“OOh, Mama!” Katie squealed as we rounded the corner toward the pet shop. “It’s puppy play time!”
“What the heck is puppy play time?” I asked. My words landed somewhere between her back and the pet shop door that was already closing behind her as she ran in.
Puppies were everywhere. Katie looked at me breathlessly as one careened past, grazing her leg. “Mama, aren’t they just the cutest things you’ve EVER seen?” she asked.
Truthfully, I wasn’t terribly moved. I don’t mind dogs. I like them far more than their feline counterparts – but I’m just not one to go weak in the knees over them. “Sure, honey,” I answered without much enthusiasm. “They’re very cute.”
Earlier that morning, Splooshy the fish had passed into the great fishy beyond. Katie had assured me that she’d be OK this time. “Mama,” she’d said soberly. “I’m all right. I’ve been through this before.” She assured me that Splooshy would now have the chance to meet his predecessor, Spaulding in fish heaven. And approximately forty-five seconds later, she made me promise we could go to the fish store and get a replacement. So there we were.
Katie was in all her glory, hanging out on the floor between a Shitzu and a Chihuahua. Bored, I turned around and looked at the puppies that were still in their enclosures. Sitting there looking back at me was a five-month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
And I was done for.
For years, Katie has been begging for two things – a dog and a cell phone. This post is not about why she’s not getting a cell phone. Suffice to say she’s NINE. Right. So no cell phone. That one’s easy.
But a dog is thornier, more complicated.
Luau has been pining for a dog since the day that I met him. We even thought about it early on in our relationship, but it just didn’t seem right to leave the poor little thing alone in a tiny apartment all day. So we fantasized about the day we’d finally get one. Or two. Yes, it was two. As soon as we had a house and a yard, we’d said. Then we’d have a dog.
By the time we had a house and a yard, we also had a baby on the way. We didn’t move out of the city until I was very pregnant with Katie and by then it just didn’t feel like it made sense. So we’d wait until the baby was old enough, we’d said. Then we’d have a dog.
One baby quickly turned to two and before we knew it, the babies were toddlers and then the toddlers were children. And one of those children happens to have a profound fear of dogs. Maybe when the kids are much older, we’d said. Then maybe we’d have a dog.
Over the years, friends and family suggested that the best way to help Brooke through her fear would be to bring a dog into the family. While I understood their logic, I firmly believed that having a dog in her house would have been torture for my girl. I couldn’t possibly fathom why we would CREATE so much more anxiety for her in the one place that we try so desperately to RELIEVE her anxiety. It just didn’t make sense.
Things are different. Brooke is different. She is still anxious. She is still afraid. She still scrambles up our leg when she’s sees a dog coming near. But it’s different. There are words. There’s logic. There’s communication and understanding. And above all, there’s something I never saw coming.
Katie and I left the pet store, but the little Cavie just wouldn’t leave me alone. He haunted me. I even named him. Charlie. I started trolling the Internet, learning as much as I could about the breed and their typical traits and demeanor. Sweet, loving, fantastic with children. I was quickly headed over the edge.
Despite my best efforts, we couldn’t manage to get an appointment with a local breeder on Sunday, nor did the local shelters have anything remotely similar or even suitable. So we decided to take a very risky trip to the pet store. I explained to Katie in no uncertain terms that this was exploratory only. That we would NOT be bringing a dog home with us. That there are a million reasons why one doesn’t buy a dog from a pet store. And then I told myself. Exploratory. Not bringing a dog home. Million reasons. Got it.
We piled into the car after lunch and headed out to the shop. It was pouring rain and the day thus far had been tumultuous at best. Brooke was on edge long before we ever stepped foot in the door. The timing couldn’t have been worse.
While Luau took Brooke to wander through the fish and frog tanks, Katie and I asked to see the little Cavie. They brought him out and let him sit with us on the floor. Charlie showered us in kisses. Katie was in love. So was I.
It took some convincing to get Brooke to come over to see him. She insisted on staying on Luau’s shoulders and asked him again and again to stand up high. He gently refused, trying to get her accustomed to at least some proximity. She hooted and howled when Charlie came too close. She shook anxiously when he approached the water bowl near where she was standing. She finally managed to touch his back gingerly while I held him, but she had no interest in going anywhere near his head.
Over and over again she said to him, “It’s OK, doggie. Don’t be afraid.”
She was giving it everything she had.
When it was time for the little Cavie to go back into his enclosure, we stood up. Luau and Katie left the shop, headed to a nearby store where she could use the ladies’ room. Brooke and I roamed around the pet store, looking at the various types of fish. She was staying close to me, warily peeking over at the dogs to make sure they were secured in their enclosures.
After a few minutes, Luau popped his head in to let us know they were ready to go.
And as we walked to the door, my sweet, frightened little girl – the one with the profound fear of dogs – said the last thing I ever expected to hear from her.
“Can Charlie come home with us?”
To be continued …