You’ve probably heard some variation of this story: “Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Boy asks girl to marry him.”
How about this one: “Girl can’t have baby. Girl gets dog.”
That’s pretty much how Harry came into our lives. When the intense schedule of my molar pregnancy slowed down – when the surgery was done, when the chemo was over, and when all that was left was weekly blood work to check my liver function and hCG levels – I had all the time in the world to ruminate about whether or not I could have children. On top of that, I had to wait at least a year from the last chemo injection before I could even try.
We moved to Miami from New York City about six months prior. Instead of looking for full time work in public relations, which is what I had been doing in New York City, I decided to make a career change. Mike’s job earned enough money for me to search for more fulfilling work while doing part-time freelance projects.
When the molar pregnancy happened, I sort of lost it. The story, “Girl wants a baby. Girl gets cancer instead,” was one I’d never imagined and, frankly, never knew existed. I found myself in a deep depression. I took a leave of absence from work, and pretty much took a break from life. I spent most of the spring of 2005 taking long bike rides and walks through my neighborhood, watching the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” looking at houses (I wanted to move far away from the place where it all happened), and researching puppies.
I don’t remember all the details of how we settled on a Boston Terrier besides that fact that we liked their cute smushed faces and tall, pointy ears. I read that they were good with children and liked to be around people. Thankfully, that all turned out to be true. The bits I paid less attention to that also turned out to be true were that they are stubborn as hell, difficult to train (we were kicked out of puppy training school), and they are extremely energetic (i.e. crazy).
We located a breeder in north Florida who had a litter on the way. Because of the distance and Mike’s work schedule, we picked our puppy from a picture.
His nickname was Slow Poke, which in hindsight is hilarious.
One a sunny May Saturday morning, Mike and I hopped in the car and drove about five hours north near Ocala, FL to bring our first baby home. That summer, Harry (and some yoga and lots and lots of therapy) slowly brought me back to life.
I’ve written before about how Harry taught me unconditional love, responsibility, and forgiveness, and about how he prepared me for motherhood. He did all of those things and more. He also taught me the simple and beautiful (and often inconvenient) act of sitting. When Harry wasn’t running around our yard and house like a lunatic, he spent most of that first summer sitting – sleeping, actually – in my lap. He was either “on” or “off,” and when he was “off,” he was in a lap, and it was usually mine. He was a five-pound adorable ball of deliciousness, and as much as I wanted to move him sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), I also cherished the quiet time we spent sitting together.
Eventually, I went back to work.
Eventually, I had a baby (and eventually, I had another one).
Eventually, I stopped sitting down (because Mamas generally don’t sit down much).
Eventually, Harry stopped sleeping in my lap.
Eight years later…
On Wednesday morning in the examination room of a veterinary neurologist’s office, Harry curled up in my lap just like when he was a puppy. I turned to Mike, who was sitting next me and said, “I can’t remember the last time Harry sat in my lap.” It was a gift.
About an hour later, he was admitted to the animal hospital for a battery of tests to figure out what’s causing lethargy and vomiting, spasms, seizures, a dramatic drop in glucose levels, and motor skill problems. What began as a bad back has morphed into a medical mystery of epic proportions (he is so my dog).
It’s Friday morning, and he’s still in the hospital.
Last December, my Dad helped us remove all of the childproof locks in the kitchen drawers and cabinets (the boys could open them anyway). For weeks afterwards, every time I opened a draw or cabinet, I yanked it open with a force that nearly knocked me off my feet because my muscle memory still anticipated the locks. Now, when I walk in the laundry room, my hand reaches for the dog treats because normally Harry follows me there. When I walk by his water bowl, I want to reach down to refill it. When my keys jingle outside the front door, I expect to hear him scratching at the door. When I go to sleep at night, I cuddle with one of his blankets…instead of him.
Harry saved me once when I desperately needed to be saved, and now I’m desperate to do the same for him. Here’s another story: “Dog gets sick. Dog goes to the doctor. Dog gets better. Dog comes home where he belongs. Dog sleeps on Mama’s lap.” I like that story the best.