I glanced from her to him, knowing they were unaware how close I was paying attention. Would they decide that today was the day? Would today be the day that they decided the journey ended? I saw the tears shining in her big eyes and the uncertainty and reluctance in his. No matter what they decided, I had already determined I was ready. I knew they would be sad and heartbroken, but I also had faith that they would both be okay, just like they always were, even when each of us had our doubts. There were times I really wondered if we’d make it this far but as I snuggled closer I thought back to the high and lows that brought the three of us to this point.
A ten years before….
I kept seeing all my brothers and sisters get picked up by random people, mostly by people we had never seen before. Sometimes the people would put them back down next to my mother, but more often than not, these people would just walk off with my brother or sister to never return with them. Then one day it was my turn. He showed up, checking out those of us that were left. He looked kind of intimidating with his shaved head, dark coarse facial hair, and broad built, but something in his dark eyes told me there was a softer, gentler side to him. But at this point, I wasn’t sure if I should be excited about being picked or scared for my life. Now, I see maybe a little of both. If I was allowed to pick my human pets rather than them choosing me, even with the not so great moments, I would still choose to be their pet all over again.
He brought me home with him to a small two bedroom apartment. I didn’t realize at first though that he didn’t pick me for himself. He shoved me in some closest with some food and water. I was quite upset about this. My own company was something I was not a fan of, especially in my youthful years. I made sure to give an angry yelp as frequently as I could. He needed to know I did not appreciate being shoved in some closet. It wasn’t too long though and I started hearing voices again.
“Is that what I think it is!” I heard a female exclaim in excitement. I heard feet rushing towards me. As soon as she opened the door, I hurled my little body at her, flopping in a sprawled mess of giant paws and floppy ears at her feet.
“Oh, my gosh, it’s so adorable! Is it a boy or girl?” she cried, scooping me right up. She was beaming at me with her big hazel eyes, and the big smile on her face told me everything would be all right. I was in the right place.
“It’s a boy. I named him Bettis. I got him a little collar with a personalized tag with his name on it. I thought you could use a companion up there by yourself. He’ll keep you company. You said you always wanted a dog of your own. “
“He’s gorgeous. What kind of dog is he?” I didn’t care that she thought I was cute or whatever. I was just excited she liked me and I kept trying to show her I felt the same way by trying to lather her face with my big tongue.
“He’s a weimaraner.”
“Hi, buddy,” she cooed, finally letting me give her one solid lick. “You’re going to be my own little baby puppy.”
I learned pretty quick that even though he liked me, could throw the tennis ball farther than her, he wasn’t as tolerant of treating me like one of them the same way she was. When it was just her and I for those first few months when we’d just see him on the weekends, she’d let me sleep with her and lay on the couch next to her in the evenings while she watched TV. She’d even take me with her to get ice cream, and if she didn’t I made sure she knew how upset I was by ripping her blinds apart to plaster my sad, pathetic face to the window, begging her to come back for me. Even though I didn’t chew up much stuff, I guess this was a good thing because they bragged about it often to others, I did learn to let them know when I was upset with them by leaving them what they called dirty presents on the carpet.
I didn’t realize though that this situation of her and me in one apartment during the week and the three of us at his on the weekends was to be so short lived. She complained at times about the wait to summer being so far away, but then on our long walks she’d tell me how she was excited and ready for the change but was so unsure if it was the right decision. I learned to just wag my tail to let her know I was listening; I learned that she liked to talk a lot and she just enjoyed talking to me so much because she said I listened and never gave her any back talk or discouragement. I didn’t really understand what this decision she kept stressing about was really about, but I decided on the first day of this so called new adventure maybe it wasn’t for me. Maybe I should stay behind and find new human pets.
“Bettis, sit down,” he yelled at me for what was probably the fifth time too many. I loved being in the car and I was just so excited. She had dropped me off with him for the last week, and even though him and I had fun playing lots of catch and watching TV together , we were on our way back to her. I had to sleep on the floor every night because there was no way he would let me in the bed like she did. I was use to seeing her every day. I was a little sad about her just dumping me off with him, but since I was going back to her, I figured I could forgive her. I had no idea what was going on. When we had left his apartment, he not only packed me in the car but all of his stuff. What little he owned from that apartment was jammed in this Jeep with us.
