It’s just before 5am; I know this because I’ve been laying awake for hours wishing that sleep would take me, but she hasn’t.
Somewhere in the distance, a dog barks which stirs the nerves of our new pup. A fussing rustling comes from the large dog crate at the end of the bed and awake already, not wanting to disturb the others in the house, I fumble for my glasses.
The new pup–a big-little thing, as we’ve come to call her, because she’s both, depending on how you look at her. She stands in her crate, her wagging tail dinging the bars of her “house,” as we call it. I shh-shh-shh-it’s-okay her as we head outside into the darkness.
She bounces and tumbles around, looking for both her balance and the direction of the barking dog in the distance–clumsy little thing: all legs trying to find footing like a baby giraffe who just can’t seem to get their feet under them properly. It’s downright darling.
It’s a clear night with a bright, all-seeing moon and although she shines like a spotlight, there are still a million visible stars scattered like paint across the sky. Orion’s belt, the dippers, Venus (and I think Mars?) all peer down and the more my eyes adjust to the dark, the more little flecks of glitter appear in the empty spaces.
It’s only been a few weeks since big-little joined our farm of misfit creatures. She was unexpected as I thought surely I’d not be ready for someone new so soon.
Looking back down from the sky, I see she’s found a frog, which she leaps and bounds after–her large paws (which will be remarkable to see her grow into) over and over fall short of catching it.
Two or so months before big-little appeared in front of us, our dear old boy, Tucker, passed away. I don’t recall if I’ve written too much about him, although I do remember mentioning him in this story, ‘An Exhale.‘ He was a perfect dog, and I don’t use that word lightly. Perfect. Perfect in every way.
Tucker was caring and gentle, polite and curious, playful and loyal, and a rock that held this little menagerie together. His passing shook our very foundation and anyone who’s lost a pet to time and old age knows that no matter how much you prepare for that day, how you know when it’s their time (because they do find their own ways of telling you), there is just no way to ready yourself to say goodbye.
It was his time. The vet knew it, too. And after all was said and done, we brought him home to rest under a magnolia tree.
I didn’t want a new dog and couldn’t imagine when I’d be ready to even consider looking for a new one. Tucker was (and will always be) irreplaceable and the idea of looking at another dog without deep down, wishing they were Tucker, seemed impossible.
But a couple months passed and by stroke of fate, we learned there was a litter of puppies just born at a non-profit rescue down the road from our house that all needed homes. “It wouldn’t hurt to look” –famous last words because you see, as soon as I laid eyes on this one–this pup now leaping after a frog across the yard, a dog-shaped hole in my heart started to pound like a drum.
There’s a small thread of guilt that runs through me here and there when I wonder if I didn’t give enough time for grieving before bringing a new dog home, but then I remind myself that there is no handbook that we must follow for these sorts of things. Instead, what we must follow are our hearts, cliché as that sounds. Listening to reason is crucial, yes, but sometimes our hearts pick up on the sneaky subtleties that don’t necessarily make sense. If, without actually seeing something specific, the hair stands up on the back of our necks or the pits of our stomach sink, I like to imagine that’s heart-speak.
Likewise, when our hearts swell and arms reach out for a big-little pup who needs a home, maybe it’s okay to open ourselves up, even if we’re still grieving. We can grieve and love all at the same time.
From time to time, I’ll see a shooting star when the sky is this clear. For several minutes, I look for one, but none come. Not this morning, but that’s okay. I call for my new pup and she runs clumsily towards me, ear flaps bouncing with her strides. She understands that command already, clever girl. Big-little.
As we walk side-by-side to the back door, I leave a line of boot prints from morning dew on the concrete walkway, one step in front of the other. Next to mine are little-big paw prints, chaotic and pointing in every direction. A little, spinning compass, not sure which way to point.
It’ll level out in time, I know it. We just have to keep working together to get there.