We stood in a barn, laughing as eager Border Collie puppies jumped around our feet. I even laughed as one nipped a hole right through the bottom of my new dress. That sort of stuff didn't bother me then. It wasn't hard for us to choose one. We chose the one that hung quietly back from the others, the one who looked a little bit sad. We took her home. We called her Tia.
It was mid August. We'd just returned from a scorching summer in Manitoba. We didn't know yet how we would need this dog. That just a week later things would fall apart. Our lives would be disrupted in one of those scenarios that lead people to think in terms of before and after. That all this would happen and we would be ultimately left alone in our suffering but that she would be there.
Just one week after getting Tia, we learned that we visited the doctor and were told we would not be able to have children. Not maybe, not it could be difficult, but never. That word fell so hard and unexpectedly into our lives that for years it broke everything it landed on.
It was devastation. And life a great waste land yet there in the middle of it all was this energetic, crazy puppy who demanded our attention. I am not going to say she took the place of child, that's not the way my mind works. That way of thinking is too sentimental for me. But she did something. Over time, she helped us heal.
Tia was a beautiful dog, extremely gentle and loving but a typical puppy and I remember losing my patience with her almost daily. Her rope would get tangled around the trees again and I would stalk out to the backyard angrily to undo her tangles for what felt like the millionth time. She would race around the house, her nails scratching the floor and I would care. I don't remember now half the things she did that made my life so trying but I remember the frustration I felt. Yet I loved her so much but still I found my patience being tried daily and I was the one who came up wanting. Struggling with grief, anger, and this boundless emptiness inside myself, I felt I couldn't love her the way I wanted to. Yet I did love her.
I remember sitting with a group of friends saying ruefully, trying to be vaguely humorous, "We just got a puppy...and I tell you, she's no cat!" Sigh. "I am just not a dog person!"
However, time passed and she became better trained and calmed down and was a comfort in our lives. She brought joy and laughter back into our hearts. Even as this was true, I began to take her for-granted as we sadly often tend to do with people and animals we love. It is easy to grow complacent. I began to put off long walks in favor of shorter ones so I could get other things done. Amazingly unimportant things. I began not to notice her in the mornings as she waited eagerly at the bottom of the stairs for us when we came down from our bedroom.
The morning she died was one such morning. I remember we woke up, my husband took her for a walk. I walked into the kitchen to get a coffee. I heard a crash and a yell "No!" and I ran outside and there was Tia lying motionless on the road. I couldn't see through my tears. It broke our hearts again. We picked her up, stared stunned at the woman in the car who was crying too saying she was so so sorry. We carried her to the car to drive her to the vet, praying somehow maybe we were wrong and she was alive. I didn't care about the blood on my clothes. I guess that moment I went back to not being bothered by stuff like that.
The funny thing is, in a bizarre coincidence, the night before she was killed, my husband and I watched Marley and Me. I lay on the couch and at the end said "Oh my goodness, that was so sad!! I am so glad we get to keep Tia for many more years!" (Because she was just two then.)
Tia jumped in my lap, something she never did, and I laughed and said "Quick, take a picture! I guess she loves me!"
But the next morning I didn't even see her. I walked right past her without noticing her. A lot of things were more important. Maybe like getting a coffee and checking Facebook.
And she died. The sadness was intense. More than I would have ever expected. And I discovered that for Tia, I was a "dog person."