Friday, January 20, 2012
This is Piper. She is, without question, the world's biggest pain in the ass. I spend most of my days telling her to get off the couch, down from the bed, away from the table, and out from underfoot. She barks constantly, steals food right out from under our noses, and somehow thinks that I won't notice when she sneaks under my covers in the middle of the night. She cannot be around visitors without clenching her well-loved alligator toy in her jaws simply to contain the overwhelming joy she feels. She is straight-up nuts.
When I moved to New York two weeks after September 11, 2001, it was a scary time. The job market had frozen solid. I spent seven months unemployed, living in a new city with few friends and way too much time on my hands. One day, coming out of a cafe, I spotted this tiny white puppy in a cage, being offered for adoption along with several other rescue dogs. The minute I picked her up, I knew she was mine.
I can still conjure the sheer terror I felt waiting for the rescue organization to deliver her to me. What had I gotten myself into? When I called my parents to tell them I was adopting a puppy, they thought I was out of my mind. A dog is a heavy commitment. At that time in my life, I hadn't stayed committed to anything for more than ten minutes. How was I supposed to know what the next few years would hold? What if I changed my mind? But then she took her first unsteady steps into my tiny apartment. She paced the floor, turned a few circles, and lay down for a nap. There was no turning back.
From the start, she was insane. Every morning, I took her to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and she would rumble with dogs twice her size. She scandalized the Park Slope pet parents, stealing tennis balls and jumping, muddy-footed, onto any person in her path. She never seemed to rest. I once played fetch with her for an hour, waiting to see how long it would take for her to stop running after that ball. (She never did.) She spent a portion of every Puppy Kindergarten class in time-out, shunned by the more properly-behaved purebred puppies. I couldn't bring dates back to my place for fear that her manic joy would kill even the strongest possibility for romance. Friends and family, amazed by her energy, assured me that she'd calm down once she was past that puppy stage.
Ten years later, she is still in that puppy stage.
Last week, I took my puppy to the vet. And it turned out she needed a lump removed. The surgery went well, but now we wait for the biopsy. Even the small chance that Piper might be sick has left me unhinged. You see, she was the beginning of my family, the start of my life as I know it. During our ten years together, a lot has happened. A marriage, a kid, a house, another kid, a divorce, a new relationship. Through every good and bad thing, she's been there--on my couch, in my bed, under my table, at my feet. I cannot imagine my life without her.