Tails’ readers are connected by one common bond: Our love for animals. We all recognize ourselves in each other’s stories of relationships with animals and the joy, laughter, pain, and heartbreak that come with bringing an animal companion into our lives.
All animal lovers are bound to find a little of themselves in Brendan Quealy’s touching series, “Luckily Luna,” his first person account of how a beautiful black puppy came into his life and, by his own admission, saved his life. To read the first three installments, click HERE.
My eyes were bloodshot red and my face was still streaked with the lines the dried tears had left behind as we climbed back into the minivan. There is plenty of evidence of this as my sister Alyssa saw it as her duty to obtain photographic evidence that “Sensitive Brendan” does indeed exist.
Deciding to bring another dog home after the loss of Brandy had been difficult on me, but my family seemed so sure, so convinced, this was the right thing to do. Even sitting here now, I can remember looking at my Dad and thinking with a bit of disbelief, “Christ. Even he’s on board.”
That should not have been much of a surprise to me. Although, my father had never been one to show too much emotion towards our pets, it was clear he loved them. I saw that love on the day Brandy passed as tears dotted the front of his shirt, and I see it now as he baby talks to Luna and our new puppy Charlie or picks them up, puts them on his lap and rubs their bellies. If you knew my Dad, you would know this truly is a sight to behold.
I like to think that his experiences with our dogs have broken down, or at least chipped away, at those thick, heavy walls and he now feels comfortable to show his true feelings towards the loyal animals that sleep at his feet
Now, even though we had made a major decision by bringing Luna home, October 11, 2008 was still young and the ride out of town with the windows down seemed almost like a dream. The world outside flew by at 55 miles per hour, but it felt as if I was taking in every blade of grass, every turning leaf and every sun-soaked pebble in slow motion. Everything was so surreal as colors and sounds hit the senses with a dull precision.
The feeling on June 12, 2008 would be quite comparable, if not for the circumstances.
That day had a similar feel during those hours after Brandy passed. Even the weather was pretty much the same: bright sun and deep blue sky. It certainly felt surreal; there is little question about that. However, my senses were completely numb. I heard nothing, I tasted nothing (probably because I hadn’t eaten in nearly two days), everything felt cold, everything smelled sterile and whatever I saw registered in my mind as gray and listless.
Most of that day was spent wandering the house because I did not know what else to do. I cannot even recall any one thought I had during that day. I had completely withdrawn into myself, though I felt nothing there. My mind was blank. I was a ghost.
That is one way that those two days were different, because as we were driving away from downtown Pentwater, I had hundreds, if not thousands, of thoughts running through my mind.
Over the next 48 hours, I did my best to convince myself that I was doing something wrong by bringing this dog into our family. It started small with just a hint of doubt and then the second-guessing began, and once that snowball starts rolling downhill it is difficult to stop it from gaining in size and speed.
Instead of talking to my Mom or Dad about how I was feeling, I kept it to myself because I did not want to disappoint anyone. I assumed that by ignoring it, I could simply get past those feelings of guilt and just move on. Of course that rarely works.
By Monday morning I could feel the tension welling inside of me. My teeth were clenched and I kept balling my toes into fists, which is one of my telltale signs that I am stressed. Usually when we are in Michigan, I am anything but stressed, so this was a bit new for me. Piled on top of the stress of packing and getting a new dog (which I had realized that I didn’t really want to do) was the fact that before we went to breakfast, we had to stop by the Oceana County Courthouse so I could begin paying my DUI fees that, at last count, have tallied just under the ten thousand dollar mark.
I had been short with my family all morning and as we packed up the van and were getting ready to head out to breakfast, the proverbial shit hit the fan.
I cannot recall what set me off (probably because it was insignificant and was not at all the cause of my anxiety), but I began arguing with every member of my family over one small thing or another. I believe I began by yelling at my Mom and sister because and when my Dad jumped in, I went at all three.
It was a fairly intense back and forth with a number of choice words thrown in from time to time. It was three on one and I had no intentions of backing down. I finally came out with the big guns and told them I was tired of being pressured into doing something that I was not ready to do.
I did not want this dog and that was final, as far as I was concerned.
Of course I had not done anything to show them that I was this opposed to getting a dog other than a few tears and some hesitation. But the fact of the matter is that I was the one that pulled the trigger on getting the dog, paid the adoption fee and subconsciously saw this dog as an opportunity for redemption.
We had calmed down, or at least stopped yelling at each other, and headed to the courthouse to the pay the fee. I was quiet, but that defiant quiet where it was clear I was still boiling underneath. When I got back into the car after sending over $500 to the state of Michigan, I said in a way that could only be described as both overdramatic and melodramatic, “You can get the dog. But I am moving out when we get home.”
I know. It is difficult for me not to laugh at that silly kid, too.
This “barely-a-threat” just set off another round of arguments and by the time we reached the restaurant, I was still acting like a child and refused to eat breakfast with my family. So I just sat in the car and sulked.
Although it did give me much needed time to calm down and actually think things over and work through what I was feeling. When my family came back to the car, I apologized for the way I acted but informed them that I was still set on moving out because I could not handle another dog so soon.
With everyone feeling better, we headed back north on B-15 to the house where we could pick up Luna. We were told the place was set back in the woods a bit, but we had no idea how “back” it actually was.
Because Luna was found in the wild at six weeks old, she was being taken care of by a woman who worked for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. The Oceana County Animal Shelter was just a way to help Luna get placed with a family.
Following the directions we were given, my Dad turned off of B-15 onto a smaller road that took us further into the forest. Then we took a turn off of that road onto one that was not paved and that took us even deeper. The road continued to narrow, the turns became sharper, the hills got steeper and we were all a bit apprehensive as we listened to the gravel bounce up and hit the undercarriage of the car.
Being from the suburbs of Chicago, we’re certainly not what you would refer to as “country.” We’re fascinated by nature. Pointing out the wildlife we see while we’re in Michigan is still one of our favorite things to do, as we’ll often shout “DEER!” when we see one off the road a bit to alert the other members of the family.
We pulled into a clearing and there was no need for anyone to alert the others as we watched three deer walk calmly in front of the car. It was not that they were not startled or that they acted as if we were not there that surprised us, but it was what followed behind them.
Sitting here right now I still get a bit teary as I recall that moment. Strutting confidently alongside these deer with her ears flopping and her tongue hanging out was the newest addition to our family, Luna. There was this tiny, eight-week-old puppy right in front of us walking as if she owned the world already. Well, maybe she did not own the world, but she certainly had my heart from that moment on.