It was practically instantaneous approval from my mom and my sister Alyssa when they saw our future family member, Luna. I, however, had a really hard time with the decision. I went back and forth as I fought with the guilt of replacing Brandy and my desire to have that human-dog bond back in my life.
It was absolutely gut-wrenching, and I hated myself for wanting this dog. I asked myself, “How could I do this? How could I be ready for another dog? How could I possibly be finished grieving?”
Of course, I wasn’t done grieving. Not even close. I’m not even done now, but the sadness and the guilt have lessened in the time that has passed. It has been thanks to my family and especially to Luna, as they were there to help pull me through such a rough time.
I finally broke down and asked, “How much is the adoption fee?” Unbelievably, it was only $25. I thought for sure that it would be at least a $100 more, but it was just another sign that we should bring this dog home.
Alyssa asked the woman running the adoptions if she could take the as yet unnamed and unclaimed puppy out of the cage, and as I was still wrestling with my feelings about the whole situation, I did my best not to get too attached too quickly. While I couldn’t stop myself from kneeling down and petting her, I did keep my distance and allowed my sister to hold the leash and have most of the interaction. It was rather clear that we were interested, but we were not the only ones.
As soon as we got the little cutie out the cage and off of the leash, she was on the grass running around in that playful, little hop/walk/romp that puppies use as a weapon to melt the hearts of the even the hardest humans.
There was a little girl who had been standing at the front of the cage looking at the same cute little ball of black fur who had captured our attention. She was clearly upset at the possibility of this dog going home with someone other than her. So we invited her to come into the circle and play with the puppy. She hesitated, flashed a smile with a few teeth missing, and jumped right into the mix.
“This is Luna,” she said. “She’s a really good puppy.”
I, like the rest of my family, saw that this girl loved this puppy as she held her closely and stroked the floppy ears of Luna’s little head. My guess was that she was the daughter of the woman running the shelter, because she seemed to know a lot about this dog.
That’s what I get for assuming.
A woman came through the crowd that had gathered to check out all of the animals up for adoption and made a beeline straight for us. “C’mon, sweetheart. Time to go,” she said to the little girl.
This was not the woman in charge of the shelter, and I think my family and I all realized at once what was coming next. “Mommy, can we bring her home?” the little girl asked with a somewhat whiny yet incredibly adorable inflection.
I cannot recall exactly what I was feeling at that moment, but I know everyone in my family held their collective breath for that split second before the answer. “Oh, not today, sweetie.” (Sigh of relief.) “Besides, it looks like this nice family is going to take her home,” the mother said.
As the little girl began to pout and cry, I felt some hesitancy. “Well we’re not exactly sure about that yet,” I said.
The woman came closer and whispered, “Listen, we’ve already got four dogs at home, and there is no way we can handle another. She’s yours if you want her.”
And at that moment, I did. I turned to the girl and said, “We’re going to take real good care of her. And you know what? We’ll keep her name. She’ll always be Luna. It fits her so well. Does that sound good?”
“Yeah,” she said with a hint of a grin as she wiped a tear away with her forearm.
“Alright now. Let’s go. Say goodbye to the puppy,” said the mother.
Without a word, the little girl gave Luna a single pat on the head, walked backed to her mom, took her hand, and went happily across the street.
I turned back to my family, who had been waiting on me to give the OK about adopting Luna. I could see the eager anticipation on my mom and sister’s faces. No one was pressuring me, as they wanted to make sure that I was comfortable and ready to get another dog. I knew I wasn’t ready, but I really wanted her, so I said, “Yeah. Let’s bring her home.”
There were smiles all around as I went up to pay the adoption fee. I felt so grateful to this woman for what she was doing and for her efforts to rescue and rehabilitate animals that I doubled my donation and thanked her for having Luna here for us.
She brought us to the back part of the grassy area in the shade of the Pentwater Public Library and gave us a quick refresher course on how to raise a puppy. After she was finished, we hung around for a bit longer to play with the new member of our family. As the adoption display was closing up, we had to hand Luna back over. We were not able to take her home that day because the cottage we were staying at did not allow pets. It was Saturday, and we would be able to pick her up Monday on our way out of town.
Of course, as Luna was put back in her cage and loaded into the van, the guilt and sadness of replacing Brandy stormed back with full force. I know now that we never were and never will replace her, but we were simply filling that void in our lives with more love, loyalty, and companionship.
I walked down to the water trying to make sense of the wave of emotions tearing their way through me. My heart, body, and mind were fighting against each other as to whether or not I really wanted to do this.
I sat down on a weathered and sun-damaged picnic table staring out at Pentwater Lake, simply allowing the tears to roll down my face as I mourned the loss of my best friend. I told myself I could not go through that again. I knew that I would fall in love with this animal and that I would be broken once again when she passes. The real question was, “Is it worth it?”
It was a question that would torment my family and me for the next two days…