Someday there will be words for how we loved our dog Mesa across the first thirteen years of our marriage, five different states, and two children. Someday I will write how we parted ways in Georgia, our hands running over and over her familiar spots, releasing her. Meantime, I’ve had a dog-shaped hole in me.
It took me a year to be ready to fill that hole. Then, this summer, I found myself combing the rescue groups, impressed that mutt adoptions in New York require screening so rigorous that even after dedicating my career to dogs, I barely seemed to qualify. In other places we’ve lived—especially Arizona and Alabama—the puppy surplus allowed you to adopt a dog just by showing up. Several local rescue groups here actually import puppies from the Deep South to loving, carefully screened, homes in the Northeast.
We (okay, I) eventually found a litter of mixed breed puppies, born to a lovely mutt—rescued while heavily pregnant—who seemed Australian Shepherd-ish and some kind of spaniel-ish. Faced with her litter of twelve puppy internet photos, I picked one.
“Sam, we’ll need to think about what we want to name the puppy,” I said, the day before we got her.
He gazed into the distance, then announced, “Skip.”
I congratulated his idea as one for the list of ideas, then we consulted Stella, who echoed that Skip was a great name. They quickly became a united front on this issue. “You got to name our other pets,” they argued, which was true, since our other pets were a decade older than our kids.
So Skip, our now 8 week-old little girl puppy, has joined the family. She seems not only smart, but wise for her age. Skip has good intuitions about playing right with kids, ducks, and other dogs. She’s house training quickly, shadows us everywhere around the farm, and sleeps upside-down with her soft belly exposed.
I will never truly understand why we keep opening our hearts to these creatures who will inevitably shatter us with their death. I do know that some part of me requires occupation by a dog. I know that nothing can replace those ears flying backwards as a furry body bounds towards me, those eyes meeting mine and understanding something about me, that warm puppy sleeping trustingly across my arms.