Gavin and I were out for our morning walk. And, across the street, I caught a glimpse of a gentleman I have schlepped past almost every morning since I moved to my neighborhood. He was standing stoic and confused on the sidewalk. I watched as my neighbor unsuccessfully tried to take the leash out of the projectile puppy’s mouth. We usually waved and offered a “good morning” to one another. But, this morning, he did not see me to exchange our normal pleasantries. And, I could see the disconnect. This was a new relationship for the man, not the big, golden dog I watched swagger next to him for six years. However, for the I-love-everyone puppy, the formidable connection was already flourishing as the black-four-legged-wiggle-machine merrily bounced off the sidewalk like the pavement was a trampoline.
And, I felt the anchor of loss mow down my heart. I stood in that very spot three and a half years ago, bewildered by Gavin. We know we can never, nor would we try, replace our first love. We never fell. We were just instantly head-over-heels for our first dog. There was never a question that the perfect combination of adorable and cantankerous in canine form was meant to be with us. And, unlike loving a human, we had no fear of rejection. There was no anxiety that we would not live up to their expectations.
But, we worried. Our first love coughed, we ran to the vet. Our first love broke out of our friend’s backyard while we were away, and though, thankfully, he was safe—we never asked that friend to care for our pup again. Our first love split a toenail. We ran to the vet again. And, oh, the things our first love taught us. Responsibility, real, true accountability for another creature’s life, well being, comfort, and joy. We learned patience. The kind of fortitude we always admired in mothers who seemed so serene and relaxed while tending to their screaming children at the grocery store. And, most of all, our first love taught us about unconditional infatuation, simple joys, and why it is imperative to our mental and physical health to play EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
We know in our heads we are ready to love another dog, for who they are. But, our hearts take some time. No one told me.
When I brought Gavin home, I liked him. I wanted to make sure Lil’ Big Head never hurt, that he felt safe and loved in his new home. I felt I was as ready as I could be to live with a dog who was not my Finn. But, when my sister kept asking me, “are you in love with Gavin?” I felt the weight. I was not in love yet. It took time, experiences, and a lot of moments where one of us stumbled and I had to figure out what was best for Lil’ Big Head. And, for me. Together.
As much as I still and will always miss Finn, I can’t imagine my life without my Gavin. I tell him how lucky he is that Finn was so wonderful at teaching me patience. And, when I see someone stuck on the street, not sure what to do with a ricocheting fur ball. I’ll have compassion. Maybe the person is mourning a tremendous loss while trying to figure out new routines and how to give the best life to a dog he has yet to fall for, yet.