Leading up to my birthday, I was reading about dogs who had lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy. I was overwhelmed with stories about rescued dogs, and information about where to find dogs to rescue close to home. I’ve been thinking about adopting an older dog for a long time now, but I’ve been intimidated. All my life, I’ve only had one dog at a time, but lately I’ve been meeting a lot of people with two dogs, or more, and I’ve been tempted to have a pack of my own.
I talked to Mom about it and she said why don’t we just go take a look?
So, on Tuesday, November 20th, we went to North Shore Animal League, on Long Island. I loved all the big dogs. If I had a house and more energy I would have adopted five of them on the spot, especially the hound who stood on his hind legs and looked me in the eye. I’m pretty sure he winked at me.
But then there was Betsy. Her little pink tongue stuck out, and she had huge brown eyes and a sweet little snout and feathery white hair. She was a Lhasa Apso and the tag on the crate said “Adult +” so she was at least eight years old. The volunteer told us she was a puppy mill dog.
I don’t know what Mom was thinking when she encouraged me to have a visit with Betsy. She should have rushed me out of there right then.
I spent an hour with Betsy, staring into her eyes and coming up with potential names: Snowy, Dawn, Fawn, Buttercup, Cinnamon, Butterfly. I was loopy. We filled out a preapproval form and Mom said we should go home and think about it. But the longer it took to get the approval, the more I went back to see Betsy and the less likely it became that I would be able to leave without her.
I worried that Mom would not be happy, and a second dog would cost too much, and Cricket would be jealous and my own health problems would make the extra effort unmanageable. But I lost control of my brain. I was just a puppet nodding my head.
I decided on Butterfly as her new name, to fit in with the insect theme of Cricket’s name, but also because of the transformational effect I hoped we would have on each other. Love is a magical thing.
Then the vet tech took Butterfly to see the vet one last time. We’d been there for three hours by then and I could barely stand up, let alone think straight. When they came back to tell us she had a heart murmur and that we should probably leave her there and not take her home with such an uncertain future, I almost cried. They listed her issues: she was at least eight years old but probably more; she had been a breeding mama at a puppy mill and couldn’t walk on a leash or pee and poop outside; she was skittish and afraid of being touched; some of her bottom teeth had had to be removed because they were rotted out, so her tongue lolled out of her mouth; she’d had a cyst removed from under her armpit; and now the heart murmur. She’d need an echocardiogram before they could even tell us how serious it would be, and then she’d need one every six months for the rest of her life. But that was what clinched it for Mom. She has a leaky heart valve too. She would never want to be left behind in a shelter. She’d want someone to pick her up and take her home. So that’s what we did.
I carried Butterfly to the car and she stood on my lap in the backseat and looked out the windows the whole ride home. She was so much more curious than we’d expected, though she did drool up a storm, flicking droplets of water onto her forehead and onto my sweater.
Cricket was, as predicted, not happy with the interloper. The first night, I sat on the kitchen floor with them and Cricket stood with her front paws on my leg in her ownership pose accepting scratchies with noblesse oblige, and then I reached out with my free hand to pat Butterfly. Immediately, Cricket pushed my arm away from Butterfly with her nose, and then she walked across my lap and out of the room in a huff.
She’s such a person.
But, given her resentment, Cricket has been pretty well behaved. For the first few days she ignored Butterfly entirely, and then she started to sniff her and walk near her instead of avoiding any room Butterfly was in. It helped that Butterfly couldn’t climb the stairs, so Cricket could come up to my bedroom with me and leave the interloper downstairs for a while and pretend life had gone back to normal.
But Butterfly has been blossoming.
She’s had two baths so far. The first one took off the surface dirt and left me thinking that she was off white with grey and apricot markings. But she kept scratching her ears and neck, so we bought an oatmeal shampoo to help her skin and her second bath took off just as much dirt as the first one, and turned her into a white dog with apricot markings all over her feet and back. I’m afraid of what we’ll discover with bath number three.
We’ve had Butterfly for a week and a half now, and she’s already pooping and peeing outside. She’s gotten used to the lawn, and she walks on the leash and has made friends with every dog she’s met. But her favorite dog is Cricket. She sniffs her and follows her lead and learns from everything Cricket does. She even makes a point of finding the spot where Cricket peed and hopping into a squat to pee on that exact spot.
Cricket thinks that’s just weird.