Three years ago today, I made the biggest commitment of my life so far.
I pledged a lifetime of care and love to this little nugget.
Two months after I started volunteering with Eleventh Hour Rescue, I spent the better half of my mom’s birthday volunteering at an adoption event. It was unreasonably hot and sunny for mid-October, so I returned to the kennel to grab a pop-up tent for some much-needed shade. I was greeted by a large crate in the back of a van with four tiny little squirmy pups vying for attention at the front and a timid, shaking momma hiding in the back. I approached and looped my fingers through the bars, delighting in the tiny puppy kisses and cooing at the cute little faces. I spoke softly and momma slowly approached to tentatively sniff at my hand before turning back to her safe spot.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this little family, so when I received an email plea for a foster the next day, I immediately jumped at the chance (before even asking my mom). A bevy of promised favors and chores later, she agreed they could stay for a few days until another foster was found.
My best friend Renee joined me to pick them up from the kennel and the pups were so excited to get out of their cramped crate. Momma was more fearful than I realized and wouldn’t even walk on a leash, so I had to carry her out.
We arrived at my house and proceeded to settle everyone in my mom’s finished basement. I had clearly not done a lot of preparing or thinking – I had some newspaper in a corner and a single bowl for water. About five minutes into romping around the room, getting stuck under the couch, and chewing the table, the puppies conducted a simultaneously orchestrated poop explosion all over my mother’s carpet.
Lesson learned. Plastic sheeting was put down.
The puppies tired themselves out and I could tell momma needed a break. I put them in the crate with extra blankets for a nap and tried to get this shy girl to settle down. She was so exhausted, but scared to relax. Eventually she laid down, still keeping a weary eye on her surroundings before she finally fell into a light sleep. It was then I noticed how skinny she was, ribs protruding as her body had struggled to nurse four growing pups.
The pups were about 5 weeks old and I knew my first task would be to choose names and take photos so they could be posted online for adoption. I brainstormed ideas, knowing I wanted to stick with a theme. Momma awoke and I attempted to get her to walk up the stairs on her leash with no luck. I scooped her up and carried her outside for a quick pee before carrying her back down.
“It’s okay, Honey,” I coaxed her each time I was near, determined to help her feel comfortable in this strange new place. I wanted her to trust me and feel safe for herself and her babies.
I thought of going with “H” names and naming momma Honey. But as I watched her care for her pups, giving up her food for them, constantly cleaning up after them, I thought about how she was a truly amazing mother.
I loved their silly antics and they were quick to fall asleep in my lap or on my shoe, but I was drawn to Truly. She should have been so broken. I could see evidence of past abuse and neglect – her skittering away at noises, fear of enclosed spaces, and shaking. I continued to do everything I could to put her at ease.
I began the weaning process by bringing Truly upstairs with me. She loved cuddling on the couch and started following me around like a little shadow. She even got along with Kirby who is notorious for hating all new dogs.
We were making slow, but steady progress. Truly walked up the stairs for the first time and found comfort in jumping on the couch to escape the increasingly crazy puppies. But then Hurricane Sandy hit.
We were plunged into two weeks of darkness. Caring for 6 dogs with no electricity, refrigerator, or heat is no picnic. Luckily, the basement stayed warm and the puppies made it through a health scare. Truly and I took to sleeping on the pullout couch since my bedroom was freezing.
Once the power finally returned, the next couple weeks were a whirlwind as all the puppies got adopted. Each adoption was more difficult than the last; I dreaded saying goodbye to each little pup. A knot started forming in my heart as I pictured the day I would say goodbye to Truly.
I had fallen head over heels for this scared, six year old dog. I began campaigning for my mom to allow me to adopt her, but as I snuck more foster dogs into her house and ruined more carpeting, my chances disintegrated.
The family was perfect: a pastor, his wife, and three grown boys. Truly would take daily walks to commute to church where she’d spend the day in the pastor’s office. I knew this was the best place for her. I was still living at home, trying to figure out my own life. No way could I care for another creature when I could barely take care of myself.
But I took one look at her curled up on the couch, finally letting her guard down, and I knew that none of that mattered.
Maybe I didn’t have my life together, but I knew in my heart that I could guarantee true love for this girl. I wanted to be a better person so I could take care of her. I didn’t want her to ever feel scared again. I didn’t want her to think I had abandoned her.
And so I let the pastor know someone else was adopting her (yes, I’m going straight to hell). I figured I could secretly adopt Truly and maybe my mom would eventually stop asking when she was leaving. A few days later, as I worked to gather the money for her adoption fee, Truly was spayed. I set up a huge crate with pillows and blankets where she could recover. I carried her in, and saw a big red bow on the crate. My mom was letting me keep her. This was the single happiest moment of my life.
Over the past three years, I have been blessed to have Truly by my side. She is my best friend, my adventure buddy, my confidant, and my shoulder to cry on. She celebrates with a wagging tail when I’m happy, and lays her head on my lap when I cry.
Truly has been with me through so much: broken hearts, new jobs, moving out, struggling to pay bills, and especially my ongoing battle with anxiety and depression. She never judges me. She’s always there, no matter how deep and dark a hole I dig myself.
Thank you for everything, Roo. You’re my favorite muffin.
I’m truly blessed to have you in my life.