I thought I was doing a good job of processing my grief after losing my friend and service dog. Henry, who passed away on Easter Sunday. I was wrong. By adopting Teddy, the Chihuahua/Sharpei/Cocker/Cattle Dog/Shep mix less than 3 weeks after Henry died, I only postponed the necessary grieving.
Teddy came bounding into our lives, overflowing with affection and joy, even though he’d spent the first 2(?) years of his life neglected, in a house with at least a dozen other dogs. He’d been removed from this house and placed in a shelter for one month before being rescued by his foster mom, who introduced him to us. His constant display of love was a welcome distraction for both Don and me.
In the past 5 weeks I allowed myself to be consumed by caring for Teddy. He’s needed frequent trips to the vet to get treatment for his mange: daily obedience lessons and lots of love and attention to help him feel secure in his new Forever Home. No more neglect, shelters or temporary homes. This all kept me from missing Henry, or so I thought.
This past Thursday, as I was cleaning my quail cages – my morning meditation activity – I started thinking about the difficulty I was having walking and training Teddy. “It will get easier,” said a rational voice in my head, which I wanted to believe, but suddenly felt extremely weak and weary. My heart felt heavy, like it had fallen into my stomach and I couldn’t catch my breath. At first, I thought I was getting sick, so I went inside and lay down on the couch. My heart was pounding, and I heard the voice of my doctor who had recently told me he’d discovered I had a pericardial effusion – an abnormal accumulation of fluid around the heart. He didn’t seem terribly worried, so I decided I need not fret, and returned my attention to Teddy’s needs. But now I was exhausted, anxious and overwhelmed. I had to admit to myself that Teddy was too energetic for me to manage. I wanted Henry back. I burst into tears.
I love Teddy but felt guilty for resenting him in that moment. Why hadn’t I adopted a little dog? One that I could walk easily and pick up when necessary? Why had I adopted Teddy when I knew he might be too much for me? Why did Henry die? Why couldn’t I stop crying?
When I calmed down a little I went to see if Don was awake yet. He was, and I found the courage to tell him what I was feeling. He was sympathetic. I even admitted that I still wanted a Chihuahua mix, and he understood. He didn’t say I was crazy or selfish, nor did he try to talk me out of it. We could handle 3 dogs. We’d been a 3-dog household since 1999 up until Dixie’s passing in July, starting with Gus, Peepers and Arty, all of whom had been strays.
I tried to carry on with my morning and went to my favorite coffee shop to write, but all I could think about was finding a sweet little Chihuahua mix to join our pack. I gave up on my writing efforts and went to the Pasadena Humane Society to do some research. A month earlier a friend had told me about their Seniors for Seniors program, which matches mature doggies with people who were 60+. If I filled out an application and included Don, we’d qualify.
Before finding the Adoption Office, I walked around in the kennel area to see what kinds of dogs were available. It wasn’t as depressing as I expected. The place was clean and the dogs looked well cared for. Many of them were large breeds, and I had to look hard for the little guys. I found a few fawn colored Chihuahua mixes, but only a couple of them qualified for the Seniors for Seniors program (at least 5 years old). The two I saw were 10 and 12, which worried me because they might be too close to death.
I found my way to the Adoption office and filled out an application. Two minutes later the receptionist said I could meet with an Adoption Counselor if I wanted to. I did. A smiling young woman appeared and introduced herself as Isabel, then took me to an office to ask me some questions. She wanted to know what I was hoping to find, and I told her: Chihuahua mix; female, fawn colored, mature, but not near death. I didn’t want a Henry look-a-like. She took notes, then suggested I sign up online to get notifications when new pups come in that meet my description. The whole process was pleasant and gave me hope that I could find a little one.
When I got home I told Don what I’d done and again he listened with compassion, no judgment. But I couldn’t help wondering if I got a little dog, would it be a mistake? Would I just be more overwhelmed? Would it be unfair to Teddy? To help me process my racing thoughts I took Teddy to the back yard to practice our obedience lessons. I would never abandon him. I could love and care for 3 dogs, and Don was willing to help. Still, I wondered if I was just avoiding my grief.
The next day I put my fantasy on hold because Teddy was getting neutered and needed my love and support. When I brought him home he was still a little confused from the anesthesia and frustrated by the cone. He’s getting used to it and can get around the house pretty well without getting it caught on things. His incision looks likes it’s healing and his appetite and energy are good.
If we’re meant to have a third dog, I think the universe will present one to us. In the meantime I’m enjoying Teddy and Cassie and trying to thoroughly process my grief.
If anyone knows of an adult Chihuahua mix with an easy going disposition in So Cal, let me know!