at the computer. When I went upstairs, she ran to me from the living room and gladly went out in the dark yard to pee. Otherwise, not a peep out of her. Lots of sweetness and enthusiasm, though.
We knew she was adjusting well during the week that followed when Mom didn’t see her in the kitchen or living room; Mom glanced in her own bedroom and there was Addie, curled up asleep on the bed. Addie’s fussiness about food seemed to ease as well, especially after Mom moved her dishes under the china cabinet from Rusty’s old place by the sink counter.
This past Saturday evening, though, I felt Addie had taken her last stride toward accepting this as her home. I was at the computer in the basement when I heard a dog bark. Since it was unlike Rusty’s bark, it caught my attention immediately, but it still took me a minute to realize what had happened: Addie had spoken! Not just once, but several times and with emphasis. It was deeper than I’d expected; she’s so sweet and seems so small compared to other dogs in the family, I imagined more of a yappy bark. This was full-throated and assured.
I climbed the stairs and said, “Did I hear what I thought I’d heard?” Mom had run into the living room as well. The golden retriever from down the street had just passed by with one of her owners, and for some reason that had gotten a rise out of Addie, although she’d whined at dogs before. I haven’t heard her bark again since, but Mom said she woofed briefly yesterday.
Abbreviated as it was, Addie’s bark to me signaled that she’d come full-circle in her adjustment to her new home. As her confidence and familiarity grow, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of a rascal side of her. I think she has it in her.
I still think about Rusty all the time. Addie doesn’t replace him; she’s creating her own treasured space in our lives and is her own original self. And what a shame if this lovely dog had perished at the shelter where her family dumped her. Thanks to Recycled Doggies, she was saved so she could become the latest cherished canine member of our family.
NUDGE: I haven’t posted a writing nudge in months and months, so here’s an obvious one. Write about the first days of a pet in your home. It doesn’t have to be a dog. What awkwardness did you have to overcome? What little rituals became established first? When did you realize the pet had become fully absorbed into your life and home? Don’t feel you have to write about a current pet. Reach into the past, as far back as you like. (This could be a good exercise if you’re feeling blocked. As with writing about food, you may find the words come easily when describing a pet.)