Type: Havanese / Mutt mix
Life has its sharp turns and I lost my previous buddy, Tribbles, to heart failure in April 2008, three months after her diagnosis. While the remainder of spring passed into a long, lonely summer, a verse drifted into my mind. It said: Joy comes in the morning. In my sadness, I reminded myself of that verse when others didn’t understand how deeply we mourn the loss of our animal companions.
Through this time I browsed pet adoption sites to keep my mind occupied. Inside, my heart wasn’t sure it would ever be ready for another pal. I was scared; I didn’t want to see another pet pass away. Still, I missed the company of a dog at my side and went out to meet a fostered pup—then got cold feet. If in doubt, a friend told me, wait it out. So I stopped browsing adoption sites and visiting shelters and instead made donations whenever I could. It made me feel better to know I could help.
I call this the patience period, the time when you have to adjust to daily living without your buddy and feel as though the routine which emerges in the aftermath is so different that it doesn’t seem like your life any longer.
I threw myself into spoiling my 4-year-old cat, The Bitz, who was a comfort. She started to sleep in my room, sometimes on the bed like Tribbles had done, keeping me company. That became our new norm.
Grief waxed and waned and in-between I was bored with everything, but in November 2008, I came to a moment when I began to feel stronger. I looked up Petfinder and saw another furry white pup similar to Tribbles. I didn’t think much about it; I made out my application online to Animal Rescue of Fresno (ARF) and they replied right away. I went out to meet her that Saturday. They told me she’d been featured on a local TV station and that ten other people had inquired about her—but I was first in line.
When they carried her in, I said ahhhh. She was a timid, trembling 8-month-old who’d had almost no exposure to the outside world.
They let me spend time with her in the backyard and she sat quietly on my lap while I patted her head. When I put her down to walk with me, she cowered under the patio chair.
I couldn’t make up my mind, but because other people were waiting, they asked if I could decide within two hours. She was beautiful yet I worried about my ability to deal with her timidness. I kissed her on the head, said goodbye and cruised the city for 15 minutes before turning back—I couldn’t pass her up without regret.
I’d like to say it was easy and perfect from the beginning but it was hard work. The first week I wondered if I should take her back. I worried that she and The Bitz might never get along. Her habits were set in and some of them didn’t mesh with good doggie behavior. She wasn’t housebroken and I’d naively forgotten how bouncy an adolescent pup can be. She liked to crawl under beds and chew what she shouldn’t. Many things frightened her: umbrellas, brooms, canes, cars, skateboarders, joggers, and windshield wipers (some still do).
Soon, she acquired a nickname, “Naughty Autie.” It felt as though I were taking care of someone else’s pet. I kept telling myself: Give it time, give it time. Thank God for good friends who encouraged me to enjoy her (and chill out) because one day about the middle of the third week I was playing with her on my lap and looked into her warm eyes and said “I love you” just like I’d said to Tribbles many times before.
After these months, Autumn has increased in confidence. She seems to know what I’m saying even when I don’t stick precisely to the command phases. It’s fun to watch her experience new things. When she first spotted a flock of sparrows, she stopped in her tracks and stared at them before dashing out. She and The Bitz get along, roaming around the yard together sniffing plants and dirt or spying gopher holes like a little pack. Cars and trucks roar by now and she ignores them. She hunts for and will steal any sock, dances on her hind legs, runs like a rocket across the lawn, can’t decide whether she wants to sleep in her crate or the bed, and inexplicably adores my brother.
I’ll always miss Tribbles. Losing her made me see that I want to make each day count with Autumn before it’s too late. I can’t imagine how someone could give up a sweet dog like her. She’s brought joy back into my life and not just in the morning.