Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. ― Mark Twain.
This week I got a new best friend. Her name is Briley “The Biscuit” Roberts. I have spent the better part of six days now with Briley and we have become quite attached. I find that I can no longer do things on a whim. I have to think through how it will impact Briley. Can she go with me? What if I’m gone a long while? Could I get someone to check in on her? Ever since I became a parent, I have not taken such a life-altering step. And I’m loving it.
I have been a dog owner before. Growing up, we had a dog named Sparky. Actually, if you ask my sister we had a series of dogs named Sparky that kept wandering into the road and getting hit. But I choose to live in delightful denial. As far as I know, Sparky is still wagging her tail, greeting me as I come home from ball practice, both of us in eternal youth.
Briley is a lab. I fell in love with her at the shelter so quickly that I didn’t examine her paperwork well. Her owners kept her in an outside pen. They have tried to breed her at least once. I was told she lost a litter right before being taken to the shelter. They said her owners tried to introduce two younger labs into her pen and she did not respond well. I can’t imagine how hard this was for. Briley is one of the most sweet and docile creatures I’ve ever met.
One of the thrilling things in building a new friendship is getting to know what is unique about the other. Here are some things I’ve learned about Briley so far:
> She is a nibbler. In spite of her advanced weight (likely due to lingering pregnancy pounds), she does not eat too much. I simply put out half of her food in the morning and the other half when that is gone and pour back what is left at night.
> She loves it when Aunt April brushes her and rubs her belly. She tolerated a shower, but seems to enjoy not having all that extra fur weighing her down. I know it is much more pleasant to hug her with the shampoo smell instead of dirty dog.
> In spite of being an outside dog for 6 years, she shows great discipline in her voiding habits. I walk with her around the back yard several times a day, but she really only “does her business” once. But she has a lot on her agenda, if you know what I mean.
> She lays beside me as I write and each night as the sun goes down, there is a moment where she looks at the sliding glass door and gets spooked by her own reflection. I have to close the curtains and move her rug back closer to me before she settles back down.
> She is a licker, but doesn’t lick your face. The vet today said this shows her submissive nature. I just think it’s because she is so darn adorable.
Pets are not cheap. And Briley is no exception. The man at the shelter, wanting to prepare me, said even a rescued animal can cost upwards of $1,500/year. More if there are advanced medical problems, like hip trouble (common in labs). I am not wealthy by any means and this will take a big chunk out of my annual income.
Lying in bed last night I started thinking about this and wondered if I had made the right decision.
Am I ready care for another life?
Can I offer a stable home?
Will I be able to respond to non-verbal needs?
How will I pay for it?
My chest hurt with a weight of worry. Then I looked over the bedside at Briley. I called her name. She looked at me with what I know to be her smile. She licked my fingers gently.
And I knew all would be well.
May 25, 2019:
One year ago today I adopted Briley. We spent our anniversary feeling the warm breeze blowing through the rolled down windows of my Toyota RAV-4 (named Hope). We visited Granny & Papaw Dan, Grandma & Grandpa. We stopped at Arby’s drive-thru and I got Briley a Beef-Bacon-and Cheddar. We got home and saw the pool Aunt Susie picked out for us. It was a beautiful day to top off a wonderful year.
I said in the post above that I learned much about Briley in the first weeks of caring for her. Over this past year, I’ve learned as much or more about myself, such as…
… I can make sacrifices and when I do, I’m more fulfilled than when I don’t.
… I have high intuition to anticipate the needs of one unable to express herself verbally.
… I am dependable and those who rely on me know I am there for them.
Briley has taught me these things, all things I’ve needed to learn after decades of giving up on myself and fearing I have moral or genetic flaws that prevent me from caring for others.
They say you can tell much about a person’s character from the way a dog responds to him/her.
If that’s the case, I’m quite a character.
If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience. ―