Something New

I never thought I would be a dog owner.

watercolor illustration of a black and white Havanese puppy in a field
Image created via Midjourney

There are several things that I have done in the past year that I never thought I would do.

I never thought I would sign a death certificate for my baby.

I never thought I would be struck with a second loss, after a first.

I never thought that my daily writing would become both something that would make me cry, and simultaneously become something of a therapeutic necessity.

I never thought that I would do hot yoga. Previously, it had zero appeal.

And I never thought I would be a dog owner.

When grief strikes, there is finding a "new" normal, because life is never, ever the same. My heart has a hole in it and will never be the same, but I can try to fill it in. The hole is the size of infinity: I can make it smaller, smaller, smaller, but it will never completely go away because nothing can ever replace my babies.  

Sometimes, the tools I use to fill it are not as solid as I would like. They waver, or dissolve, and then the hole becomes a bit larger again. A bit more pronounced.

When Quentin was a toddler, we talked briefly about getting a dog, but set the idea aside, wanting to wait until the kids were older. Then this summer, Ger woke up one morning telling me that he'd had a dream that we had gotten a puppy. Therefore, he thought we should get a dog.  

It was funny for a few minutes, but then we started to think more seriously about it. After everything we had been through, it seemed like a nice idea to bring some joy into our lives. A distraction. Something to take care of. Something that would give affection. It could not fill the hole in my heart, but it could make it a bit smaller. Pets offer a whole different world of comfort.

Our timing was intentional as well. Without knowing what the future holds for our family, a puppy would be a constant. The idea of experiencing more pain, and then looking for a puppy and needing to wait, seemed unbearable. Better to make the adjustment to a new pet now, so that we could settle a bit for wherever our road leads next.

I had already researched a breed years ago: a Havanese. Known for being companion dogs, good with kids, great personalities. I began to research breeders in the area and we found one that we liked, with a litter due soon. Sadly, the litter only had three puppies and they had people already lined up with deposits. I was devastated, but kept looking. Found another breeder, who had just had a litter. We met the puppies and put down a deposit. Then we had to wait, another six weeks before the puppy could come home.

A friend asked me why we chose a female and I said simply, "Because. Of what I've been through in the past year." Not a replacement, not even close. Nothing could ever replace my daughters. But a gentle attempt at some joy.  

It also was not lost on me that the day we were scheduled to bring her home was September 11th, fifteen years after the terrorist attacks on this country. Another reason to bring some light into the day, when it is otherwise somber. So many people grieve on this day.

I was nervous and detached. I could not allow myself to be excited or think that this puppy was actually coming home with us. Too much heartache in the past year has caused me to put a wall around the hole in my heart, worried that it might cave in more.  

But as we drew closer, I had to plan. I had to order supplies. I had to look into training techniques, feeding schedules, find a vet. Even a day or two before, I was still in slight disbelief that she would actually come home with us.

But now she is here, and she is perfect. She sat quietly on my lap the entire 45-minute drive home. She snuggled with everyone and played with her tiny puppy energy. She gave me puppy kisses and followed me around the house. Wherever I went, that was where she wanted to be.  

I know there will be a lot of work ahead, but I am completely in love with her already. She is exactly what I wanted, and needed. My heart feels a little more full today.

Acceptance of the New Normal
I try to stay connected with people, but it isn’t the same.
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