Before I had my first baby, and my second baby, there was another baby. A fur baby.
Lola kept me company. She rode in a pink stroller. She was my kid-in-training.
She was my snuggle buddy every night (even when my preggo body nearly crushed her). She walked me to the bathroom again and again when I was ready to burst. She patiently walked all over Bedford with me to jump-start my labour.
Things went wrong shortly after our son was born. She’d always had jealousy issues and separation anxiety, but they got out of control. There were threatening phone calls from neighbours, from the condo board. We couldn’t sell the condo. We were trapped.
She grew increasingly aggressive. Growling at us. Snapping. For such a little thing, her jaw strength was terrifying. On one dark afternoon, she bit my hand while I was holding the baby. I put her in her kennel and called my sister — sobbing — for her to come over and just take her. JUST TAKE HER. I CAN’T.
Friends of the family used to have a Miniature Dachshund, so they understood their issues. They lived in a big house surrounded by trees. They could take her everywhere with them. They could give her the home we couldn’t. So they did, happily.
We took a lot of flak for our decision. Jokes about “trading up” for a baby. It killed me to hear it.
Yes, there are plenty of people who Kijiji or Craigslist their pets because it’s not convenient, or they’re moving and don’t want to bring them along.
But there are also people who love their pets desperately — who whisper in their floppy ears and sing them songs and sew them clothes — and still have to re-home them. People who are scared and trying to do what’s best for their (human) baby, and are forever haunted by their decision.
It’s painful to talk about her, and it was almost six years ago.
Time moved on, our son grew older, we finally (finally!) sold that blasted condo, and we moved to our House of Dreams in the country. We welcomed our baby girl and settled into life as a family of four.
All around us, families had dogs. We did not. I wanted one, of course, but I was (A) entirely convinced we couldn’t handle one, with two tiny children, and (B) terrified of going through the same experience again.
I couldn’t fathom picking up poop again with a baby strapped to my chest, or struggling down the sidewalk with a baby, a two-year-old and a leash. I couldn’t handle another responsibility. I just couldn’t.
But I longed a dog. I’ve been a huge dog person since I was eight years old. When we got to choose our own assignments for projects, I used to do mine on the different breeds of dogs and how to take care of them. My dad and stepmother got a beautiful black and white Cocker Spaniel, Bandit, and I was obsessed with him. I called him my husband and mailed him cards that said “To the man I love, on your birthday.” (Creepy, I know.)
My husband had never owned a dog until Lola, and he loved her just as much as me. He was confident that we could have another dog — that it would be good for the kids — but I shut down the idea. No. No. Not again. What if …?
I have seen Lola several times, and it’s clear she is very happy. She is even more spoiled than she was with us (pre-baby) if that’s possible. Her new owners have gotten kicked out of many stores because they insist on bringing her absolutely everywhere, which she adores.
Each time, she has leapt into my arms and smothered me with kisses. It makes me happy that she remembers our time together so fondly. It also hurts, because I miss her. I miss her so much.
Somewhere in the shift of the kids getting older — and our lives getting a little easier — the ice around the doggie-part of my heart started to melt. There weren’t any more diapers to change, there were far fewer bum-wipings in the run of a day. Maybe, yes. It was starting to look like more of a possibility.
My husband has been pushing hard for a dog for the last couple of years. He tells me how much the kids would love it (they would). He points out that we finally have a yard, and we don’t have neighbours on all sides of us like at the condo (true). He adds that since I work from home, the dog would hardly ever be here alone (also true).
The idea has been working its way into my mind — and my heart — for a while now. I still ache for Lola but I know I have love to give to a new dog. There are so many nights when I sit on the couch and can almost feel our future dog snuggled up in my lap. Afternoons when I long for them to be cuddled at my feet, under my desk. Not to mention the fun the kids would have playing with them in the backyard.
Somewhere, too, there was the twinge of sadness that the kids are growing up so fast and they need me less and less. An unexpected surgery took away my ability to have a third baby — although we likely would not have, anyway — and a dog felt like a compromise of sorts. A perma-baby, in a way. A redemption.
We slowly started to do the research. We compared the sizes and qualities and temperaments of countless breeds. We adopted Lola on a whim without absolutely zero forethought, so we knew we couldn’t make that mistake again. We looked at rescue sites and online listings and I waited to feel that spark — to know we were looking at The One.
Things fell into place in exactly the right way, with someone else backing out shortly after I reached out. We drove almost an hour to see her. My knees were shaking as I sank onto the floor of a porch to stroke her fur. I held her warm little body against my chest as she fell asleep on me. I never wanted to let her go. She was mine, instantly.
We bring her home at the end of August. I’m excited and nervous and a little afraid of what people will say, but mostly I can’t wait for her to join our family.