Junior Emotional Support Intern
As I alluded to, I brought home a puppy last week.
The same afternoon the vet confirmed her mass was assuredly cancer, I went straight from sobbing over her in my backyard to going to the closest shelter to look at puppies with a friend. If that chain of events feels illogical, I can assure you that it felt just as strange to me. I feel so, so broken about the short life she’s going to have. The bad days looming make me feel sick to my stomach. I’m not sure much could hurt me worse right now than what is happening to her.
But I also know that, ultimately, this is something else I will survive. I will be deeply sad, and it will suck. We will chase happy days together, but however long she has left will always have this shadow cast over it. It’ll be there in pictures, in memories, in everything. The best thing I can do for myself right now is to insert a new source of light.
So, meet Lucie. As with all of my dogs, spelling is important. This one is of French origin, and it simply means “light.”
She wasn’t the first puppy I played with, or even the second. In fact, I didn’t play with her at all or even touch her before committing to adopt her.
Though the puppies at the Austin shelter were adorable, they were also full pitt. I think pitts are great dogs, but they are not my favorite variety personally. I wanted a female, big dog that had some kind of sporting breed in her. Those have been my favorite to train and work with in the past. I find them smart, affectionate and relatively easy when it comes to other dogs and children.
I browsed the animal shelter website that’s in the country outside of Austin, and saw tons of puppies. So many puppies. A friend and I made a plan to go see them after the barn on Saturday, and were taken to an entire building full of puppies. There were probably 20 between 8-12 weeks, some looked even younger than that.
One run had three black females marked as a golden retriever/pit mix. They were 12 weeks old, had huge floppy ears and happily waddled over to us wagging their tails versus barking or carrying about. When I asked how I could take them out to play to see their personalities, I was told that I couldn’t touch them.
Couldn’t touch them?
Turns out they only showed us the quarantine building, and all the dogs had days left on their intake hold before anyone could touch them. I could however, decide to adopt one by sight alone, but that felt crazy. Frustrated, I left the shelter.
Five minutes down the road, I couldn’t stop thinking about the black puppies. I knew one of them was my pup, so I went back the next day and looked at them all again.
One little girl was the most timid, staying at the back and shivering a lot. The other, fluffiest puppy was the wild one. Leaping over the others to see us. The pup in the middle didn’t stand out in any major way, but as I watched them trying to decide what to do she lingered by the gate near me. Even though I was instructed not to touch the dogs, I put my hand just outside the wire. She stuck her little nose through and licked the tip of my knuckle. I filled out the paperwork right after.
While I waited for her to be spayed, I got a crate and all the necessary items and tried to get Pascale excited about a little sister. I told her that she would always be best, number one girl, but that I was going to need someone to help me when she couldn’t.
Of course, she’s a dog and understood none of this. When I took Lucie home, Pascale was excited for about thirty seconds before that quickly turned to annoyance. Interpersonal relationships at my house are currently… challenging.
Pascale is a good natured dog, but she has made it clear that she never asked for a puppy and is not going to raise anyone’s runaway kid. She also almost immediately picked up a cold from the germs the shelter puppy brought in, which isn’t helping anything.
Lucie is learning all about the world, which went from who knows what to a tiny shelter run with her siblings to a big house with a mom and a grumpy black dog and lots of toys. It’s crazy when I think about things from her perspective. In a period of two hours she went from being terrified and shuddering in the back of my car to deciding that I was the center of her universe. That’s the magic of puppies.
As for me, I’m a mix of excited, stressed, lovestruck and overwhelmed. Lucie is a really good puppy, but she’s still a young puppy and I don’t have to tell you how much work it is to train them. Even so, I adore her. She’s incredibly sweet and snuggly and I know will be a loyal companion to me when times are hard.
My bigger issue is my codependency on Pascale. I feel responsible for her every emotion, especially given these circumstances, and to see her grumpy with the new puppy makes me feel incredibly guilty for this choice. My expectations for her getting along with a new pup were unrealistic. Her corrections are—for the most part—fair, justified and appropriate. She’s acting like any alpha dog would to a new pack member, and teaching Lucie how to behave (spoiler alert: it’s not okay to jump on someone’s head. It’s doubly not okay to do this before 10am). That’s the logic of the situation.
The emotions of the situation is that I feel like I’m hurting my beloved dog’s feelings in the last days of her life, and that she feels she’s getting replaced. It’s not rational, but it’s the sad, defeated feeling I sink into every time I see Pascale get grumpy with Lucie.
For now, I’m just giving things more time. It’s only been four days, and I know it’s unreasonable to think they’ll be two peas in a pod in this time. Pascale still gets lots of special privileges and alone time that Lucie does not, which I hope helps her feel like she’s most important. I’m just trying to stay the course and separate facts from feelings—not always my strong suit.
Hopefully in a few weeks things will settle down to a harmonious new normal, and Pascale will keep having happy days. I’m trying a range of outside the box treatments for her, but that’s the subject of another post.
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