A week ago or so, I left a comment over at Atul’s blog in which I mentioned my dogs. Atul responded with a question about my use of the plural, and I realized that I have never given a proper welcome here to my
second third (counting Gemma) little Miss Thing. Then Salim left a comment asking about Callie and I took it to mean that the universe is telling me it’s time to give the two girls who light up my life their due.
In her four-plus months with me, Callie has blossomed into a loving, sweet, and funny little dog. I continue to marvel at how dainty she is, just 11 pounds (Gemma weighed close to 20), and how she has not let the bad things which have happened to her in life get her down. There are still reminders of her puppy mill past: her little tongue peeks out because she has few teeth to help keep it inside her mouth, and she hunches protectively over her food bowl as if she were still in a small cage and in danger of going hungry.
But she no longer needs to be on my lap around the clock and she doesn’t sleep all the time anymore either. She fairly dances along the street, greeting people with a wagging tail, and noses her way through the grass at the park before rolling deliriously in it. Though she still follows on my heels like a little shadow, I don’t mind: it feels good to be so necessary to another creature’s happiness, especially one who has become so necessary to mine.
Once she became invested in being here, though, it began to distress her whenever I went out without her. It was heartbreaking to hear her chuffing, hoarse, frantic little bark as I walked away. Her vocal cords were not cut surgically, but it seems likely that the puppy mill breeder shoved a tube or something down her throat to damage them—it’s a fairly common practice and done to keep the dogs quiet and not draw attention. Whatever was done, she doesn’t bark like a normal dog and it’s a pitiful sound.
So I took leave of my senses and at the end of June I got a nine-month-old puppy to keep her company, a beautiful girl from a breeder in upstate New York.
She came with the name Emma, but after a solid week of calling her Gemma by mistake I decided to rechristen her Gilda (my favorite Rita Hayworth film, and one of my favorite comediennes too). Given her glittery golden highlights and beautiful red fur it seemed appropriate and, most importantly, she seemed to like it.
This mattered because she did not like much about her new home with us. Having spent her whole puppy life thus far in the country, she was—is—completely freaked out by life in the city.
Garbage trucks are big Godzilla monsters coming TO GET HER OMG RUN RUN RUN RUUNN Other people are also potentially dangerous predators to be viewed with deep suspicion; she doesn’t even know what to think about all the noisy heavy machinery (we have two seasons here, winter and construction). The buses and trains rushing past startle her anew every day despite being a constant. In short, I cannot figure out if she is mentally ill or just kind of slow on the uptake. She looks perpetually worried and I call her The Nahiiin! Dog.
But inside the house shy, terrified Gilda transforms into a veritable little She-Devil. Toys lie scattered around waiting to trip me up and anything in a wastepaper basket gets shredded. She has taught Callie some doggie behaviors which include chewing on my carpets and books (NO!), but also the fun game of fetch and the joys of eating a stick. Outside, her melodramatic shivering seems to have given Callie new confidence, as if she’s saying, “Don’t worry Gilda, I’ve gotten used to all this racket and you will too!”
They also put their heads together on occasion to talk about me and I am glad I have no idea what they are saying.
Callie has been and continues to be a balm for the sadness of the past year. I know that my father and Gemma steered us to each other. I see their love shining out of her huge liquid eyes, and in her becoming the Princess she is meant to be. I love watching Gilda growl at her own reflection in the mirror and bark ferociously at the mailman from the safety of her position behind me; and appreciate the small victories of a day with no accidents and a walk with more sniffing than panic. At night they sprawl across the bed, taking up way more space than their combined 25 pounds or so ought to, but I don’t care.
We are family and it makes me happy.