As I write this post, our new puppy is fast asleep in her crate. She wore herself out playing with the puppy next door.
I began my first long-term relationship with a dog 15 years ago on a cold January day like this one.
Back then, dog shelters didn’t have websites. I called our local shelter and learned that there was a 5-month-old male yellow lab available that day.
I jumped in the car and raced over. When I got there, I peeked around the corner and and there he was at the end of the hall. He cocked his sweet puppy head and looked right at me with soft, almond-shaped eyes. From that moment on, he was my dog.
That January marked the one-year anniversary of my last round of chemotherapy. Both hair and energy were restored. I was raring to go, ready to do all the things I'd always meant to do. Owning a dog was high on that list. As I drove him home I wondered which of us would outlive the other.
Back then I knew little about the requirements of dog guardianship. I plunged in head first without a lot of thought. Just like a dog, I was living in the moment and going with the flow.
During the last two weeks of Hobbes's life, he was sweeter than ever. All he wanted was to be near us. For the first time in months he walked down the hall to my home office for a mid-morning ear scratch, and followed me to the door to watch me pull out of the driveway.
A few hours before his life-ending seizure, he looked deep into my eyes in a way I’d never seen before. He knew.
Two days ago my husband and I brought a puppy home from the local shelter. I was attracted by her reserved, yet friendly demeanor. She is three months old, a 15-pound dynamo who looks like a beagle with the markings of a Siberian husky. We named her Karina in honor of her theoretical Russian roots. Time will tell us who she really is.
Before heading for the shelter, I deliberated long and hard. Since I am the one at home right now, caring for a new puppy would fall mostly to me. Was I ready to trade my lazy mornings with tea and the newspaper for cold treks outside into the ice and snow? Did I really want to deal with the messiness, unpredictability, and expense of a puppy?
But then I remembered how much I loved walking in the woods with Hobbes, how he kept me focused on the here and now, and how his presence helped make our house a home. I thought about all the studies pointing to the health benefits of having a pet. I considered the possibility of experiencing new love, and the fun of embarking on an adventure with my husband.
Like Hobbes, Karina is a symbol of hope. Hope that she will be with me as long as he was, that we will take each other to new places, and teach each other important lessons. Hope that my husband and I will enjoy a healthy old age — for in 15 years I will enter my 7th decade and he will be closing in on his 8th.
Shortly after we brought Karina home, I had another moment of doubt —and my sadness over the loss of Hobbes seemed to double back on itself. He would have loved the new puppy too.
Then I looked at Karina’s papers more closely and gasped in surprise. Her date of birth was September 30, 2010 — the same day that Hobbes died.
For me it was a magical coincidence. A sign from my lovely old guy that I was right to find another friend, and that there is always more life yet to live.