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Columns

Tales From the Motherhood in Batavia: Grief may require more than puppy love

Jennifer DuBose
Jennifer DuBose

“Think it will be therapeutic?” Holly asked, still in bed the morning after we put a puppy on hold at the animal shelter.

Noah lobbied hard for a new dog, but she’d been very ambivalent. It was hard. We’ll never get over losing our golden retriever, Jake, our beloved Big Red Dog who died in July.

“It could be,” I said, shrugging. “But I don’t know.”

I had a hunch it would be, given that it occurred to her to wonder, but my crystal ball wasn’t working. And I wasn’t pushing. Grief’s not something you get over, it’s something you get used to – and there’s no statute of limitations on how long you get to do that. Everyone’s different.

“You guys just go and get her; I’ll go to work,” she said, when we realized the shelter didn’t reopen until she was due at her job.

“No way, this is a family decision,” I said. “And I want to be sure you’re sure.”

If we got her, I’d need her help. A lot. So her friend took her shift, and all the way back to the shelter, the kids bantered about what the puppy’s name might be. I cautioned them, as we’d not yet made our final decision, but they were laughing and brainstorming and, well, I couldn’t help but chime in. I suggested Daisy, and Clover also made the short list.

“[But] I want to see her again before we decide,” Holly said.

Fair enough. A few minutes after we arrived, I retrieved paper towels to clean up the puppy’s puddle. Noah stood up from his seat as I walked back into the little room.

“We’re good,” he said, as I wiped it up.

“We are? Really?” Huh. I sat next to Holly. “We are?”

“Sure, we can get her,” she said. But half an hour later, on our way home with our new puppy, Holly began to weep in the back seat. “I don’t think I can do this, mom,” she said, as she held the 10-pound puppy in her arms.

“Aww, honey, hand her up to Noah,” I said. Holly looked so unhappy. “Golly, I wish I’d heard this 20 minutes ago,” I said, quietly, wondering if I shouldn’t just turn the car around and head back to the shelter.

I looked at Noah. He was still a yes. I was a yes – if they’re both a yes, a no if they’re not. For me, it’s not a matter of voting. What to do now, though? A Solomon’s choice.

“The whole time you were signing the papers, I was feeling ‘no,’” Holly said.

Oy. Poor kid. Poor puppy. This was impossible.

“If you’re feeling no, but you’re saying yes, that’s confusing, love,” I said. “You know, like when your big brother used to tickle you mercilessly and you laughed, but really wanted him to stop? Maybe this is an opportunity to learn that if ever you feel no, you just gotta say it, you know? By the way, that goes for sex or marriage or whatever. Know what I mean?”

I still didn’t know what to do. Keep driving? Turn around? I was damned if I did, damned if I didn’t.

“But I know that sometimes it’s hard to know, to really know what it’ll be like, until after you say yes,” I added. Yeah. “Like the first time I sat with my newborn in the backseat of our car en route home from the hospital.” That was terrifying. Noah gave me a sidelong glance, not really sure what to make of my comment.

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, or cry right along with Holly. “What the heck do I do now?”

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