Right there in the lobby of doggie daycare, I cried.
I’d just dropped off my two dogs for their weekly visit. Our older dog, Moki, has been going to daycare ever since we adopted her. Moki, known as “Gramma” by her rescue group, has only ever asked to be next to a warm body—close enough to snuggle into, snore against, and snooze with.
Then there is our newly adopted dog, Rosie. At two years old and sixty pounds, Rosie often gets referred to as “a lot of dog.”
Whenever I say to my husband, for the umpteenth time, “What were we thinking when we decided to adopt a second dog? If I’d known how hard it would be …” he reminds me that we adopted Rosie for one reason. One very important reason.
Our sweet Moki is losing her eyesight. When our veterinarian confirmed that the disease would continue to progress, we enlisted the help of a local rescue group to find a companion for Moki. We needed a dog who would respond well to Moki’s constant requests to snuggle, have a natural tendency toward nurturing and attentiveness, and be smart enough to learn a few helpful tricks for guiding a sightless dog. Rosie has potential in all those areas, and she and Moki have adored each other from the start.
But some days, it feels like we’re running an impromptu rehab program.
Rosie came to us from a background of abuse and trauma. She spent the first 48 hours in our home hiding in her crate and the first week with us avoiding eye contact. After that, the difficult phases kept coming. This too shall pass became our mantra. After weeks of hiding in the closet at the first sound of landscaping equipment, Rosie mustered enough courage to peek out the window before running to the closet. During countless walks around the neighborhood, Rosie learned she didn’t need to leap in terror when the wind changed direction. She learned that our kitchen counters and food pantry will always be off limits from her increasingly curious nose. She resigned herself to stop jumping on our bed—except on those mornings when my husband sleeps late and Rosie really (really, really, with a swinging back end!) wants him to get up and play. We’ve gotten through all those difficult phases! And now … we’re in a barking phase.
After weeks of being too distressed to make a peep, Rosie has discovered she likes having a voice.
She barks when anything exciting is happening. She barks when she thinks something exciting might happen. She barks when she hears unfamiliar voices. (She has stopped barking when I listen to podcasts, thank goodness.) She thinks about barking when my neighbor—peacefully minding his own business—steps out to his patio with his morning coffee and newspaper. She barks in the car as we pull out of the driveway. She barks when it’s mealtime and when she wants it to be mealtime.
This too shall pass.
So, the other day, during what I dearly hope was the height of the barking phase, I was more than a little pleased to shuffle both dogs (especially Rosie) through reception at doggie daycare. As I watched my dogs’ wiggling back ends disappear around the corner into the play area, I breathed an audible sigh of relief.
Nearby, a receptionist laughed. “You know,” she smiled, “we all think of Moki as our little sweetheart. She’s our best snuggler.”
“Aww.” I’d heard it many times before, and it always made my heart tingle.
“Oh, Rosie.” I tensed.
“Rosie,” the receptionist leaned forward, “is the one we’re all pulling for. She’s made so much progress already. You’re doing a good job.”
And right there in the lobby of doggie daycare, I cried. Because, really, that was all I need to hear. All I need to be reminded of. That whatever I’ve managed to do so far, the little decisions I make every day and every hour in one difficult phase after another, have made a difference. And that someone else believes this vision is worth reaching for, too.
Recently, a reader told me that one reason why Reclamation Island feels like a special place is because everyone has something they long to reclaim. Everyone understands that kind of ache.
And that got me thinking. What do I long to reclaim? Right now, during the barking phase and every other difficult phase, I’m reclaiming Rosie. I’m reclaiming everything Rosie was meant to be before this brutal world interfered. I’m reclaiming everything I believe Rosie can be.
What about you, my friend? What do you long to reclaim? What vision are you reaching for, right now, in this moment? What are you pouring your heart into that if someone were to say, unexpectedly and so very kindly, you’re doing a good job, the tears would flow?
I hope you’ll send me a message and let me know.
Update (one month later): We made it through the barking phase! Rosie still barks, but not nearly as much as she used to. She’s gotten more creative with her vocalizations. Before, when I left for the swimming pool in the morning, Rosie would bark as the garage door closed. Now, instead of barking, she lets loose a long, plaintive howl. “Like a wolf,” hubby reports. He says it is actually quite heart-wrenching. We have agreed that a single goodbye howl is acceptable. Good dog, Rosie.
(Read more about Rosie here.)