My introduction to Bacon started months before I ever met her. I had bought my first place, a quaint little condo in need of a lot of TLC. I was doing well if not as well as I wanted at work and had a boyfriend who not only did my laundry, he ironed. Now I’m as pro-independent woman as the next, but man is it good to come home to your work clothes clean and wrinkle-free. I was proud (of my ability to save money by eating instant noodle at lunch)! I was strong (enough to suck up that I wasn’t going to get a promotion anytime soon due to budget cuts)! I knew where I was going in life (kinda) and that was up. Okay, I didn’t really but I thought if I got a dog, I could have one area I could claim to excel in. Right?
“We need a dog.” I told said boyfriend, who greeted my impromptu need with some basic reservations and common sense that probably came with him being older. “Nonsense,” I told him and proceeded to explain away all the problems he brought up. Money? Get a small dog, it’ll eat less. Energy? “It’ll force me to exercise more!” I lied to us both. (She still hasn’t.) Where will it stay? “Shared custody,” I waved away the issue.
After all, it made sense to me. I was young but I was old enough that I had started moving out of the college type entertainment scene. Clubs made me feel fat and although I met up with friends often enough, more often than not we were e-mailing each other at work complaining about the lack of options in the office vending machine. I needed something new to add some spark in my life, to prove I was young and successful. What did hip, 20-some year olds all have in Hollywood rom-coms? Dogs.
So I started looking: shelters, adoption websites, and humane societies. For a good month, I was “puppy-crazy.” My boyfriend had never had a pet before and although we did not live together, this was obviously going to be a two-person effort. (It usually is when you start leaving your toothbrush at each other’s places.) He wanted something young so we could bond with it early on. It’s crazy how easy and yet hard it is to find a suitable dog! I needed something small since my condo required it to be able to survive in the same small space as my stack of shoes and oversized sofa. At the shelters, small dogs went fast and big dogs broke my heart. Rescue groups were hard too. Some dogs required in person interviews, hundreds in adoption fees and even waitlists! I don’t support pet shops but it was starting to look like I was going to be thwarted.
One Sunday morning, I was obsessively checking a dog adoption forum and found what seemed like what I wanted. A couple needed to give up their puppy because they had too many kids. Apparently what had seemed like a great idea was not so great anymore when their 3-year olds started dangling the puppy off the couch by one leg. They asked for a modest rehoming fee and although Mr. Responsible was apprehensive, I cajoled him into driving with me to meet said couple in Ontario.
Advance warning. Tiny puppies suck the willpower out of you like trying to say no to Sprinkles cupcake samples. 20 minutes later, I was the proud owner of a tiny hiccup of an apricot toy poodle sleeping in my lap.
My life was perfect! I had nothing left to complain about! I had my Hollywood movie puppy! Except with her came the potty training, the series of shots and lining up at the vet, buying way too many toys, harnesses, leashes, bones, sleeping pillows. I started driving home at lunch so I could walk her, I spent money on faux grass boxes to put in the patio when she got fleas from doing her business outside. But worse of all, was the look.
When you’re getting ready to leave, Bacon sits on your foot and just looks up at you slowly and then looks down and then back up again. She doesn’t whine, doesn’t move except for her little stubby tail that twitches and wiggles at 100-mph. So much for improving my social life! How could I leave when I see that little furry face reprimand me? “Your daughter is mad at you,” is the BF’s favorite turn of phrase when we leave the house for dinner. Usually her way of showing it was to destroy whatever she could reach by the time I came home.
“I can’t take it anymore!” I yelled one day as I spent the whole morning running late for work because she peed on the carpet and then spilled her food and water bowl before I’d even gotten my pajamas changed. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be! I may not be making over six-digits, my figure wasn’t what it used to be and so what if my mother has been delicately bringing up the question of my, “expiration date nearing.” I could take care of a puppy! I would make this puppy mine! I was not a failure!
She looked at me, aware in her doggy way that I was upset and started wagging her tail at me, oblivious to the puddle she had created 2 minutes ago.
“What’s wrong?” She seemed to say. “You need a lick?”
And at that moment, I realized how ridiculous I was. Somehow adopting Bacon had become the epitome of my mid-twenties struggles. I thought if I had a dog to come home to, it wouldn’t matter that I worked late hours and lacked challenge at my legal job. If I could walk her, it was okay that I felt that I was losing touch with what few friends to their relative jobs and lives. And while she sat there, chewing on her bone and waiting for me to get out of the shower, I could feel confident and loved, even if I’d gained nearly 20 lbs in 2 years as my mother reminds me every week.
We’re all in different places, in different ages. Sometimes the struggle is as simple as being forced to get a roommate because you can’t afford to pay your own rent. Sometimes it’s as hard as being laid off when you’ve put so many years into a company. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to avoid our insecurities and unhappiness, it’s hard to face it with complete honesty. So what if that high school friend is now graduating medical school at Harvard, getting engaged with a 3-carat to her Yale law fiancé©? Maybe we just need to take a step back and forget about a lot of the things that don’t go our way.
I got to work late that day only to find out that I’d missed a very monotonous, very long fire drill. “Well now, Bacon,” I thought to myself as I sat down to work, next to my co-workers complaining about what the sun had done to their make-up. “I do believe you deserve a treat at lunch.”
She’d managed to tear up her pee pad into a pile of cotton snow by the time I got back. But it’s okay, I’m pretty sure her potty training isn’t a measuring stick for my success in life. (Just my patience.)
You can read more from Ravel Hawksley on her blog.