We got the new dog on Sunday, March 22 — just a week after everyone started sheltering in place. Y’all know I have a dog, my sweet and astoundingly handsome Willie, but H. never bonded with him the way that I did, and was, I think, a bit envious of our special relationship. He wanted a dog that he could love as much as I love Willie — and one that didn’t skitter away in his presence, one that liked to play, do tricks, ride in the car, and was eager to please (no chihuahua I’ve ever met is eager to do much of anything but snuggle and sleep and get in the sun a little bit — they don’t have to practice social distancing, they ARE social distancing embodied). And I understood his wish, completely. I had a just a few conditions: It needed to be a rescue, and I thought it would be good to adopt an older dog who was already trained since I have no room in my life to take care of another creature and I didn’t want to nor did I have time to housebreak another dog (plus my track record is spotty – no pun intended but yeah, I get it – anyway, because little dogs…). So H. began looking for a perfect match.
The dog adoption thing can be competitive, somehow. They get listed on sites and then get snatched up pretty quickly, especially if they have an irresistible profile. And I think that everyone decided it was a good time to get a dog, not just us. H. tried to get a few grown ones that he liked, and upon speaking to the coordinator after the third one got away from him, was asked if we would be interested in a 12-week-old black Lab puppy. Well, of course we said yes, even against my better judgment. Who could say no to a 12-week-old black Lab puppy? We saw her photograph and of course we melted at her preciousness. She had been with another family for about thirty-six hours and they decided they couldn’t handle her as they already had another big dog. We said we’d go pick her up. We discussed names on the way. What would go with Willie? I suggested Winnie, short for Winifred, which went nicely with Willie and means peace. Peace is always a good idea, right? Especially now, with everyone so discomforted. She was precious as expected. We gathered her and her things from the heartbroken family that had to rethink their decision to adopt her and we took her home with us.
She was a little nervous at first, of course. I’m told that it sometimes takes at least six months for a rescued dog to feel safe in their new home, and for the anxiety that they might be abandoned again to lessen. I was nervous too. I didn’t know how to handle a big dog because I’d never had one of my own. I worried about the chewing, the shedding, the slobbering — all the things she brought that I wasn’t used to with my sweet little Willie nugget. But Winnie began to ease into her new life with us pretty quickly and of course, I loved her despite my fears — she was sweet with Willie and John Henry, was eager to please, love, and play, was quick to learn and appeared to be quite intelligent, and she ate and ate and ate. A LOT. I hadn’t been around a truly large breed very often since I was a child, so I guess I’d forgotten how rambunctious they are, how much attention they need, how they can be sort of like children, and how food-motivated they are, but it was a good time to introduce a new family member since we were home and not going anywhere for the near future. She became a part of our unit pretty quickly. But I kept looking at her feet. They were huge and getting bigger. I kept saying that she was going to be a really big dog. H. estimated fifty pounds.
Well, yesterday’s checkup at the vet confirmed my suspicions. H. arrived home with the news that our Winnie wasn’t, most likely, mixed with PitBull, as was a fear early on, but instead something larger, like, wait for it…. maybe an actual Great Dane. I nodded as he reported this news to me and looked down at her feet again, which are now approaching the size of bread plates. Dear God, I thought. This was what I was trying to avoid. What in the hell am I going to do with this dog when H. is gone? What in the hell am I going to do with her now? Her poo piles are already the size of Willie. Miss Winnie Sue, what I call her now, is decidedly not going to be a nice, compact-sized, fifty-pound dog. She’s already thirty-one pounds, and she’s four months old, so, uh… But, when I can get the visions of her standing on her hind legs and eating off the countertops out of my mind, I can’t wait to see what sort of dog she turns out to be. She deserves that chance and that appreciation.
I hope it’s clear that it really makes no difference to us, she is ours and we love her no matter her size though we laugh and shake our heads at the luck of such a thing. I might’ve even spoken to her about body positivity a few times since yesterday morning, and I think she’s going to own her grandness and not worry about comparing herself to the very petite Willie.
But I wonder now — what else have we discovered during this time that isn’t what we thought it was when this started? What has fallen away, been revealed, or changed shape?
I’m not sure about those things for my own life yet, but I am noticing and taking a full account. As I watch Miss Winnie Sue grow and grow and grow into those humongous feet of hers, I wonder in what directions I’ll grow toward my own as yet unfulfilled promises? My feet are done, I think. So, all I know is, we’re all changing, and we might all have a chance to see what that means if we allow ourselves the opportunity to find out.
Peace and love and happy Wednesday,