Katie and I drove home from a delightful ‘big girls’ lunch’ on Thursday afternoon. She talked excitedly in the back of the car.
“So, Mama,” she said – talking a mile a minute. “I can’t wait til we get to meet the dogs on Saturday! I mean, you have to figure we’re going to get one, don’t you, Mama? I mean, honestly, what are the odds that we go and see them and we DON’T get one? Right? I mean, right?”
“Katie,” I said, trying hard to sound like a grown-up, “I really need you to be prepared for the fact that we may very well walk out of there without a dog. We’re looking for our Charlie, honey – a very special little puppy. And if we don’t find him or her on Saturday, we have to be prepared to keep looking. I need you to understand that that’s a very real possibility, little one.”
“OK,” she said soberly. “I do understand, Mama. I really do. But I’m just telling you, if we DO leave without a dog, I’m probably going to cry. I’ll understand, but I’ll cry.”
“All right, Katie,” I said, “I’d like to try to look at this another way. I know it will be sad if we leave without a dog on Saturday, but we’ve said that we know that OUR Charlie is out there, right?”
“Right,” she said.
“Well, if we know that OUR Charlie is out there somewhere, then don’t you think that if we got a dog just because we wanted a dog, but it wasn’t the RIGHT dog, then that would be even sadder? Because then we’d be leaving our Charlie out there in the world without us. Isn’t that a lot sadder, really?”
“Yeah,” she conceded. “That would be worse I guess.”
On Saturday morning, we piled into the car and drove the forty-five minutes to the breeder’s house. As soon as we stepped out of the car, Brooke grabbed onto my leg and asked me to pick her up. “I would stay up on you,” she said. I wasn’t going to argue.
We walked into the breeder’s small storefront, out of which they run a small pet supply shop, a grooming business and a doggie day-care. Two of the three Cavies that we’d come to see were in open play-pens in the middle of the shop. The third had been adopted during the week.
From the moment that we walked into the shop, the older of the two puppies (a seven month old) jumped up and down. And up and down. And up and down. She skittered across her pen, climbing the walls, looking awfully close to making a break for it. She was a whirling, twirling, leaping fur-ball of unbridled energy. Brooke tightened her grip around my neck.
The little guy – an adorable twelve week old Blenham – followed the example of his older pal. He ran and jumped and bit at the sides of his pen. And, just for good measure, he barked. A lot. I leaned down and put my hand near the side of the pen. Little teeth dug into my flesh.
Katie didn’t move. She didn’t ask a single question. She made no move to pet a dog or to even get particularly close to either of them. Brooke simply held onto Mama.
Luau and I looked at each other. We didn’t need to say it. Neither of these dogs was Charlie. Not even close.
The breeder had picked up the phone. We murmured something about ‘high energy level’ and ‘thanks very much, but not really appropriate’ and headed for the door. Our visit had lasted approximately four minutes.
As we drove back home, I thought back to the rest of Thursday’s conversation.
We had driven quietly for a few minutes. And then Katie had broken the silence.
“I know our Charlie’s out there somewhere. I mean, every thing’s got to be somewhere, right?”
“Right, honey. Absolutely.”
I had peeked in the rear view mirror at my girl. I would have sworn I saw the corner of her mouth curl ever so slightly into a smirk as she said, “But Mama?’
“I really hope he’s not in China.”
There were no tears on Saturday, even though we came home empty-handed. It was just too obvious that neither of those puppies was OUR puppy. Our little family seemed to be at peace with knowing that we’ll find our Charlie when he’s ready to be found, and that it might take some time.
And according to Katie, a possible trip to China.