We have a new dog. Well she’s new to us, at least. Bella, an 18 month-old Shih Tzu has lived with our family for five weeks now and I am absolutely positively in love with her. My love borders on obsession, I think. When I’m gone I miss my kids and I miss the dog. When I dropped her off to be groomed last week, I almost cried because she looked so nervous. I never even cried when any of my three kids went off to kindergarten for the first time. But there I was, in my car, wiping my eyes, thinking “What the heck is wrong with me? It’s a dog!!” I kept my phone by my side that morning during my meeting, just in case there was a problem, just in case she needed me.
This is Bella last Tuesday after her first grooming appointment since we have had her. Isn't she so cute?
It’s not like we’ve never had a dog in our house, because we have. When I met my husband waaaayyyy back in 1992, he had a beagle named Sadie. She was his dog. As we dated and later married, she became like our first baby and we were devastated when she died just after our oldest daughter was born. We were so sad in fact, that just a few months later we took our little baby girl with us and picked out another beagle, an almost-four-year-old rescue dog, named her Emma, and took her home with us.
There is a great quote by Jodi Picoult in her book, “House Rules” where the main character quotes a wise person who said, “Before you have kids, your dog is your baby. After you have kids, your dog is just a dog.” Poor Emma. She was just a dog, as baby number two came and then baby number three. Emma was lost in the shuffle as our house filled with babies and baby things. I barely remember her younger days and I’m always surprised when I see photos of her playing or begging by a high chair, I almost forgot she was there all that time.
Emma died after a long illness and my husband and I were relieved for the break. It had been a stressful time, and we told the kids we needed at least a year to recoup. We both agreed we’d stretch it out as long as we could. Well, this summer was it. The kids begged us at least twelve times a day for a dog. We’d decided to go hyperallergenic this time but the thought of paying a high price for a dog killed us. So we started looking for free or for at least cheap. One August morning, my husband said, “I think I found one.” We didn’t tell the girls, and that night he went out to a “meeting” and came back with Bella.
Our girls had no idea this dog was ours. They said, "Whose dog is that?" and we said, "It's yours!!" The looks on their faces is just priceless.
I thought Bella was certainly cute enough, and loving. She loved to be held right away and loved to play and run and give kisses, all the things a dog should do, all the things Emma either never did or I was so caught up in the blur of motherhood with toddlers that I never noticed she did. I thought to myself, “Well, this is nice. This is just the kind of dog my kids will love.”
And then, they went to school. Labor Day weekend went by and Bella and I waved our hand and paw to them in the window as the bus drove by. My youngest daughter was a “full day” kid for the first time, leaving and returning with her older sisters. It was just Bella and me, all day, every day. I do work: I work from home, I work covering stories for the paper, I work selling books. However, I am home a lot, in and out for lunch, things like that. Bella and I take walks around the neighborhood. She sleeps at my feet when I type. She lays in my lap on the couch. She stands up for me to pick her up.
Before I knew it, I was totally, 100% smitten. In love, obsessed. I’d find myself holding her for one more minute and then apologizing for having to put her down to put on makeup so I could leave for work. I’d find myself counting minutes in my head to see if I had enough time to run home and take her out before my next story so that she wasn’t alone so much. Did I mention this borders on obsession?
I have never loved a dog this much, I don’t think. And better yet, she loves me. Just when I thought I was ready to be on my own for full days, so I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone or anything for six hours, here I am enjoying the unconditional love and loyalty of my new dog and I don’t mind at all. In fact, I really love it.
I think it's the puppy-dog eyes that do it to me. She's irresistible!
My fourth baby...