Return of the filthy puppy
You know that cruel and common saying that's supposed to make you feel better about splitting up with someone, but totally doesn't? The one that begins, "If you love something set it free...", and then goes on to suggest there's a glimmer of hope for a future together, and, even though you'd never admit it, when you're really bummed you reassure yourself with it anyway? Well, I tested it, for real, and it worked. My discovery was accidental, and not very scientific, but as for much research concerning matters of the heart (and other essential organs), it began with animal testing.
Last Friday, I said good-bye to a puppy I'd been fostering for a foundation that will later train her as a Super Dog to assist a child with special needs.
While I'd grown completely attached to her in the little time I was able to keep her, the foundation found her an "excellent", more permanent foster-family, with kids and a yard and stability---all things I can't offer.
Saying good-bye sucked the big one, even though I knew it was for the greater, longer-term good, because once something turns you upside-down, righting yourself can be a challenge. Anyway, I let her go. I had to. I signed a contract that said so. Short of puppy-napping her, and running off to Mexico in disguises, there was nothing I could do to make the relationship last.
Yet, right now, the little carnivore is sleeping on my lap, dreaming of chasing a warm-blooded and delicious snack. She came back, the same foster puppy that left me last Friday, the one I cried myself to sleep missing.
During the first two days of her absence, I'd consoled myself knowing that she was better off in her new home, with more people to love her and snuggle her and give her chewy treats. She'd be having so much fun in her wonderful new home, I told myself, that I'd soon be a mere memory of a friendly kibble dispenser to her.
So, when I got the call from the foundation early Monday morning, I was shocked, re-traumatized. Every consolation I'd offered myself in the days she'd been gone, which I spent gorging on comfort food, was annihilated with the declaration, "They don't want her." She'd eaten their child's homework, they said.
Of course, I agreed to love her more, while the foundation searches for a new, more reliable home. One where all my hopes and expectations for her are realized, although I'll have to try a lot harder to convince myself it's true next time.
I love her and I let her go, and she came back to me, tail wagging. But somewhere, in the small-print of that cruel and common saying, is the warning that even if what you let go comes back, there's no guarantee it'll stay. You might as well enjoy the time you have, and I have two bonus upside-down weeks with the puppy of my dreams.
The night before she left, I interviewed her about how she felt. She was terribly filthy (we'd gotten caught in the rain) and not the most cooperative subject. Looking back at the way she licked her butt, slobbered mystery bits onto my hand, and ultimately tried to destroy me, I think she knew the new family wasn't going to work out, and was trying to tell me: