On Monday, I lay on the floor of my office rolling over a tennis ball, trying to break up the tightness still present in my back nearly a week after my second epidural shot. With no warning, searing white pain shot down my right leg, exploding like a lightning bolt through the nerves of my calf and rendering my right foot completely useless.
Needless to say, it wasn’t a great day.
Tuesday, after much icing and ibuprofen, my leg was feeling a bit better, but my hope for finding lasting relief was all but gone. I sat listless at my desk, comfort eating six wheels of turkey wrap sandwiches that were brought in as a treat for a departing coworker. I needed to get moving, to get some air, even if it meant just hobbling around my building a couple times. So that’s what I did.
As I rounded the corner to return to my office, there he was: a sweet gremlin of a dog with tan shaggy fur and ears that made up 40% of his body weight and stuck out at 75 degree angles. He was being walked by a young woman through the brush-lined walkway in front of my office.
“Can I pet your dog?” I asked, ignoring the shooting pain as I bent down and reached out to his adorable fluffy face.
“Oh, he’s not my dog,” she replied. “I’m volunteering for the shelter and taking him out for a little exercise.”
Hearing this news, my reach became a little more longing, a little more sympathetic, and as I touched his downy fur, he flopped his little head into my hand. Perhaps the weight of his ears was too much and he needed to rest. Me and Shelter Dog, though—we had an immediate connection.
At that moment I forgot the pain in my back. I forgot that I should have been due to give birth to my second child this week. I just felt warmth and sweetness flowing through my fingertips to him and back to me.
This little Sir Didymus look-alike. This little awkward, strangely-shaped guy. This bundle that just wanted to be loved. This sweet puppy that would get so many hugs from a toddler boy (and possibly a few kicks), that would curl up at the end of our bed, that would ruin more of our furniture, that would create kinks in our plans when we want to go out or travel, that would drive up costs with vet bills and pet food and insurance…
As I scratched behind his ears and rubbed the slightly more coarse fur along his back, he leaned into me, content. He wasn’t slobbery excited to see me. He wasn’t skittish or defensive, either. He was just there for me, like an angel dog showing up exactly when I needed him.
“Do you need a mommy?” I asked, fighting back tears. “Anyone would be lucky to be your mom.”
I stood up gingerly and said goodbye to Shelter Dog as I dragged myself up the stairs with the grace and agility of Quasimodo. There was another hour left of my day, but I had Shelter Dog on the brain.
I repeatedly messaged my two coworkers who were on the walk with me.
Me: He looks like Sir Didymus from the Labyrinth, doesn’t he?
Me: He was so sweet. He wasn’t really hyper, just kind of hanging out, you know?
Me: That girl said the shelter is right here, right? Like around the corner? It has to be close because she’s walking him around here.
Me: Okay, I think…I think I’m going to go try to find him.
Me: NO! I can’t. I know why we can’t get a dog right now. It wouldn’t be right. We are never home!
Me: I’m going to go get another turkey sandwich.
Me: Okay, it’s time to go home now. I’m going to the shelter first.
I walked over to the vet’s office to find out where the shelter was, and lo and behold, Shelter Dog was actually there! The staff led me to the back and told me he was getting some dental work done but that he was perfectly healthy otherwise, although a little more advanced in age (he’s likely at least six years old if not more). Normally this news would send me packing, as I’ve always wanted a puppy or at least a young dog so that our family could have as much time with him as possible. But I was in too deep. Didn’t matter. I learned that Shelter Dog’s name was Cody.
Still didn’t matter.
I have gone over and over in my head why I can’t have a dog for the last several years, but this guy finally did it. He just undid all the logic in my brain and made me fall in love with him in about three seconds flat, and now I can’t think of anything else.
Sadly, Alex doesn’t agree. Always the voice of reason in our family, he said that we really don’t have the resources to provide a good life for any dog right now. We are both away from the house for long hours. We don’t have proper living and outdoor space for him. We are just starting to come out from under a financial cloud for the last couple years. If we brought home a dog for purely emotional reasons, all the practical stuff would eventually hit us, and it could make poor Shelter Dog even more at risk if we had to give him back—something unthinkable, but something that could come to pass if we can’t pull together the support he needs.
I love this dog, of this I’m sure. But as Don Henley and Patty Smyth once crooned, “Sometimes, love just ain’t enough.”
Oh, Shelter Dog. I would come visit you again, but I don’t think I could walk away this time. And I know I’d have to. For your own good, not for mine.