I could see her parents’ neighborhood approaching. I jumped up again, already forgetting that he had told me the five times before to sit down. I stuck my head out the window in eager anticipation. Then I’m not totally sure what happened next. I was excited; we were almost there. The next thing I knew I was hitting asphalt and tumbling across the hard ground. I was so dazed and shocked. I started to stand up, only to fall on my face. Again and again. I started panicking. What was wrong? What happened to me? Why couldn’t I get up?
“Oh, my God, Bettis. I got you, buddy,” he cried, dropping down beside me. I looked up at him with frighten eyes. I was just excited is all! What happened? Why was I on the ground? Why did I hurt? Why couldn’t I stand up?
He scooped me up and carried me to the Jeep that was still coasting towards us. I whimpered. Now I was starting to feel the pain in my left front leg. In less than a minute we were to her house. He hopped out, hollering as soon as his feet hit the pavement.
“Ang, Bettis is hurt. Bad I think!” he yelled.
She raced down the steps to us, the panic on her face just making me more scared. What did all this mean? Why didn’t I just listen and sit down? Instead I nosedived right out the dang window. Now look at me. I could barely walk. Who wanted a dog that couldn’t walk?
“Mom,” she yelled as she peered in at me.
“Oh, my poor baby,” she cooed, rubbing my head.
“What happened?” asked her mom.
“He fell out the window when I turned in the neighborhood. I didn’t even stop the Jeep. I just jumped out and went to him. But he can’t walk. He just falls on his face. It’s his left front paw. “
“I will call our vet and see if he can see him. It’s a Friday evening so you’re probably looking at extra fees for an emergency situation.”
Oh, no, I thought. Those were the people that liked to put those darn needles in me for those things they called shots. I’d seen enough of those in my short six months of life. How were a bunch of shots going to help me? I glanced between the two of them. They both looked worry and were arguing a bit over what happened.
“I called him. He will meet you at the clinic,” her mom said from the front door.
They moved me from his Jeep to her car. Luckily, I don’t remember too much after we arrived. I’m not sure how much later it was before I was roused from a snooze to find my front paw in a large white bandage and the vet giving them instructions.
“It would have been better if he broke it, but it’s nerve damage. He’s young so hopefully it will repair itself, but you may be looking at a possibility of having to amputate the leg because if he doesn’t use it, he will drag it and cause more problems and infections. Your mom says you’re moving Monday?” the vet asked Ang.
“We’re planning on heading East Monday. We’re moving to Washington, DC. We have jobs in Maryland.”
“Wow, that’s a long way away from Missouri,” he said.
“Eighteen hours,” she said with a little bit of sadness in her voice.
“Well, once you get settled, find a vet to follow up with. I will send these x rays with you. Good luck,” he said.
I was mostly dazed and confused the rest of the weekend. The night before we were suppose to head East as they kept saying, I was laying on the floor of the room where she was sleeping. She got up and snuggled up against me. It took a minute to realize she was crying. Like all those times in the apartment she just started telling me what was on her mind.
“I don’t know if I’m upset and can’t quit crying because I feel so bad for you and worry that we might have to amputate your leg, or because I am really scared to death about leaving tomorrow. This place is all I’ve ever known but I’m afraid if I never go I’ll always wonder what if. I love Nate, but if anyone knows how much we can fight sometime, it’s you, buddy. All we’ve fought about leading up to this is money, and we aren’t even sharing living expenses yet. And my dad hates me. He thinks this is the stupidest decision ever. Can I really leave my sisters? They’re my best friends. I won’t have any friends out there.” Her voice broke again on the last realization. At this point I was pretty sure she was crying for herself and not poor, pitiful me. I’m sure she was literally worried for me but I wasn’t the cause for the ocean of tears she was now bathing me in.
Even though she should be the one comforting me because I might have to have my leg amputated, whatever that was, I did my best to comfort her. I laid my head against hers, nudging her with my nose every now and then.
“Guess we’re only young and dumb once, right? When else will I ever be this free to just do what I want on a whim? I can always come back,” she said. She continued on, knowing like always she could carry on her much needed one sided conversation. “That little seventh grader I taught this year said during one of our discussions that the things we want in life usually come at the cost or the sacrifice of something else. I see now that he’s totally right. I can’t have both, my family and this place that raised me close; and live and visit the big cities, mountains, and ocean of the East and see if whatever this is between Nate and I has any chance of survival. He’s waited a year for me to be able to leave, but he’s eventually heading back East whether I’m going with him or not.”
Even though she was questioning whether we should go or not, I knew we would be leaving in the morning. Even then I think I knew the two of them were at times two different trains set on colliding as they attempted and failed at times to get on the same track moving in the same direction. Even though they were 23 and 27, they both still suffered from the selfish one track mind of the youth. Neither in the beginning was willing to see their own flaws, just about pointing out and belitting the other’s. I seriously doubted at first that it would work, but I just hoped if it didn’t I was going with her. At least I thought I was her dog, even though he was the one to name me after some football player he loved.
I wasn’t far off the mark for the first few months. She did tell them good bye. With fat tears rolling down her face, she followed his Jeep out of Missouri, with her eyes in the rearview mirror, looking behind her. It was so hot. I spent the majority of the drive curled up in the back window. What few belongings they had was packed in their two cars. Even though we made it out there, it was a disaster from the start. They were lost in the big city and fighting in less than a day. Both of their cars broke down within a few weeks so they were fighting about money. Then there was an even bigger blowout argument about trust that left me just cowering in the bedroom.
“We’ve been out here a month. A month and you’ve already totally shattered my trust in you and us. I left the only home I’ve ever known to give you, give us a chance, and this is what you do!” she screamed at him one night.
“It’s not what you think-“
“I don’t want to listen to your stupid excuses,” she interrupted him. “I know you. You won’t ever see how what you did as wrong. If there’s anything I’ve learned for sure in the last year and half it’s that. You refuse to accept any blame or wrongdoing. You’re always right-“
“Me? What about you? Everything is always your way. Everything has to be Ang’s way. Something doesn’t go your way you’re flying off the handle about it.”
“See this is what I’m saying. This isn’t even about me. It’s about what you did. But all you’re going to do is turn it on me somehow.”
“I’m done. I’m not arguing about it anymore,” he declared, spinning on his heels to walk out the door.
“Walk away. Because that’s the answer and that’s going to solve the problem,” she shouted after him. The slamming of the front door was his response.
She looked at me with tearful eyes. “This is how it was suppose to go, Bettis? What now? I’m so mad at him I don’t even want to be near him unless it’s to yell at him. Obviously he doesn’t want to be around me. But here we are. Alone in this huge city with no friends or family to turn to. Just each other. And you of course.”
I hated to see her cry. Even though I loved him and would miss him too, I was starting to think maybe together wasn’t the way it was meant to be. I know she had all these hopeful ideas of how things should be, but the reality was at times they lacked the self awareness to realize that the work needed to succeed together needed to start with themselves. I was sadly convinced maybe we weren’t meant to be the family she hoped for.
Again though, just as they did before the move, they moved past the problem. She was right. They didn’t have anyone else, and as independent as they each were they needed each other to make this life work. Things did get easier and better for awhile. We started to have fun just like she kept saying we would. They took me camping in the mountains, to these city dog parks where I could run around sniffing all the dog bottoms until my heart was content, took me up to this place called Pennsylvania where they just let me run and run and lay outside in the sun all day, and even took me to this place called the beach. However, I have to say the beach was probably my least favorite.
The bugs thought I was their buffet dinner. Even though my pets kept spraying me down with this smelly, sticky stuff saying it should help, those stupid little pests kept attacking me. The best way to escape them was the times they took me to play catch in the waves of the water. That part was so much fun. Even though those waves kept knocking me over and the water tasted a little too salty for my taste, butI always love a good game of fetch. Except I guess I wasn’t suppose to drink that water because they were freaking out in disgust later when it was running out of my backside like a fountain. Thankfully between my indigestion problem, the bugs, and an incoming storm they decided to pack it up early and head out late the second night rather than staying all night.
They got past the fights of the summer with moving and settling in together, little money, two broken cars, then a theft of the new truck they did buy in hopes of having one reliable vehicle, and they were a happy in love couple again. I knew she missed home at times because she told me so on the walks she took me on around the apartment complex, but she was also loving the routines they were falling into and the fun they were having. They disappeared almost every other weekend for a night it seemed like on some adventure or another so they must have been having a good time. When they took off for an outdoor adventure, I was always right there with them. The three of us loved camping. Even though he’d always let me sleep in the tent with them, I’ll never forget the time a huge thunderstorm opened up over our campsite one night. Ang took off to wait it out in the truck, but him and I manned it out together. In that cold, rainy tent he not only let me sleep in the tent with him, but let me crawl right into his sleeping bag against him. The two us woke the next morning, snuggled up together in the sleeping bag with a collapsed tent over us. It was about that point that I started to see myself as their dog, not just hers.
They must have been happy with the progress on my leg because I’m pretty sure they never did that amputate thing they were so worried about. It never did work right again, but it never hurt again either. I know they always got tired of other people asking what happened to me whenever they’d take me out for walks or places with them, but they seemed okay with having a limpy for life dog.
Just when I thought the three of us were settled into this so called family thing, they started getting all excited about something new. A house and a wedding! House? Wedding? What was this they spoke up? More change? Didn’t we just go through a big change with coming halfway across the country in two barely functioning cars? I liked life slow and easy, but I learned quickly sometimes it was a toss up between which one had crazier ideas about what project or adventure to chase down next. If she wasn’t over planning their schedule with weekend activities and summer trips he was throwing new ideas at her left and right about what they should do in a few more years when they had more money and time.
The house I came to learn was one of those grand project ideas that he got in his head and she indulged him but with the constant threat that they would never, ever buy a house again that needed so much work.
The next year became a year of lots of dust, paint, sweat, fighting, tears, and making up and forgiving and going on. They were so right and so wrong for each other at the same time. Too bad they never asked my two cents about their life. They were both so incredibly independent that they would have been fine on their own, but there was something memorable about them together too though. They were both such dreamers even though she always brought reality crashing to his ideas with her constant reality check because she felt if he was always setting his expectations so unrealistically high he would never be happy with the life they made. He chose to only see the worry and stress she went through trying to manage it all and keep everything in their life in order that he didn’t see that this life they were building was more than the dream she envisioned. She worried constantly when any headway was made in their relationship, their life, or their finances about when it would be yanked away by fate or their own poor decisions. She didn’t understand that she was giving him the first consistent family life that he had ever known and at times he was just lost on how to life that lifestyle but wanted it as much as her.
“Bettis, I think he’s just scared of the idea of marriage,” she said one day to me on one of our walks. “He doesn’t really have any positive examples of a successful marriage in his life. Two of his best friends are already getting divorced after being married for less than three years. I know we fight, and I know I’m difficult to live and deal with sometimes. I’m trying to be better and more self aware of what I say and maybe more so how I say it. He doesn’t believe me when I say marriage and relationships are work. It takes work and effort to maintain a strong relationship and both people have to be willing to grow and compromise. Do you think we’re ready for that?” She looked at me. “The fact that I’m asking you, that’s a bad sign, right? I don’t plan on getting married more than once. He just seems so unsure and frankly I think he’s scared.”
I didn’t have any other human pets besides these two so I don’t really know if they were slower than most, but marriage did help bring their sometimes two polar opposites closer to becoming the solid team they would become.
I got to go back to Missouri with them when they took off for the two weeks to go back for their wedding. This time I made sure I hunkered down in the bed of the truck away from any sides. I wasn’t about to repeat the episode of my face meeting asphalt again. However, when they’d stop I didn’t see the point in staying in the bed of the truck.
“Is that your dog?” a man asked as they walked out of the restaurant. I lifted my head from the sidewalk I was resting on.
“Yeah, sorry, he just hops out and waits for us,” Nate said.
“He doesn’t run off?” the guy asked.
“No, depending on where we stop sometimes he gets out and lays under the truck or like here at the door waiting for us. We take him a lot of places with us. He’s just use to his people,” Ang said.
“Wow, that is really cool. He’s gorgeous. I wish I had a dog like that. Well, take care,” he said, walking away.
“Come on, boy, “ said Nate. He patted my head as I trotted back to the truck with them. He chuckled. “ You don’t realize you’re a dog do you, buddy?”
