Another dog has claimed me as her human. It took three months after the death of my beloved Pumpkin for that inner voice to tell me, “I think you’re ready.” It’s sooner than I anticipated, but there was a void left behind - an emptiness that I knew could be filled by saving the life of another dog. I simply had to wait for my grief to ease and my heart to open enough to welcome a new companion home.
After scouring websites and area shelters for a dog to grab me by the heartstrings, it happened. With her joyful and loving personality, “Bailey” has added a fresh perspective and a new spark to my daily life.
It’s been an adjustment, no doubt.
I’ve made a conscious effort to not compare Bailey to Pumpkin – but, admittedly, it’s been difficult. And I’ve found that the two are distinctly different, which is likely good for me.
Pumpkin was sharp as a tack and an independent spirit. Although sweet and good-natured, she wasn’t an overly loving or affectionate dog. She also enjoyed the sound of her own bark. Me? Not so much.
Bailey, on the other hand, is a quiet and calm pleaser. She has a warm and cuddly personality, and will flop over – practically backbone-less – for a quick belly rub.
When I initially met that little Pomeranian-mix, she didn’t know any commands and fought vehemently against walking on a leash. Thankfully Bailey has quickly adapted to the leash and has picked up on basic instructions in her short time with me. Although she enjoys a cookie or two, I’ve realized she’s more motivated when I reward her with a good scratch behind the ears.
At about a year-and-a-half old, she’s beyond the puppy stage, but still young enough to have that playful spunk that I’ve so missed these past few months. She’s particularly fond of a green squeaky ball – and one fuzzy bee slipper that she’s determined to shake to its inevitable demise.
When not chasing toys or seeking attention, she lays on the couch with a silly grin on her face – literally. Bailey has a goofy underbite that, when her upper lip sticks, makes it look like she’s smiling.
Although she seems to trust me completely, she is still a little wary of people she doesn’t know. Friends who have come to visit and meet her have initially been met with a slight growl and a cautious eye. But after some sniffing and reassurance, Bailey typically offers her belly in a sign of truce.
We’ve also hopped in the car and visited the homes of friends and family members. Bailey has a new red bed for her place in the car – the same backseat where Pumpkin rode. During our first two trips, I noticed her trembling, unwilling to lie down and relax. But on the third ride, Bailey snuggled up in her bed and slept. Perhaps she’s realizing that she’s with me to stay, that no matter whose house we visit, she’s coming back home. Perhaps her nerves are easing.
But I was the nervous one during our recent first trip to the veterinary office, as I wasn’t sure how that 13-pound dog would react. I was used to a panting and panicking Pumpkin for 11 years. Imagine my surprise when I set Bailey on the stainless steel table and she laid down, perfectly content.
Even the veterinarian walked in and chuckled, “Really?”
After a thorough exam from Bailey’s black nose to her curly “pig” tail, the vet confirmed what I already suspected.
“You’ve got a really good dog here,” she said, adding how happy she is that I decided to adopt another one. Although she never knew Pumpkin – her wonderful colleague is the vet who dealt with Pumpkin and who helped me after she died – much of the staff is familiar with my and Pumpkin’s story.
And now I’m looking forward to writing a new chapter, to creating a new story with Bailey. A story I hope is a lengthy and delightful one.
Have I forgotten Pumpkin? Absolutely not.
Am I done shedding tears for her? Not quite.
But I am learning to love Bailey just for being Bailey.
Andrea "Andi" Joseph is the Features Editor for the Gilroy Dispatch, Morgan Hill Times and Hollister Free Lance. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.