I hate this day. And I love this day.
The day I wake up next to you for the last time.
The day I go through the motions of letting you out, feeding you breakfast, and scratching all your favorite spots as an unmistakable lump forms in my throat.
The day I bathe you, brush you, and load you into the car for one more drive together (where you'll try and hog my air vent). A drive I'll be returning from without you.
And the absolute worst part of the entire day, handing your leash over to someone else, kissing your head, and walking out the door.
Today I stayed until most of the paperwork was complete. But I knew I just couldn't watch you get into his car. So after a few last kisses, I slipped out, leaving you sitting on the bench next to your new dad.
I know in my head it's wonderful you're off to your forever home, but it's my heart that needs a little more convincing, and where a piece of you will always remain.
You were scared, filthy, and starving when I picked you and your puppies up from the shelter eight months ago. Despite being neglected on a farm, you dug a hole next to a barn to place your puppies in for protection. A hole the shelter workers searched over 13 acres to find, after trapping you on the side of the highway and discovering you were a nursing mother.
You let me know right away you didn't trust me and I was not to mess with the 6 little bundles who had accompanied you. This made it challenging once you started weaning them and I had to get into the pen to feed them, change their papers, scrub the floor, and sneak them out for baths every so often. And when you knocked their pen over in the middle of the night I had to chase 24 little feet around the garage trying to scoop each puppy up without you charging me each time I got close to one. I collapsed back into bed thinking, "I am not cut out for this!"
When the puppies went to live with their new families you weren't sure what to make of the situation. After you finally stopped looking for them, you took up residence in the bottom shelf of an empty bookcase in our garage. I bought a warm, soft dog bed for you and placed it next to the bookcase. It sat there untouched for days, until one morning I found you sitting in it, looking unsure if that was ok.
David got a collar on you.
And then a leash.
But you had no idea why the leash was connected to you and why we were holding the other end. So we took it slow. Putting the leash on a few times per day without tugging on it, so you could see there was nothing to be afraid of.
This went on for weeks. Some of the coldest days of the winter, I worried even more about you and spent extra time trying to coax you inside. But you just wouldn't budge.
I remember the day I'd had enough. I muzzled you, scooped you up, marched you inside and gently placed you in the tub. As the water turned brown and your white fur began to peek out through the suds, I wished I'd been brave enough to try this earlier. This was the day I think you finally realized I would never do anything to hurt you.
I think this was also the first time you'd ever been in someone's home. Every sound made you jump and you'd immediately look to me to gauge my reaction on whether or not it was something you should be afraid of. The heat kicking on, the dishwasher humming, toilets flushing, faucets coming on and off, cabinet doors closing. You found a few hiding spots to escape from everything. When the kids finally scrambled out the door in the mornings and it was just you and me, you'd come out of hiding, tail wagging, and follow me around for the rest of the day. Until you'd hear the front doorknob turning in the afternoon. And you'd retreat to one of your comfort zones.
Because you'd lived outside for so long, and nighttime is the best time for hunting, this was when you wanted to be outside. Those were some long weeks! Stumbling down the stairs with you at 2 am into the cool night air.
Your schedule eventually flipped and you learned to settle in for the night next to me in bed. I woke up one morning surprised to find you all stretched out sleeping soundly. Before, I'd only ever seen you sleep curled up defensively in a ball.