I knew. I just don’t know if they knew human in the dog world was not quite the superior species they liked to think of themselves as. We served all others with unconditional compassionate love, and loved others before ourselves. Humans I learned had a problem with loving themselves a little too much at first and had to learn the art of loving others before themselves. Luckily I discovered this was something they learned and developed as they aged. Or again, maybe because my human experience was just limited to these two, they took a little longer to develop than others.
Unfortunately, because humans see us as a species below them, dogs I guess are not invited to weddings. But from the joy on their faces and the laughter they shared in the days following, I guess it went well. We headed back to Maryland and the disaster of a house that they were somehow magically making our home. We settled back into our busy lives of fixing up a house-okay I laid around watching them ruin about ten pair of pants and shirts with paint and bust their fingers a time or two with hammers and tools, but they continued to take me out on the adventures they thought I could handle. One of my favorites was the time they took me on a three day canoe trip with them.
It was just us three in the canoe floating down the quiet of the river. We spent our nights lounging around a campfire and nights sleeping under the stars. It was heaven on Earth. Lucky for me even though our whole lives together had been spent in tiny third floor city apartments and now a city rowhome with a tiny plot of land for me to do my business, my human pets loved the outdoors. We made some great summer memories camping, visiting around campfires, floating down rivers, and just sitting on the back porch of Nana’s in the country of Pennsylvania. It really was the life at times.
However, I won’t ever forget my second life threatening moment with them. The last evening of our canoe trip they decided we’d bathe in the river. I love water so hopped right in with them. Except the current of the river just whipped me right away from them. Even though I knew how to swim, this wasn’t like any water I had been in before. I was paddling as fast and hard as I could but they were getting smaller and I was quickly drifting farther away.
“Nate! You have to get him! He’s going to drown. The current is going to either rip him under or he’s going to end up lost on some shore bank down river. Hurry!” She was clearly just as freaked out as I felt in that moment.
But thankfully he came to my rescue somehow swiftly catching up to me in the quick current. He grabbed my collar and dragged me to the side embankment. After that I stuck with hanging out in the canoe anytime we were in the river. I guess everyone was quite impressed that I not only stayed in the canoe but didn’t flip all three of us over in it.
I didn’t realize it at the time but it was one of our last trips as the three of us. Shortly after that I started to notice she was smelling different and then I noticed her belly getting bigger and bigger. They both seemed excited about this change. I wasn’t sure why at first as she seemed oddly uncomfortable the bigger she got. I wasn’t so sure if I was all about their excitement. It seemed the more excited they got, the less time and attention they were giving me.
Until one evening they came home from somewhere and she just laid on the couch, then the floor curled into a ball, whimpering and crying every now and then. I laid my head beside her, sad to see her so upset and in pain but rather smug that whatever she was so excited about wasn’t as pleasant as she always seemed to make it sound like it was going to be.
But then they rushed out of there with her in pain and were gone for what seemed like a very long time. I began to get worried. Was she okay? Maybe I shouldn’t have been so smug. What if something horrible happened to her? Then to increase my worry even more, he came back but without her! And he seemed so happy about it! Oh, no, I thought, they had finally attempted to kill each other and he had won. The anxiety when they’ve left me too long began to set in. I was pretty sure humans couldn’t get away with ripping each other’s throats apart like dogs. What would be his fate? What would be mine? Should I have intervened? What could I have done though?
I stopped. Why now though? These past few months had been the happiest I had seen them together the whole time the three of us had been together. She was starting to think things through before she flew off the handle at him, and he was using his head more to quit doing such stupid, inconsiderate things. They were laughing and enjoying each other’s company more rather than bickering and driving each other crazy. I continued to pace and worry as he left again to disappear for another lengthy amount of time.
I started to wonder if they took him away. Was he gone forever too? What would be my fate now? How long would it be until someone found me abandoned here in this house? Then the door started to open. I jumped up in fear and anticipation. Who would this be?
Then he walked through the door. Then she walked in behind him. She was alive! He didn’t kill her! He wasn’t going to be taken away! We were still a family! I was so happy. I jumped for joy, so excited to see them both.
Suddenly a different scent caught my nose. What was this? I stopped in my excitement.
“Hey, buddy, you miss us?”
They set it on the floor in front of me. I sniffed it. In return it let out a pitiful soft cry. It was all red and rather kind of wrinkly looking. I looked closer. It was a miniature of them. They brought home a mini human!
