The last year has brought cancer, the death of my beloved pet, a deep depression and, finally, a pandemic that has brought chaos, fear and sickness to the entire planet. At some point, I realized that the only way to get through this was with a dog.
As I’m a creature of habit — a woman who once cheerfully ate oatmeal with a dollop of peanut butter every morning for an entire year — this newcomer will again be a critter of the small, black, Pomeranian persuasion.
Unlike his predecessor, St. Kita the Barkangel, his two front legs are pure-white, so he will forever look like he has just stumbled into a saucer of milk. I have already named him Winston, saddling him with the type of name that’s posh enough for a prime minister yet also curiously perfect for a dog just big enough to ride a squirrel into the sunset.
After four months of struggling to potty train Kita, I remember swearing that I would never again get a puppy. Apparently, lifetime dog owners experience the same convenient amnesia that pregnant women do when giving birth. After holding the tiny newcomer in their arms, new moms magically forget the 23 hours of back labor that preceded the main event. And after teaching that tiny puppy to sit or roll over for the first time, new dog moms conveniently forget the dug-up petunias, the chewed-up coffee table legs and the vet bills.
So here I am, again buying baby gates and harnesses that would comfortably outfit a gerbil. And there I go, shamelessly pestering the busy farm wife who raised Winston and his siblings to send me videos of him staring at the camera and attacking a chew toy like I attack a caramel roll.
I pepper the lady with questions, most of which are ridiculous. What is Winston’s personality like? Do you think he’s more Type A or Type B? How would he look in a velvet robe with a tiny silk ascot? Should he have his own Instagram?
At this point, I am like a small child awaiting Christmas. I cannot wait to pick up Winston’s warm, pudgy body, to experience the healing balm of puppy kisses and to begin forging that human-dog bond that is like nothing else.
I know I can never replace Kita; in fact, I wouldn’t want that. Pom genetics aside, Winston will be his own dog. Miss Kita had her own brand of quiet sass, her own stiff-legged little prance, her own ability to ensnare me in a Vulcan Mind Meld when she wanted me to pay attention to her. Winston will have his own mind and habits, although he will likely share her love for gnawing on shoes and christening the carpet.
And I wish I could say that Kita will be looking down at us, wagging her tail with excitement that a new dog is in her house. She is far too jealous for that.
But even so, deep down, I think she does want me to be happy. She knows I am lonely, and that I still sometimes cry when I find one of her toys in the back of a closet. And so she will sacrifice for my greater benefit, because that’s what dogs have done for as long as they’ve lived with us.
Welcome, Winston. Let the games begin.
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at firstname.lastname@example.org.