Seven years ago today, Maddie and I moved in together.
I’d been in Albuquerque for less than a month, and while I had started making friends at UNM, I was lonely. I missed Neal. I missed Tilly. I missed my family and friends. My oldest sister was visiting me for Labor Day weekend. We stopped by Starbucks on the way to Santa Fe, and while she ordered her drink, I looked at the rescue dogs outside of the PetCo. I had been thinking of adopting a small dog, maybe a border terrier, once I had settled into my school routine. The second I caught sight of Maddie, though, I fell hard.
MB returned with her chai, sat in a chair with her eyebrows raised, not making eye contact as I loved on the mutt. My sister has a clear “I’m not getting involved” face, and she was wearing it.
The woman who had to give Maddie had attached a long note to her crate. Then called Tickle, the pup had been found tied to a telephone pole by a shoe lace. Maddie’s sweet first mom, X, removed over 300 ticks and glass from her. I can’t tell you how filled with rage I still get when I imagine the cruelty to leave a puppy out on her own in the high desert, but Maddie was fortunate. A move to the west coast necessitated X put Maddie up for adoption.
The first few weeks were rough. I’ll be honest; I thought about returning her. I had to change my schedule. She was housebroken, but she also had some bad chewing habits (I used open the apartment door and say “here’s hoping” every time I returned home…she had a particular hunger for books.) and hated going for rides in the car. I suddenly was getting up before the sun to walk her. I got super skinny from climbing three flights of stairs what seemed like hundreds of times a day; well, I guess the weight loss and lowered cholesterol were huge benefits of giving in to Maddie’s longing for walks.
Two things changed my mind: Neal told me he would lose respect for me if, after waxing on about how great a dog would be, I turned around and gave it right up; and Maddie barked with ferocity at a strange guy who approached me while we were outside. I didn’t feel threatened by the man at all, but when I told Neal about it, he said that Maddie had bonded with me, that I was part of her pack, and she wanted to protect me.
I was pretty fragile at the time, and while I’ve never before admitted it, I needed some protection. I needed some unconditional love. I needed to matter to someone–even if that someone was my dog–out there, so far away from home.
Maddie may have needed a new home, but I needed her, my wacky, funny, sometimes clumsy, always darling mutt.