June 17 through July 13, 2017
The day after my last post, I adopted a dog. One year, 7 months, 17 days after Bella died. I have missed her every one of those 595 days, and I’ll miss her for all the rest of my days to come, but I now have a new furry friend to love. I hope she knows it doesn’t mean I love her any less. I still talk to her when I feel like it throughout the day, and I still say good night to her when I turn out the light before bed.
I waited a long time because…well, just because. I just wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I wanted to walk a dog 3-30 times per day in the rain, cold, or heat. I didn’t know if I wanted to be accountable to a pet that needed to go out 3-30 times per day, which meant I would have to go back to counting the hours I was away from home. I didn’t know if I wanted to take on the responsibility for another living creature (the cat’s been very low maintenance). I didn’t know if I could handle potty training, behavior problems, potential chewing crises. I didn’t know if I could bond with another dog the way that I had completely and totally bonded with Bella.
Over the course of those 500+ days, I looked at a lot of dogs online. Between the local SPCA, animal shelter in my town/county and surrounding areas, Petfinder.com, Operation Kindness, and even the shelter & rescue sites when visiting my sister in Colorado, I am certain that I viewed the pics and profiles of several hundreds of dogs. I seriously considered a few dozen. I’d look at the picture of one that looked especially promising and say, “When I get back from my trip to Colorado, if you’re still available, I’ll come visit you.” Or, “When I’m recovered from cataract surgery, I’ll come meet you if you’re still on the site.” I never did. Closest I got was sending an email about a dachshund to a woman at a rescue group. I was about to go out of town for the conference in February, so I told the woman I’d get back with her when I returned. I didn’t. I also spent some time with a dog at a PetSmart adoption event, but she looked way too much like Bella and she absolutely refused to walk on a leash, so I had to let her stay with her foster…who had a pool she could swim in and other dogs to play with, which made me want to ask the foster to take me in as well.
What I was waiting for was some kind of sign. Like, a friend saying, “I’ve got the perfect dog for you!” Or, a dog knocking on my door. I also wanted to know, 100%, that the dog would be healthy for a very long time, that it would take treats from me with a “soft mouth” the way Bella did and not take off my fingers, that it would be housebroken with no slips (ok, a rare one), that it wouldn’t chew up my furniture or steal yarn (thanks, cat, for showing me that that’s a real thing), and that it would love me as much as I loved it. I knew Bella loved me because she hated 99.9% of all the people she ever met. Well, “hated” is too strong…disliked and distrusted are more accurate.
So, when I saw Tilly on the SPCA website, I am not sure what made me decide to finally drive the few miles down the road to see her. She wasn’t one of the “OMG! CUTEST!” dogs that I’d shared pictures of with my sister. She didn’t look anything like Bella, which is a type I am attracted to (black Lab mix). She didn’t have anything on her profile to describe her personality or explain her background. Still, I went. And she wasn’t there.
I walked through the adoption area though and looked at several of the others who were. I knew them all from the Internet, and I found out more about them by reading their paperwork. “Doesn’t like cats.” Don’t blame you, buddy, ’cause some days I don’t either. “75 pounds.” Ummm…I’m guessing you eat way more than I can afford. “Pit Bull mix.” I’d take you but my apartments would kick us both out since there are breed restrictions…no restrictions about jerks who play music too loudly, or who have kids who repeatedly slam into your garage door, or who cook some nasty-smelling foods sometimes…but no Pit Bulls allowed. I did spend some time talking with a volunteer who was sitting in the “cell” with a senior black Lab mix who looked so much like Bella I was about to cry. The pup was very sweet but she was 10. 3 years younger than Bella was when she died. I don’t think I can get my vet bills paid off in 3 years, and I also don’t think I can go through another roller coaster of emotions like that again anytime soon.
As I was about to leave, another volunteer asked if she could help. I told her I’d come to see Tilly, but was told when I arrived that she’d been taken to an adoption event. The woman gave me a flyer and said it was just down the street. While we were talking, a young man came in and also asked about Tilly. I said, “Oh, no, I was thinking of going to see her here,” and pointed to the flyer. He told me to feel free. So, I went.
They were about to close up for the day, but I could see her standing by one of the volunteers in front of their mobile shelter van. I told them I’d come over from the SPCA facility because I was told Tilly was there, so they let me walk her around a little bit. Then they brought out her paperwork. They told me she’s heartworm positive. They told me she was adopted out for about a week and returned because of housebreaking and chewing issues. Just like when I (used to) choose men, I may have had boundaries about what I wouldn’t accept, but sometimes I’d just throw those boundaries to the wind, and that’s what I did here. Medical and behavioral issues were both no-nos, yet here I was writing a check for $25 and filling out the paperwork to take her home. I even let them take a picture of us before we left, and I don’t ever let anyone take my picture.
Here is the first picture I took of her. We’re in the mobile shelter, and she’s waiting for me to sign everything that would allow me to take her home.
When the volunteer and I reviewed the notes about Tilly, she reassured me that SPCA would cover all the costs for the heartworm treatment. She read me the comments that the previous adopter had written, and it sounded to me like Tilly just needed someone to have a little patience. Since I work from home, I could take her out a bunch of times and not give her a chance to go potty inside. I could also keep an eye on her so she wouldn’t chew on the coffee table (as she did at the adopter’s house). And, I have a crate that was bigger than what Bella needed, and Tilly is 15 pounds lighter than Bella, so it would give her plenty of room for chilling while I went to Walmart and the office (about the only 2 places I go anymore, unless I get to leave town). The main thing that drew me to her, besides her pretty coloring and sweet face, was that she likes cats. And she was good with dogs (there was one wandering around from the senior living facility where the event was held, and they got along well). She walked well on the leash, too, which is a must for me since I can’t just open a door and give her access to a yard.
