For months I pored over the adoption websites. But the timing wasn’t right. During the darkest of days, I watched the videos — little puppies playing, dogs doing funny stuff, you know. Nothing else made me feel better...not chain-smoking, not ice cream, not wine…but the puppies.

Pepper was my childhood dog. She was MY dog…she pretty much liked nobody else, and vice-versa. As an introverted little kid, I was happy to have the friendship. Nobody could come near me lest be attacked by this feisty Schnauzer. She went in the basement when I went to school, and wouldn’t come up until it was almost time for me to come home. Then she would sit by the door and wait.

Then I went away to college. Apparently, Pepper got tired of waiting for me to come home, so she went to find me. She never found me, and she never came home. I remember the call from my mom. It wasn’t until years later, due to my own alcohol-induced arrested development, that it fully impacted me. I did not fully appreciate the devotion and love this dog had for me, nor did I mourn her loss appropriately at the time. NOR did I realize the effect that it had on my sweet mom, when the dog was ass-out of her empty nest, too. That pretty much put her over the edge.

Sorry Pepper. Sorry Mom. I was an idiot.

Mom is gone now, and a few weeks later Dad was gone too.

It was a brutal two years and then everything was silent. Totally silent.

Hell, a few years ago I had a Grandmother…there were two whole generations ahead of me…now suddenly, I’m NEXT. I’m the BABY of the family, how can this be? Oh, and I’m turning 50, WTF!

It doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to figure out that my motherly instinct as well as my own mortality issues finally kicked in. Time to get my act together, start a family, plan my future…oh, wait.

Now if I could’ve I would’ve gone all Diane Keaton and adopted a couple kids at 50…but finances prevailed, and my newly-created little family was going to have to consist of two…me and a dog. I already had the name picked out, and I was no longer just window shopping. So after a little period of PTSD and some time in the sun, the timing was right.

Scouring petfinder.com commenced, and this time I meant business.

There was a certain 3-legged poodle on the Anti-Cruelty Society website with whom I fell absolutely in love. I was at the door as soon as I could be the next day, and there she stood, taller than I expected. She looked at me and there was an instant bond. As I hid from her sight she yelped, and I knew I found her.

“I’d like to take her home”, I told the girl. “Yeah, she’s already adopted” the emotionless worker spouted. Well, put a freaking note on the cage then, people! Crestfallen, I left.

I wanted to give up. That was Sunny, and there would be no other Sunny. Yes, I had the name picked out before I met the dog.

So after a couple sad days, I found myself back on petfinder.com. There was a cute little terrier mix named Jesse and I set it up to meet her the next morning.

Feisty little Jesse ran into the room and sniffed all of us, and jumped up and nipped at me. I didn’t particularly feel “bonded” to her, but without thinking about it too much I asked if I could bring her home. The description in the ad said she was “quiet, good with people and dogs, and potty trained”. Plus, she was really freaking cute, in a scrappy way. Sold. I had found Sunny. (I asked if the dog would be traumatized if I renamed her, and the woman said she’ll get over it after a few treats, plus she had only been Jesse for a few days since they picked her up from the city pound).

Sunny walked in to her new home, and immediately peed on the bedroom carpeting.

People warned me. Don’t do it! Don’t get a dog! You’ll regret it! And a few days into this new way of life, I kinda was wondering if it was all a mistake. Sunny chewed everything. She almost got electrocuted, and to this day, I have nothing at floor level that plugs in. Even the bitter apple spray used to deter such behavior did not work…she apparently loved the taste of it. She ate dirt out of my houseplants. Furniture and woodwork and shoes…all chewed.

Oh, and “quiet”? Not so much. She barked at every noise in the hallway, and would go absolutely ballistic if a dog walked past the door. Taking her for walks was a nightmare, as she would charge and attack every living thing crossing our path. So yeah, the “good with people and dogs” thing…also, not so much.

People warned me that having a dog was expensive. Again, I didn’t care.

Within a couple days, she developed a really bad cough, and it turned out to be Kennel Cough…acquired pre-adoption. We were introduced to the neighborhood vet very quickly.

A few weeks later, I brought her up from a walk and she collapsed in what seemed to be a drunken stupor. Advised to rush her to the emergency vet, I drove through city traffic for what seemed like forever, as she curled up on the floor by the back seat. I thought she was dead. Convulsively sobbing, I could not handle another loss. This would push me over the edge.

The vet took one look at her and said she was high. Apparently, she had eaten some pot somewhere along the way on our walk (it wasn’t mine, I swear). The little son-of-a-bitch. She had to stay overnight for observation, and have a multitude of tests “just to be sure”….$965 later, ugh.

Oh, a few weeks later, she had worms. The first round of medication resulted in several dozen piles of vomit.

But you know what? I loved this damn dog. Even when she was an asshole.

I’ve always heard about the “unconditional love” of a dog. Um, I think Sunny would love anyone who gave her regular treats and belly rubs…in fact, I think she would throw me under a bus to go live with her dog walker.

But what I learned, and never quite understood before, is how much I love her. Unconditionally. Even when she is a jerk. Even when she costs me money. Even when she doesn’t listen to me (which is always).

So maybe, just maybe, when I was a jerk, I was loved too. In fact, I’m sure I was. Thanks for loving me, Mom. I understand now, better than ever. About love.

Today is Sunny’s birthday. I’m not actually sure when she was born, since they didn’t know at the shelter, but I got her a year ago today.

And what a year it’s been.

Happy Birthday, Sunny.

Thanks for teaching me about love.

XOXO,

Mom

Born a photographer, but prone to writing haiku on public transportation, or baking things. Death Doula in training. info@lindahortonphotography.com

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