“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? Will I put her in a crate? What if I’m gone a long while? Could I get someone to check in on her? Since becoming 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. From the looks of it, her owners got her from a breeder and raised 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. I was also told her owners tried to introduce two younger labs into her pen and she did not respond well. I can’t imagine what this looked like, as Briley is one of the most 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 a man of unlimited 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.