Sunday, December 23, 2012

Love in Detroit

I've started and deleted too many posts related to the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. I think it's safe to say that I'm too angry and emotional to really add a whole lot of insight to this conversation. I only wish more people could come to this conclusion, particularly those who can't seem to stop their knee-jerk defensive reaction to defend all things guns. I have cringed so many times in these past few days after reading and hearing things that are (at best) tone-deaf and (at worst) completely cold hearted and off the fucking rails. When I see headlines like, "Post-Newton, Sales Boom for Kids Body Armor," it takes all the strength I have not to just crumple into a ball and cry. This is the America that some people want to live in? I seriously worry that the whole country has gone crazy.

That's why I'm writing about something else instead. Because there's one girl who's brought me joy and comfort during this time, and she knows nothing about those innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In fact, she's completely oblivious to the horrible things that people do to each other. 

That's because she's a dog.

This is Asha. She's a 35lb pit bull that my girlfriend and I adopted at the end of October. We had just recently started talking about getting a dog around that time. The plan being that we'd start doing some research into different rescue groups, talk about what personality traits, etc. would be a good fit for our family and then in the Spring we'd seriously start the adoption process. That would give us time to finish rehabbing our backyard, doing some repair/renovation projects and "dogproofing" the house so everything would be ready when we got a pup.

But that's not how things work. You can plan and plan all you want, but damn it if life doesn't decide to expedite things sometimes. Occasionally these things are precipitated by a grand event or some sort of "sign." Like witnessing an incredible miracle or a flash of light or something. But sometimes it's just a matter of getting on the elevator at the right time. That's how it was for me.

Leaving work one afternoon to run some errands, a coworker got on the elevator and started talking with his friends about a dog he was trying to find a home for. I was not a part of this conversation, but considering the current "thinking about getting a dog" state of my life I listened to them talk. I distinctly remember thinking, "I wonder what kind of dog he found?" Then the elevator reached the ground floor and we dispersed to our separate lunch hour destinations. 

I happened to arrive back at the office at the exact same time as the "talking about dogs" guys. We then got the same elevator again. They were talking about the dog again. Joe, the one who had the dog, looked at me and said, "Haven't we had this conversation already?" acknowledging the coincidence of our two synchronized elevator encounters. He then said, "Do you want a dog?" I asked him, "What kind of dog is it?" He said, "She's a little, white pit bull." He said his wife had found her wandering the streets of Detroit and that she was very sweet. He explained they couldn't keep her because they already had four dogs. I said to him, "Well, my girlfriend and I are actually looking to adopt a pit bull, but I don't know if we're ready just yet. But in my head I thought, "Oh, shit. We're getting a dog"

I mentioned to Jamie my encounter and expected her to be the cautious, sensible one in this situation. She would, I reminded myself, remind me that we still have all this work to do to prepare, that we're not quite ready yet, that we shouldn't rush... After all, this would be her very first dog as an adult. I had an elderly rescue greyhound when the two of us met, but as incredibly sweet and  kind as Jamie was to her, Emma was still my dog. I was sure Jamie would be able to temper my emotional instincts about this poor little pit bull and bring me back to Earth. But instead I got an immediate response back from Jamie that essentially said, "OMG I wanna see pictures NOW!!"

 This is the picture of Asha that Joe sent me the next day. Despite being a little mangy and grungy, we were pretty much taken. The next weekend she was released from the animal hospital to Joe's care. He, his wife and their granddaughter brought her to our house that day to meet us. She walked into our house with her tail wagging and her sweetness shining through her flaky skin and patchy coat. We knew right away that this was where she was going to stay.

 Watching her heal, grow and come out of her shell over these last few months has been fascinating and affirming. We took her to a trainer (Tammy at Fido Personal Dog Training in Ferndale who I can't recommend highly enough) and she gave us an evaluation of Asha that, while purely speculative since we'll never know her exact background, was far from happy. Asha had likely been used for breeding and was probably forced into at least a couple back-to-back pregnancies in her short life. Apparently tiny pit bulls are "in" right now, and she certainly fits that "mini" or "pocket" pit bull description. Thankfully those days are over for her. She's now about two (two different vets have estimated) and it's time for her to get to be a puppy.  

She's proven to be an exceptionally bright, loving, affectionate and playful girl who makes me happy every single day. Seeing her curled up with my girlfriend or watching them play together is almost more cuteness that I can personally take. Asha is my reminder that happiness and joy are almost impossible to extinguish, no matter how terrible the circumstances. When I start to feel overwhelmed by the terrible sides of human nature, I look down at this little lima bean of a pup, snuggled to my side and contentedly snoring like a fat man and feel a little more centered. A little more ok.

No matter how nuts this season gets for you, take the time to curl up with somebody you love and be thankful for that moment. Happy Holidays, you guys.