Mama guilt will make you buy a dog just because your daughter asks repeatedly for one (as if that matters).
After avoiding the question, “When can I have a baby sister” for what seemed like years, I finally relented and bought a dog from a shelter. A dog is kinda like having another child (which I did not want to do as a single parent) BUT at that point, I felt guilty enough (for not having a partner and thus, another child) and my defenses were low enough to allow me to give in and give up. (Besides, having a dog adds years to your life (and truth be told, I could stand to lose some weight) That’s how I rationalized getting a dog…
I went online and found a cute, cuddly puppy then went to the shelter to find him-just like everyone else. The long line of anxious people and the suggestion to consider an older dog gave me just enough impetus to make eye contact with the dog handlers. Sensing the most minute of facial expression, the dog handler continued by saying, “Older dogs are harder to place and they often end up living in the shelter their whole lives.” To solidify the deal she added, “older dogs are house broken”. I raised my eyebrow and said, “Okay, I’d like to see an older dog”.
Bella (aka Andrea hailing from Tennessee) came bounding into the office, sliding around the corner on two legs like a race car leaning on the walls of the tires. All I saw was a big black blur. “ahhhhh, is THIS the dog?”, I thought. “I sure hope this is NOT the dog.”
“This is Bella. She’s a sweet girl but very energetic. The last family gave her back”
Like magic, Danielle fell in love with Bella as did my mother. I knew that we would have to take her even though I dreaded all of the energy that was zooming around the room. My life was hectic enough. How could I take care of a dog and a child. An energetic dog and an energetic child.
I had a day think it over (i.e. pray that Bella wouldn’t be there the next day when we went to pick her up OR at least that she would be calmer–that the frenzy that she was in was temporary) But…she was and she was ready.
In the days and months after bringing Bella home, I can’t count how many runs and walks I took with her just to get her energy level from 5th gear to 4th gear, which may have meant that she would stop eating shoes, bookbags and stuffed animals. I was exhausted from pure exertion and from painstakingly having to pick up everything within reach.
I cried and thought that I had made a terrible mistake. Danielle just kept saying, “we just can’t give her back, Mom. She’s been through enough already” even though she cried also when her favorite doll was maimed and had to wear a bandage forever. Luckily, Bella didn’t bark very much.
I attempted to have a doggie play date with my neighbors but their dog was so docile that she brought outa mean-sounding barking in Bella that really drove a wedge in our friendship. The neighbor said through tears and a quivering voice through my screen door that Bella could not play with her dog anymore because her dog was scared-she was scared.
People tend to be more afraid of black dogs, especially black dogs which bark. Bella barks. She barks when she sees other dogs. Sometimes her barks are playful and sometimes her barks sound guttural and aggressive. That’s what dogs do though-they establish dominance. However, it was difficult living on a block where people and dogs were afraid of each other, unfounded fear or not.
So, I explored dog parks. Bella loved dog parks but I found that people at dog parks tend to stand in clusters talking which inevitably leads to the dogs hanging around in clusters. As I talked, Bella stayed close. Yet, she needed (I needed) for her to run around.
Finally, I found a pennisula which provided hours of running and swimming entertainment for Bella. In Hingham, people walked, not talked and dogs played and ran. It was great. I began to recognize the beauty of my dog-how she communicates with other dogs, when she feels trepidation, when she doesn’t, how she responds to new stimuli, her need for affection.
Bella became a significant part of our little family. Not just an object to be walked and fed but a real part of the fabric of our lives. Some of the most peaceful times was walking with Bella and she would up at me, and I -down at her and we just knew that we had a connection.
I took Bella to stay with my boyfriend when my dad got home from the hospital, just to keep the peace (less noise, less licking, less chance of getting hit by a tail). My dad is improving but his attitude toward Bella is not. So, Larry has a pet now and I drive 1/2 hour a day each way, just to be the dogwalker. It’s not enough. I really miss her. I think about her constantly and I want to pine for her just like she whines for me when I leave. I can’t wait for my situation to change so I can reunite with Bella and her barking.