From September 2011
Misha is an 8-year old Beagle (56 in dog years) that I recently adopted from my good friend C. It was a gift to C’s nephew, who’s now all grown up and preoccupied with other things. The nephew’s life no longer had enough space for a dog, so my good friend thought Misha could find a new space in my life.
It was the perfect time. I was about to go to the animal welfare society to find a dog to love. Old or young, it didn’t matter. A few years ago, my husband and I had deposited a sickly puppy there. We had found it crouched behind a cement block on a very busy road. It was raining. We couldn’t bear to abandon it, so we picked it up and brought it home.
But we lived in a tiny apartment back then, with zero space for a dog. Cesar Millan was not yet a household name, though the affection for animals was already in my heart, albeit just the size of a mongo seed. The poor puppy suffered from diarrhea and wouldn’t eat. Our youngest child, Sofie, was still a baby and recovering from pneumonia. We couldn’t afford to care for one more sickly creature in the house.
We were actually turned away by the animal welfare society when we took the puppy to their facility. The officer was practically coercing us to bring the puppy home. But we weren’t ready and equipped to care for it, we reasoned. Please understand. This creature will have better chances of survival here than in our tiny house.
I remember there were a lot of dogs in the facility, inside cages, waiting to be adopted. The dogs looked well and not one of them snarled back at us. The puppy would be well looked after there. So we did the next best thing. We got clever. We made a show of walking out, then when no one was looking, left the puppy in a secure area where it could spend the night not shivering and not being run over by a car. We left it some food, and swathed it in an old blanket. We felt horrible. It felt like abandoning a baby.
I’ve often wondered how the puppy has fared since. I hope it didn’t die.
The desire to adopt a dog kicked in strong this year, when we moved to a bigger house, and just as my mothering instincts were finally surfacing. I’ve always been a late bloomer. I’m ten years late to all this, as my son is going into adolescence soon and my youngest is already four. Never have I wanted to be holding another baby again so badly than at this time of my life, in the thick of middle-age, when my eyes have already seen so much they have actually sunk deeper into their sockets, as though trying to escape seeing further wisdom unfold. The chronic worrier in me has written a memorable line on my forehead, and I cannot smooth it without smudging my fingers with the flakes of an atopic dermatitis that seems to have struck a deep friendship with my eyebrows. Keloids have started growing on parts of my skin, and they are indelible. Life is already making its mark on me, while here I am, still trying to make my mark in this world!
If I could get pregnant again, I would. My desire for motherhood had finally synched with my hormones. But my hubby said we couldn’t afford one more child. “You can’t even take care of me!” he moaned.
So I did the next best thing.
I adopted Misha.
Me and my good friend marveled about the fortuity and serendipity of my having Misha, of how I expressed my desire to have a dog just in time when her nephew was finally letting go of his. We laughed about Misha’s name being so close to my own name, Isha. Yes, yes, I am proud to be a bitch! It was all meant and all good.
And boy, how Misha leapt when I saw her the first time, tied to the gate, waiting for me. It was love at first sight. She has the kindest dog-eyes I’ve ever seen. And an unbelievably musical bark – low, husky, half-crying. Misha was destined to be a musician’s dog!
The trust she gave a total stranger! The memories she’s willing to forget to be with this stranger! This dog lived in the moment. And every day I’ve spent with Misha attests to this lovely quality that I wish I had. It’s not true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. After only a few days with me, Misha has learned to stay, to sit, to rein in her over-excitement when we open the gate to walk her in the morning. She is a creature of habit, and everything that is given and done to her over and over she takes in with absolute trust.
A dog like Misha can quickly move on to another life, even after spending many years in an old one. She doesn’t harbor grudges, nor keep her aches and pains, both real and imagined, bottled up inside her. Teach her something new, and keep teaching it, and she will forget her old ways and settle in the moment that you offer, her eyes bright and open to new possibility. Love her now, and she will forget that she was once unloved.
She is a gift from The Infinite, reminding me that Pablo Neruda shouldn’t always be right. Loving can be longer, and forgetting, much, much shorter. May I learn to love You just as deeply and let go when it is time.