You came to us as a helpless, roly-poly ball of fur.
Someone had left you in a ditch on the side of the road. You weighed just a pound; hadn’t even reached the age of being weaned yet. A kind person spotted you and took you to a lady who rescued strays like you. That nice lady heard through an acquaintance that I was looking for a puppy, and once you were old enough, you were brought from New Jersey to Florida to become mine.
You came to us only months into our marriage, which made us a perfect fit, because you were also getting a new beginning. You were such a fragile, dainty, beautiful little puppy (and still are), and we wondered how anyone could have just abandoned you; how anyone could have set you down, knowing it was a death sentence for a dog as tiny as you.
We bonded over you, fawning over how you couldn’t sleep unless you were nuzzled up with one of us. You followed me around wherever I went in our small, one-bedroom apartment, your little toy body tumbling over your clumsy legs. We laughed at the way you growled at your squeaky toys, rolling over and kicking them with your back feet. You hated being alone in your crate at night, and it wasn’t long before we decided it was okay to let you sleep on our bed with us. It calmed you, and though you loved both of us, you became especially attached to me. If I slept in, you stayed by my side under the covers, and if I got up early for work, you’d get up, too, keeping me company on lonely mornings. You were the first to teach us mutual responsibility for a being who was fully dependent on us.
We moved across the country for new opportunities, and even when we had to move in with relatives, you came with us, because you were a part of our family.
You were so loving and intelligent, eager to meet new people (and new dogs). Old ladies at the park wanted a chance to pet you and gush over you and your permanent puppy-like appearance. Little kids would stop their parents and ask for permission to pet you on the sidewalk. We were proud of how sweet and darling you were, telling them your story and how blessed we were to be the owners to such an amiable little dog. You were my baby—my fur-baby—spoiled and treated like the princess of a lapdog that you were.
When I got pregnant, we read all the books and heard all the warnings that everything was about to change; not just for us, but for you, too. With either strong-willed optimism or ignorant naïveté, I didn’t see how things would change all that much for you. You’d been my only baby for years. I couldn’t fathom that anyone, even my own child, could make me love you less. My heart was going to be big enough for the both of you.
But before the baby was even born, you began to act differently. Maybe you sensed the imminent change that lay ahead. You became nervous, yapping at every unusual and familiar sound. You became possessive of me, barking and charging at anyone who came near me. You began to panic when we left you alone, making messes while we were gone. It was frustrating, but we did what we could to bear with you, knowing these kinds of things were to be expected. We read about and implemented all the suggestions, preparing you for the day a new little person would be entering our home. You responded well, and despite the new quirks you were developing, we knew you were still a good-hearted little dog.
You were curious about her when we brought her home, your triangle ears against your head as you eagerly touched her with your cold, wet nose. We waited for any signs of aggression or jealousy, but you just wagged your tail, happily sharing the space in my lap with the new peculiar creature in my arms.
If only life as new parents with an old dog were that easy.
The first few months of learning to be a mom was hard for me. I was tired—constantly. I spent my days trying to master the natural way to feed my baby, bawling in the floor while she slept because I was failing at it. I spent my nights trying to get her used to sleeping in a bassinet, frustrated that she kept waking up within minutes of me laying her down, debating whether it was worth even trying to sleep when I was just going to have to be up in an hour to feed her. Lack of sleep, lack of confidence in my capabilities, feeling overstretched in all of my roles—new and old—caused my patience to be thin.
So it’s not fair to say that you changed. Because the truth is, I changed, too.
The way you used to run to the door, greeting Daddy with joyous barks stopped being cute. We scolded you, afraid it would wake or scare the baby.
The way you used to nestle into my lap was no longer convenient, and I would push you away, getting up to care for the baby or simply because I just needed a moment to myself.
The way you used to follow me around was no longer endearing; you were just in the way, and I was either stepping on you and hurting you, or stumbling over you with an infant in my arms.
Your accidents on the floor were no longer just unfortunate. Spending the day in baby diapers and spit up made cleaning up your messes just one extra, unnecessary step in my soiled day.
I remember the first time the thought entered my mind, but I stifled it, thinking it was merely borne out of frustration. But the further into parenthood we explored, and the more you kept up your new, exasperating habits, I couldn’t deny it any longer. I remember holding you, your soft fur soaking up my tears as I began to wonder if giving you a new home would be best for both of us. Maybe I wasn’t paying you enough attention anymore. Maybe my heart wasn’t big enough after all, because every day, I was realizing my daughter was filling most of it. You still had a place, but it was different.
I felt so ashamed. I cried many times over the following months whenever I acknowledged this thought I never dreamed I’d have. Somedays, after working a full shift and coming home to my other full-time job as a mother, it would have been easier to come home without a mess to clean; it would have been easier not to worry about you jumping on the couch and walking over the baby; with my husband (or as he is called now, ‘Daddy’), and I working varying shifts, it would have been easier not to worry about your high-pitched barking waking one or all of us at any hour of the day; it would have been easier not to worry about people coming over and warning them not to touch you since you usually tinkled from the excitement. Somedays, it was just too much.
And yet, in spite of my perspective sometimes being clouded by feeling overwhelmed, in spite of the way I stopped viewing you as my baby and now just as the dog, in spite of the way I wondered if I should give up on you, giving up on me never crossed your mind.
Every time I pushed you away, you’d watch me from a distance, waiting for a better moment to try again. You’d crawl into my lap or curl up at my side again later, as if I wouldn’t notice. No matter where I went or what I was doing, you were happy to sit and wait as long as it meant you could be in the same room with me.
On the days I feel like I haven’t had a minute to myself—or the five minutes they say I’m supposed to spend with you to keep you from getting jealous of the baby—you approach me with no other expectation other than my company. All you expect from me is a lap to curl up in and a couple strokes on the head. There are days when I fail God, when I fail my husband, when I fail my daughter…
There are even days when I fail you…
But just like them, you still show me unconditional love. You still love me, even on the days I don’t deserve it.
No, you aren’t the perfect dog.
But I’m not perfect, either. In fact, these days, I feel like a hopeless, anxious mess more than anything else.
I guess that’s what makes the two of us a perfect pair. I guess it’s also proof that I need you as much as you need me. There are days I look forward to—no, need—an eager cuddle from my understanding, patient dog. There are days I need to cry but don’t want to talk about why, and you’re okay with that. There are days that I’m glad you bark at everything, because despite your itty-bitty size, it makes me feel safe.
I don’t want to be like the person who left you on the side of the road as a defenseless little puppy. I got to be your second chance. You became a part of our newly formed family, and being a part of a family means having people who don’t give up on you.
So we won’t give up on each other. We will forgive the day’s mistakes and be grateful for moments of quiet companionship that only a master and his or her dog understands.
Thank you for being my sweet Lucy.