“What do you think, boy? You going to help take care of her?” he asked.
She dropped down on her knees beside us. “You will love her, Bettis,” she promised. “And I will still love you.”
I hadn’t been thinking that. Should I be thinking that? I was a little uncertain of this change at first. This baby I realized was pretty good. She smiled and giggled a lot. The three of us didn’t go do all the things we use to do, and it did make me mad that now when Ang went for walks she usually took the baby rather than me. This baby must have been the hot commodity because now after several years away from their families they started coming to visit in waves. The visit I always remember was the first time her parents came. She had been pretty good over the years of going back there to see them and her sisters, so of course she was super excited about them coming to finally see her in the new life she had made for herself. However, I don’t think she expected the sadness that washed over and consumed her for the days following their departure. By this point it was just her home all day with me and the baby so I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or the baby. The baby didn’t really give her much more of a response than I did, but I think she just liked knowing we were listening.
“I think this is where my choice really starts to show me how hard of a choice it really was,” she said quietly one day. The baby was sleeping quietly beside her. I was at her feet but raised my head to drop it in her lap. “The last four years have been great in so many ways. I know we seem like we drive each other crazy as much as we seem to love each other. We’re both so damn independent and we each always think we’re right. Honestly, sometimes I worry that we’re too selfish to be parents. We’ve both always done what we want when we want, not really caring what others said or thought, which is exactly why now here I am a two days drive away from my whole family. By the time they see the baby again, she will have grown and changed so much. There’s so much of her childhood they will miss.” At this point she started to cry. She cuddled the sleeping baby close and patted my head.
“We came out here, living the carefree life. We partied in downtown DC , Baltimore, and Philly with friends. Went to concerts, live music, probably close to a 100 wineries, over a dozen different beaches, traveled practically everywhere out here on the East Coast and took awesome trips to Mexico and California. We were fine on our own, living life, but now that that chapter of our story is ending, I’m not sure we’re in the right place for the next chapter. There’s no help; it’s just him and I. Can we be that team that we need to be to navigate parenthood? No offense, but I’m not sure how much help you’ll be, buddy. It’s going to be harder to get home to see everyone now, and I just hate that she will only see her grandparents, aunts, and cousins two to three times a year. What will she or any of her future siblings think when they’re older? Will they question why we raised them so far from family? Will they wish we hadn’t?” She stopped, deep in her own thoughts.
What doubt she had didn’t matter because they had invested in this life with their jobs and now a house so whether she wanted to change it or not it wasn’t something she could just do right then just because she just wanted to. I think she saw though as time went on that they were okay. They came together as the team I always wondered if they could be. They realized they had no one but each other. Their families were a phone call away and they made some great, reliable friends (I know because they were the ones that came and took care of me when they left) but if they didn’t work together, if they didn’t compromise, so many things along the way would have failed. I’m not sure what age humans hit adulthood, but for these two it was definitely at about 30. I thought I heard once that it was eighteen or twenty one but the two of them were just kids in adult bodies for the first half of my life with them. At about the time I started to feel my age, I started to notice theirs. They had grown up.
Their daughter kept a youthfulness in them in a way though. Where they use to randomly dance together in the living room apartments ago, they would now swing their daughter around the dining room in a three person dance, singing the songs as loud as they could. Even though they still took me with them sometimes to the city parks, after I laid down on the ground once in overheated exhaustion and Nate had to carry my 90 lb + butt to the car, I’m pretty sure they continued to take her without me. They loved introducing her to camping, bonfires in the backyard, house gatherings with friends and laughter, traveling, and just life in general. Even though they didn’t look at me with anywhere near the love they had for that little girl, and I did get jealous every now and then, leaving little poo present surprises in her room for them, I couldn’t help but love her myself.
She’d sit on me-not with me-but on me and watch TV. She liked to pretend to walk me around the house and that I was one of her dolls to dress up. She’d color with me and on me. They were always amazed at how well I tolerated her, especially after she covered my head in blue and red marker. But what they didn’t realize at first was how often she’d sneak me all the good food. I’d try to hide near her at dinner time so she’d drop me goodies. They’d always let her wander around with her snacks in which case she’d usually share them with me. Six years after we had started out as a family of three, I was seeing and living the life Ang had hoped for with Nate and me and I guess now these little people she had hoped for too.
