In the weeks after my dog Peri’s death, I walked around empty. Without her walking beside me or lying nearby, my precious moments of solitude had devolved into simple loneliness. Getting another dog was a bad idea—it’s winter, hardly the best time for housetraining, and my mother pointed out how quickly vet bills can mount. (Peri was a good case in point for her argument.) And yet I looked hopefully at the walls of local stores every time I entered, searching for a “Puppies for sale” or “Free to a good home” flyer, and I searched the local papers faithfully for the same kind of ad. Every time I came up empty, I felt a little more hollow.
Then, one day, I found what I’d been looking for in the Ad-Delite. It was a classified ad for Australian shepherd/English shepherd cross puppies and, when I looked again at the address, I realized they were quite near my house; in fact, I passed the farm every time I went to work at the library. “It’s a stupid idea,” I told myself, and I could picture my mother and husband nodding their assent.
So, of course, I went. Just to look, of course. But the moment I was greeted by a fluffy black tumble of adorableness, I knew these puppies were something special. I made arrangements with the Amish teenager who had led me into the barn to return with my son and look again the next morning. I continued on my way to my library job feeling giddy, happier than I’d been since Peri’s death.
“I found puppies!” I told my co-workers gleefully and, since they’re supportive and also in no way responsible for taking the puppy out in the dark winter midnight, they were fully behind my intention to bring one home.
I brought my son Sage to see them the next day. He was enthusiastic about the idea in theory but, when enclosed by long rows of cow behinds and faced with a mass of bounding puppy, his attitude quickly became, “Just pick one and let’s get out of here.” At first, I couldn’t decide. Almost all the puppies looked healthy, happy, and equally friendly; the only exception was one recluse who shied away from all human contact. But since they were all black and similarly marked, I had a hard time selecting a specific one.
Even so, I was afraid that these beautiful puppies would be quickly sold, so I paid the Amish teen my $25 and asked him to save one for me. When he asked which, I couldn’t really say, so I just told him to save me a female since I’d had good luck with my other female dogs. He said he would, and I loaded my son (still traumatized by the looming presence of cow behinds) into the car and left.
As the day went by, though, I was haunted by visions of returning to find all sold but the asocial recluse. I knew I had to lay claim to one of the friendly welcoming committee members, so I returned again. This time, I knew which one was mine: a little dog who laid its paws on me and licked me familiarly, as if greeting an old acquaintance. When I checked, I was delighted to find out it was a female; the puppies were so fluffy that it was difficult to tell without some specific examination.
“Can you save this one for me?” I asked the same long-suffering Amish teen, who was probably wishing I’d just take a puppy and go. Although as black as the others, she had four tan socks to differentiate her from her littermates. A flock of younger Amish children heaved her into the air and examined her in order to help remember which one to save. I departed (to Sage’s great relief) with a new sense of security now that I’d claimed my puppy.
There’s a lot more to say—about my husband’s distinct lack of enthusiasm about my puppy acquisition, about the chest freezer full of beef I purchased for him to atone for my bad wifery, about the puppy’s amazingly swift adjustment to life as a house dog. But now it’s late and I’m tired, so I’ll save that for another day. I’ll post a photo of her, though. Her name is Chaussette (pronounced “Show-Set”), the French word for “sock,” because of her tan socks, and I’m even more in love with her than I was when she first came home. (I’ll extol her brilliance when the Muse isn’t about to retire for the night, though.)