Each year on September 20th, I spend the entire day busy as can be, avoiding clocks.
It’s interesting how our brains can store information when we go through trauma or loss. September 20th is the anniversary of my Dad’s passing and it’s a day that I vividly remember solely through timestamps. Almost ten years later, I remember what time the food began arriving from family friends. I remember what time my two best friends from high school got to my house. I remember what time the phone rang in the middle of the night, what time we arrived at the hospital, what time we departed the hospital, and what time we both uncomfortably fell asleep on the couch, because neither of us could stomach going upstairs where he wasn’t, where he would never be again.
On September 20, 2014, I remember functioning as usual, staying busy with my Mom who had taken off from work so that we could be busy together, as she normally did on this day. We decided to get out of the house and head to the mall to window shop.
Unable to resist, we wandered into the ASPCA because nothing helps distract you from grief like puppies.
I didn’t see her at first. She was asleep in a tiny ball, a lot like the one she’s currently sleeping in next to me. Her nose was pushed up against the glass, and she had two tiny brown dots above her eyes, which were pressed shut.
I still swear to this day that those tiny brown dots are the reason she’s here.
The more I looked at her, the more I couldn’t stop looking at her. She had all four of her tiny paws tucked underneath her chin like she was afraid of losing them while she slept. My Mom had gone into a nearby store to use the restroom and came back to find me staring at an eight and a half week old lab mix named Naomi.
“We have a problem,” I said to my mom. I pointed at her and said “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do here. That’s my dog.” We had talked about getting Bella a sister, but every time it was decided that two dogs was too much and it wouldn’t work. Still, to this day, I don’t know what made my Mom ask one of the people working at the ASPCA if we could see her, but she did.
“Could you wake her up?” I asked. “I need to see her eyes.” Eyes are a thing for me with dogs. Just like humans, they tell a story.
In my mind, they were going to open her cage and softly speak sweet nothings to lull her out of sleep like an infant. Instead they hit a button which made a loud beep and I instantly felt like a total jerk.
She sat straight up like a rocket and instantly looked right at me, like she knew I was the culprit of disrupting her dreams. Her ears were too big for her face, she had the markings of a doberman but they were the brindle color of a shepherd. She had the body of a lab, but she couldn’t have been more than eight pounds, and she had tiny feet which meant that she wasn’t going to get very big.
I was obsessed.
My Mom and I decided to do a lap around the mall to figure out if we could make this work. After going back and forth about where we would put two crates, figuring out the expenses (she was already fixed and had her basic shots), we walked back to the ASPCA to find her cage empty. My stomach dropped.
“She’s gone?!” I gasped. We couldn’t have been gone more than an hour, and though it was true that the puppies there went extremely quickly, I felt like I had lost a family member - not something I wanted to relive on this very busy day. I think the kind woman at the desk could see my eyes beginning to well up, because she quickly pointed to an older gentleman who also worked at the ASPCA walking around with her in his arms. She was even tinier up close.
They conducted a pretty detailed interview about our home life, Bella’s temperament, and our history with owning dogs. This is one of the things I love most about the ASPCA - they don’t allow just anyone to adopt an animal. It’s important to them that you understand the responsibility that comes with being a pet owner.
“She’s really shy, so don’t be upset if she doesn’t come to you right away.” they said as they carried her into the small room, designed as a test-run to see how she felt about us. To this day we still joke about that. As soon as her paws were on the floor, she pounced onto my legs, not an ounce of timidity. “But, apparently not with you.” they finished.
to this day, i only know that she picked me.
We left that day and brought her home where she met her new sister. Within three minutes they were playing side by side and falling asleep for naps, their bums pressed next to each other, the way they still nap today.
She’s the smarter of the two, she knows how to ask for things like water or, her favorite, ice cubes. She rarely takes no for an answer, and will blow all of the air out of her cheeks in exasperation at you if you tell her she can’t have something. She is the best sleeping buddy and adores stealing toilet paper no matter how many times she gets yelled at.
First thing in the morning, she actually pulls back her cheeks and will smile at you. She only lays across your lap if she doesn’t feel good and hates when anyone touches her feet. Her nickname is “little face.” She walks at double-time speed when she’s stolen something she’s not supposed to have, but she’ll always drop the item the second you tell her to. She only wants the bones and blankets that Bella has. She hates thunderstorms and dislikes car rides. She loves to pull her blanket into the kitchen and place it in the single pool of sunshine on the floor, to lay on. She makes me laugh every single day.
“What should we name her?” my Mom asked.
“Katie.” I said. Meaning pure in Greek. My innocent rescue. She was just that.
If you’re thinking of getting a new addition to your family, if you can afford the time and responsibility, I urge you to go to your local ASPCA or shelter and find your new best friend. Your life, and theirs will never be the same.