I lost both parents and the responsibility of caring for them together along with their professional caregivers this past spring. Grief and empty hours to fill: a bitter pill to swallow. COVID 19 appeared and spread, forcing isolation upon me just like everyone else.
I was living alone. But, something was missing. I needed to give my love to another living soul face to face. Sure, I could clean out closets, reorganize my drawers, take classes on Zoom, talk with friends by phone, read, garden and more. But something was missing.
A light went on: foster a dog. A perfect solution! I’d wanted one for so long but held off due to my parents’ medical needs. I called two local rescue organizations and soon thereafter I not only fostered, I adopted a one year old mixed breed named Lulu from a kill shelter in Alabama. I didn’t meet her until she arrived in a van with 21 other rescues from Alabama. She was skin and bones, shaking and scared. I put her in a crate in back of my car with blanket and toy. She was whimpering. I sang to her, making up silly songs using her name. She calmed down a little.
My life with Lulu began with crate training her, but she cried relentlessly every time I put her in there. I couldn’t keep doing it without breaking my own heart. I later learned she’d lived her first year of life in a crate where she peed, pooped and ate. A hoarding situation. She was rescued by animal control. Crating was a punishment, not a safe place, so no more crate for Lulu. Her first walks outside were a new experience for her. A collar and leash? Grass? Other dogs? Cars? People stopping to greet her?
Housebreaking took time and I seriously thought I might give up on her a few times. I finally told her if she didn’t quit using my house as a public toilet she couldn’t stay with me. I tried a trainer. No go. I finally called an animal communicator. No, I’m not a nut. Well, maybe just a little. But let me tell you, that woman helped by giving me valuable information about Lulu. It completely changed the relationship for the better.
I learned that Lulu was peeing and pooping in my house because it was “convenient”. Well, of course it was. She was able to do it in her Alabama crate any time. My house was just a larger crate to her. She promised to do better, to change her habit. She had no intention of leaving my home where she felt safe and secure. She was grateful and said she’d never felt love from a human before. There was lots more information including the food she liked. No eggs, yes to chicken. She even said she didn’t want me to bring another dog to live in the house to live with us.
But here’s the reason I’m sharing this with you. My four-legged roommate and I have the sweetest, most loving special relationship I have ever had with a dog. And this is not my first dog rodeo! Having her with me during these difficult times is as comforting for me as it is for her. Maybe even more so. I do not feel isolated at all. I’ve met other dog owners in my neighborhood whom I'd never even noticed.
Lulu and I play, we communicate with our eyes and body language. We cuddle. We watch tv. We go on long walks. She’s been to a Cape May dog beach, running along the shoreline with freedom and pure joy. She’s been to the Berkshires. Maine is next with more adventures to come. She’ll need a doggie passport as soon so we can travel abroad!
She looks into my eyes with this naked adoration. I melt. I swoon. I declare my love to all of her 9 pounds. She wants to be petted and knows how to ask for it. When I lie down on my mat to exercise she kisses my face and makes me laugh. She is active like me, friendly to all the neighbors, dog or human.
At first the toys were ignored. She’d never seen a dog toy! Now she plays with them all the time and even humps her stuffed elephant. This really cracks me up because she looks like she’s riding the elephant across the floor. She suddenly gets a burst of energy and runs around the house like a lunatic. An acquaintance of mine calls that "zoomies". We play hide and seek and she loves to be chased. It’s an all -day love fest in my house these days.
We are clearly in love, unconditional love. If you want to do yourself and your family a huge favor, rescue a dog (or cat). They need us and we need them, especially now. I am motivated to give both of us new experiences together. My Lulu showed up at the perfect time in my life. Yours can too.
Miriam Seiden is a cultural explorer who loves to write about her living bridges around the world.