Even though I adjusted to the loss of attention, I wasn’t quite ready for the attack that seemed to be directed at me the second time her belly started growing with another baby. All of a sudden it was like I couldn’t do anything right. I was laying in the wrong spot, I had to go to the bathroom at the worst possible time, I made the whole house smell. It wasn’t just me she attacked though. Within the same month I disappeared for a week she went off on him in one of the awful type of fights that they hadn’t had in years since before they were married. Some of the progress they had made over the years was lost in a night of angry tempers and harsh words. Luckily, the little girl was just a toddler at this time and aside from wondering where the doggy went I guess, she escaped the wrath that seemed to consume the house for a few weeks.
I had had it with her angry, mad at everything , nit picking on every little damn thing though, so one day I just snuck out to the front to take a stroll down the street. Let her brew for awhile about where I went, I thought. What I didn’t plan on though was this nice lady coming up to me. Since I still walked with a limp from falling out the window as a pup, she thought I was hurt. Next thing I knew she loaded me up in her car. I now wonder why I went so easily with her. She was nice but because of her that was almost the last time I ever saw my family again. She took me to this place full of other dogs and dropped me off.
I started to wonder what had I done. Now I was stuck in this tiny metal cage with other yelping, annoying dogs. I realized she was right. We did stink. I missed my family. Even though the people there were friendly enough, I wanted to go home.
Then one day they led me out to the front and there they were. The two of them and the little girl, so excited to see me. They missed me, I realized. Their family wasn’t complete without me after all.
She squeezed my head in her hands, looking at me with her big eyes. I could see the reflection of tears in them. “I’m sorry, buddy. I was so worried about you. I was such a bad doggy mommy. With soon to be two babies, work, a house and all the housework, and everything else it all just got to me. I’m sorry I took it out on you. I know it’s no excuse. Life is always crazy but you’re a part of our family. You’ve been a part of this family since before we were even a family. I promise to be a better doggy mommy.”
It wasn’t long before what started out as our family of three was a family of five. They brought home another red wrinkled face little girl. This one was a little more temperamental than the first, but she came to love me too. Even though she was a little rougher than the first, I couldn’t help but love her too.
If things had slowed down some with the first daughter, they slowed way down with the arrival of the second. They had their hands full and with two little girls to now take care of, many of the things we and they use to go do became a distant memory. Even though they would smile when they talked about those days, the smiles they had now when they watched the two girls growing and playing together showed it was well worth the move on from the lifestyle of the past. I thoroughly enjoyed the two little girls. The little girls were the best of the two of them. I could see it in the little one’s determination, in the older one’s gentle and loving heart, in their unwavering love for their parents and each other, in their imaginative play, and in the way they lived life full force.
They were happy as a family. Then one day things got frantic again, stress levels rose, and tempers got short randomly. Next thing I know they were packing up this house that they had started their family in. Everything was going in boxes, he was on the phone or walking strangers around the house almost every night doing “business” as she called it. She was fretting about money, houses, and cars. But there was an excitement about them too. Just like all the other changes that had come in the last eight years, there seemed to be a positive light of hope about whatever all this meant.
“I know the next year will be tough and tight with money, but it will be totally worth it in the end,” she was saying to him one night after they put the girls to bed and were packing up more boxes.
“Right now is the time to buy with the interest rate so low and we’re getting this house for so much less than the current people paid for it just six years ago when we bought this.”
“I know. I just hope I don’t have to wait too long until I can get a decent car or truck to replace the one I just had to sell so we could do this.”
“We’ll finally be settled in a place where the girls can actually go to school and grow up. Bettis will have a nice big yard to live out the end of his days. Now you’ll have this house as an investment property with renting this place out. It will all work out. Just not instantly and it could be a little rough until Ave starts school,” she said reassuringly. “I feel like getting to this point has been nine years in the making. We’re going home to a place to raise our family. It’s like the American Dream,” she said with a tone of sarcasm. “ We can just barely afford it and I’m probably going to stress out making all the ends meet. Too bad they don’t advertise that part when they promote the American idea.”
“It will work out. It is a really nice house and I’m looking forward to working in the garden with the girls this spring,” he said with a smile. He gave her a hug.
