We adopted Bella two years ago and wondered immediately if we should give her up. We’d driven two hours to see if we might want her (which really meant we drove two hours and wouldn’t leave without her). But when we got her home she didn’t trust us or anyone else. It appeared she’d been abused (two puppy litters by 18 months, one planned and then one unplanned by her father, shock collar, etc.). We couldn’t touch her, couldn’t get a leash on her. It was exasperating and heartbreaking. In our 25+ years of marriage Bella was the first dog we’d adopted, and it seemed she would be the last.
To some degree our married life can be described by our dogs. When we were young and ignorant and I was attending flight school in Pensacola, we bought two puppies from breeders…first Dagwood (a Golden Retriever) and then Louie (a Black Labrador Retriever). Then, my wife pregnant with our daughter, we moved to Texas with our two puppies where our daughter was born. Finally, we settled at a Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina where we soon learned Dagwood had neurological problems and we had to put him down…sad day. Louie became the dog who defined the preteen years. He was one of those dogs kids could ride, pull his ears, or dress him up. He was an Eeyore sort of dog, perfect for kids. We picked him out as a puppy and loved him ’til he died. He was a terrible leash walker but a true companion.
Next came Laddie, a Border Collie puppy we purchased from a Kansas farmer. It was love at first sight and Laddie defined the teenage and college years. He endured 4-H dog training with our daughter and they won state fair ribbons together. Laddie drank a reporter’s coffee during the Lamar Days Parade and comforted our daughter through the growing-up years. He was a great leash walker and an avid soccer player.
Then came Bella and the empty-nest years. We wanted to love her but she made it difficult. She snapped, she wouldn’t take a leash, she went berserk at the vets’ office. We’d never experienced anything like her and my wife and I have had dogs our entire lives. There were tears, and we wondered what we’d done.
But we’d made a commitment when we adopted her and stuck with her. She still has some rough edges but now she springs around the yard and gardens like she doesn’t have a care in the world. She whines when we’re outside the fence because she wants nothing more than to be with us. Bella’s the kind of dog who knows when you’re not feeling well and she lays her head in your lap with droopy eyes, offering love. She’s not a great leash walker, but she gets better all the time. She still goes berserk at the vet, but my wife and I have learned to give her a sedation shot before we take her (never had to do that with our other dogs). Bella’s learned to trust us and others…and our love for her knows no bounds.
If a companion is a person or animal “who is frequently in the company of, associates with, or accompanies another” then Bella is now our companion. On my best days and on my worst days she puts a smile on my face and joy in my heart. And as much as I’ve loved our other dogs, Bella’s wormed her way into my heart in a way no other dog has done.
Sappy? Probably, but I don’t care because that’s what happens to a dog person when a dog steals his or her heart.
You can read about the challenge and see other entries here: “Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable”