Aside from pink, and quite unexpectedly, my other most favorite color in the world is brown. A deep, warm, rich fudgey brown. The kind that draws compliments from random passer-bys. Ambiguous enough at times it may get mistaken for black. When the sun hits it, it emits red spotty highlights and lightens to a soft brick tone if left out too long. It’s the kind of brown that makes you buy all dark furniture & bedding. The kind you always need a lint roller for. The sweetest, softest, snuggliest, furry brown you could ever imagine.
I never wanted a dog. Within a matter of seconds a dog could drench you in spit, get you hairy and dirty, knock you over, and leave a strange odor radiating from any given cheek, if not both. I was a cat person. I was 7 when we got our kitten. She was small, simple & independent. I was content with kitties. Then through a series of events and poor decisions, I ended up with a bad relationship and a puppy.
She was adorable when she was a puppy, googly eyes and all, but that’s about all she was. I actually thought she was a little monster and avoided her most of the time. She was extremely rambunctious and had the sharpest little puppy teeth. Her snack of choice was my feet. I would have to run from her or I’d end up bleeding from one extremity or another.
She was extremely mischievous. She tore anything and everything to shreds. When I returned home after work one day to find my $2000 35mm Minolta and all it’s attachments scattered about the living room, I realized anything I owned was fair game.
I was “stuck” with her most of the time. Her co-owner was frequently absent from both of our lives. I, alone, discovered how much work puppies were. She went with me wherever I went. On errands and out on my favorite walking trails. We went home to visit my parents on the weekends and it seemed like we were at the vet every other week for a new kind of required shot. I couldn’t leave her for too long. She was too little and dependent.
Through divine mercy and a surge of intelligence on my part, the bad relationship ended when she was 2. I was not equip to take her with me. There weren’t a lot of dog-friendly rentals, but when I was informed that if I left her she would be given away, my mind was made up. After 40 rejections, I cried my way into a little basement apartment. It was hardly any bigger than her kennel.
I took her for walks twice a day, once before work and once after so she, and I, didn’t go stir crazy. At that time she was all I had. Spending that much time made me realize that she had an above average level of intelligence, or it may have been that she was extremely intuitive. My discovery of how much so was when I was having one of the worst days I can remember. Heartbreak and loneliness filled my heart and poured out in the form of tears my entire commute home. At that time, it did most days, but this day I wasn’t handling it well at all. I couldn’t muster enough ambition or self-worth to even take her on her evening walk. I walked into the apartment door and crumbled onto the futon letting my depression consume me. Moments later she got up on the futon, laid between what was left of me and the back of the couch (as if she was “the big spoon”) and put her front right leg over my left shoulder. I paused, thought “she’s consoling me.” Laughter instantly overpowered my tears. She flipped my mood, pulled me together, and ultimately got her evening walk.
I kept having bad days, and she kept making me get out of bed every day to walk her and feed her. My daily chore was to make sure she had a fulfilling day. We were back to running errands, but now in a new town. I noticed that the local ice cream shops advertised “Doggie Sundaes,” so we took advantage often. She took better care of me than I of her. It’s funny how all the bad properties I applied to dogs – the smelly, dirty, slobberiness – suddenly turned into things I loved about them. I love kisses on the face and I don’t care much about the stray hair. Her breath can be bad at times, but none of those things could make me love her any less.
I loved not only her, but began loving everyone else’s dogs as well. I began to see dogs as little pure-hearts, full of love, loyalty and good intentions. I had officially blossomed into a dog person.
I knew I had to get her out of that apartment. I could have been content living in a small apartment by myself, but it wasn’t fair to her. After a year of searching I found a house less than 2 miles away, in neighborhood we took walks around everyday. Once the offer was accepted, I walked her there from our apartment for the first time. We started down the driveway, and I could tell she was slightly confused, walking too far into people’s yards and down driveways was usually not tolerated. We rounded the side walk and stopped in front of the living room picture window. She looked up at me with that confused worried face, so I felt the need to explain. I said, “it’s your house.” I really don’t know if she understood me, as with most things I say to her, but her reaction, also like most things, was congruent with context. She jumped in the air at me excitedly and repeatedly. I will always believe that she knew what I said. I started building equity and she got the yard she could play, her favorite, Frisbee in.
Her name is Newt. Named after a baby salamander and a nickname sometimes thrown-around by “former-life” friends. It was not the smartest choice for a girl, but as she grew it suited her better than any other name I can dream of. I see newts at delicate, gentle, a little dirty, very outdoorsy, not too girly and somebody’s baby. She is definitely all of those things.
Shortly after we moved in, I checked her water bowl that I had left out the day before. When I discovered what was in it, I knew that I was right where I was supposed to be, right here with her.
(That was 5 years ago, our happy life continues and gets even better, but we’ll save that for another time.)