Moving day they were both ecstatic with excitement for the change to come. I saw when I got there it was the perfect place in so many ways for them and the family they had made. I loved it. The deck off the kitchen faced the west and the sunsets most nights streaked vibrant colors across the sky . The yard was huge compared to the lack of a yard in two different city apartments and a city rowhome. Even though I had loved the outdoor adventures with them, I never liked going outside except to do my business until they brought me here. Here I would lay on that deck in the sun for hours. It was so peaceful. A sense of contentment and coming home resonated in me.
But she was right. Things they didn’t expect kept happening, and before long they were fighting in a way they hadn’t fought since before they were married. For the second time in the nine years the three of us had been together, he did something so disappointing that she struggled to let it go, forgive, and move on.
“I know he’s just so use to me taking care of it all. Always stepping up and ‘fixing’ things when it comes to managing and taking care of things in our life, but I really needed him to take some initiative this time. But getting angry at him doesn’t make him want to realize why I’m so upset. The thing is it’s not even about anger but about disappointment and feeling let down,” she said to me one evening while we were sitting on the deck watching the sun set. We didn’t go for walks much anymore because I couldn’t make it very far. My back legs hurt almost constantly now and with my front damaged leg I didn’t have much leg strength left for walking. “I know we’re so far from having our crap together most of the time and even though we still have moments like this where I feel like we don’t even like each other, I know we love each other. I think he understands now that building this life with marriage and a family is work, and hard work at times. I think he sees now it’s not hard all the time, but it’s not always easy. It takes effort, lots of effort on so many different things. There is no perfect in life, just a life where we try each day to be better than we were the day before.”
She was mad for a while, but they had both learned over the years that holding onto the struggles of the past didn’t allow them the room needed to move on. Watching those girls run and grow over the next year reassured them they were in the right place, that they were moving in the right direction even with all the times they got a little lost on their way. But as our first full winter in the new house approached what had started off as just soreness in my back legs was getting worse. I felt I could barely walk most days. As much as I loved the deck and huge yard, as winter came it became really difficult to get down the steps out to the yard to do my business.
Now here we sat, her and I, on a rare warmer spring day, watching the sun melt behind the trees in a flash of red, oranges, pink, and even a little purple. It was a gorgeous sunset.
“How’s he doing now?” he asked as he took the seat beside her. He patted me and squeezed her hand.
“Still not great. You know he’s been with us ever since we started this crazy journey of us. He was here from the beginning. It will be so different without him. With all the changes of moving forward to get settled with our own family, he’s been the one and only constant with us. Whereas everyone else just sees the pretty, sugar coated version of our life, our marriage, our family; he’s the only one that knows the truth of it. He’s seen how awful our tempers can be, how selfish we can be, how we’ve screwed up so many different ways on this journey. “
“True,” he nodded. “But he also knows how good we can be when we’re working together instead of against each other. He knows how hard we push for the things we want; how even when we’ve screwed up, after we’re done blaming each other, we come together and overcome it. You’re the one that told me when I had unrealistic expectations of adulthood that this is marriage, this is life. Constant learning and growing…”
“Just trying to be better than the day before,” she finished with a smile.
“You know when we first came out here and I thought about leaving a few times, especially when we had those trust issues in the beginning” she said quietly.
“Ang, I was scared. I didn’t know what I was doing or getting into for that matter. Lifelong commitment was something I don’t know much about. It was just easier being young and free so it seemed easier to stay with what I was comfortable with,” he interrupted.
“I’m not going to argue with you on that. The freedom of youth is hard to part with, but it’s a freedom that’s incomplete. Even though this life is maybe harder like every adult likes to tell you when you’re a kid, this is a life even with the struggles, I wouldn’t trade for anything. But you didn’t let me finish. Each time we hit a wall of finding our way together, and I would think about giving up and going home, I would tell myself to give us one more tomorrow. I’d say one more tomorrow to see if we could be better than we were. I’d cling to that hope that one more tomorrow would renew my faith in us, and each time we’d rebound, we’d overcome, and we’d be better. So what do you say? Give this old boy one more tomorrow?” she asked with tears in her eyes. He hugged her and gave her a kiss on the head.
“We always believed in each other enough for one more tomorrow, and he’s always been here for us. You’re right. Today’s not the day. Let’s give him one more tomorrow to see where that takes us.”