So, we headed home together. I got about halfway there when the volunteer called to tell me she forgot to give me Tilly’s pills, so I turned around and went to the SPCA to meet her there. While waiting for her to arrive, a couple came in with some crates and blankets they were donating. The man came up to Tilly and knelt down to pet her. She licked his face and was so happy that he was paying attention to her. That kinda sealed the deal for me. As much as I loved being the only person Bella loved, it could get a little embarrassing when she’d either bark her head off at other people or run and hide. Tilly wasn’t going to be that kind of girl. And it showed me that, no matter what her past had been like, she trusted people, men included. She might be ahead of me in that regard.
Introducing her to the cat didn’t go as smoothly as I’d planned, but that wasn’t Tilly’s fault. The cat was not amused. Even though I’ve been telling her for nearly a year and a half that I was either going to trade her in for a dog or just get a dog for us to share, she didn’t believe me. So, when I brought a dog home, she was not a happy camper. She ran under the couch and stayed there almost all of Saturday. When Tilly and I went into the bedroom to relax in there, the cat did come out to see why it was so quiet. As you can see, she was still keeping her distance.
For the next few days, we all got to know each other a little better. I was starting to understand, though, why the previous adopter had taken Tilly back to the SPCA. Despite taking her outside first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, 20-30 minutes after each meal, every time she woke up from a nap, and every time she looked at me funny, she would take FOREVER to find a spot to go potty, and then sometimes she’d just stand in the yard so we’d come inside after 30 minutes of hanging out in the rain. And then she’d go potty on my $12 Ikea rug in the living room. Sometimes just minutes after coming in from a marathon session of slowly wandering around to smell every blade of grass. One of the things about heartworm treatment is the dog isn’t supposed to be outside for long, especially in the heat, and it’s not supposed to get too excited or overworked. So, I was loving that I didn’t have to feel guilty for not going on a mile walk during 100o temps. Yet, we were still spending the same amount of time casually wandering the immediate area. And sometimes it was all in vain. I was now feeling like a non-happy camper myself, and the solitary life with a cat was looking more appealing.
However, I had proudly told the SPCA volunteers that I worked from home and felt that the potty problem would not become a problem for us, so it was more about my pride than anything else. No way could I take her back there after saying that I knew how to fix it. So, we kept working on it. And, I’m happy to say that, almost 1 month later, it’s almost licked. Today is Thursday, and I think she’s had just 2 indoor pee accidents this week. One was my fault because the steroids she’s on do make her thirsty, which makes her have to pee more, and I had forgotten what time I had last taken her out and was busy with work, too. The other was in the middle of the night. I have been hearing her when she gets off the bed, waking up myself, and then taking her out, no matter what time. One Friday at 5AM, I was rewarded by being attacked by fire ants. My foot is still covered in red dots, but at least they don’t itch anymore. The accident she had this week happened on a night when I just didn’t know she’d left the bedroom. I need to teach her to alert me. Bella would simply nudge me; my sister’s dogs ring jingle bells hung on the door. I need to figure out Tilly’s signal as mind-reading is getting old.
We are still working on her barking when I put her in the crate when I do go somewhere. I’m not worried about her going potty while I’m gone since she always goes on that cheap rug I can easily replace (and there is vinyl flooring under it so it’s not getting into carpet or padding or anything like that). What I am concerned about is the possibility of furniture destruction and/or the consumption of any knickknack-ish things, most of which are the few crocheted or sewn items that I keep on display. So, I put her in the crate with an Oinkie and tell her I’ll be right back (Bella always believed me).
I hope to someday get her to the point of being like Bella when it comes to my leaving the house. She wouldn’t even follow me down the stairs to the door. She’d stand on the top landing, peeking around the corner at me. I’d tell her I loved her, that I’d be right back, and ask her to be a good girl. When I got home, she would be at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me. I don’t know how she knew the difference between me going down to leave and us going down to go out to potty, but she did. God, I do miss her. So…in order to keep the peace with my neighbors (I have no idea how long Tilly barks when I’m gone; I get in my car as fast as possible so I don’t have to hear her so I don’t stick around long to find out), I am hopeful she’ll either stop barking in the crate or no longer need the crate. Time will tell on this, I guess.
It has worked out well with Maxi though. They’re friendly. Not cuddle buddies, but getting closer.
Here they are, after just a few days, in proximity to one another on the couch:
And here they are a few days after that:
While sitting at my desk, I could see Maxi was in the dog crate and thought that was funny. So I lifted my phone up high enough to take a pic without getting out of my chair as I thought that might make her move. When I looked at my phone to see the pic, I was so surprised to see that Tilly was in there, too!
So, all in all, I think I’ll keep her. And, as the title says, I think she’s saving my life. One day at a time. I have to get off the couch or out of my office chair more times per day in order to go outside with her. I have to walk around while she looks for the right spot (thankfully, that doesn’t take as long anymore, but it’s still a little exercise). I have someone to really take care of (the cat is pretty self-sufficient). And I have someone who loves me in a way that only a dog can love. Sorry, Maxi, but that’s just how they roll.