We got a call from Cricket’s groomer, last Friday, saying that she had a five-year-old Havanese female and would we want to meet her. She’d rescued the dog from a breeder, but then she realized she didn’t have the time and energy for another dog. We had asked her to keep her eyes open, and so, she thought of us.
My original plan was to wait until the end of my internship, in early August, to start looking for a dog, but the call came on Cricket’s eleventh birthday, about two weeks before the one year anniversary of Butterfly’s death, and I’d like to believe that the timing is a sign that she’s the one for us. Ellie is a breeding dog, like Miss B, with mainly white hair and a compact build, like Miss B, but she doesn’t really remind me of Butterfly. She reminds me more of Dobby, the house elf in Harry Potter, with her big eyes, and her fear of being hit, and her uncertainty about how to manage freedom.
Ellie checked a few boxes for me right away: smaller than Cricket, not a puppy but not a senior either, Havanese (hypoallergenic, non-shedding, good-tempered companion dogs). But we found out that Ellie had had her “barker” removed by the breeder, and was very skittish around humans, for a number of possible reasons. Mom was freaked out by the no “barker” idea, because, what is a dog without a bark?
We decided to go ahead and brought Cricket in for a haircut on Saturday morning, to turn her back into a recognizable dog, and to introduce her to Ellie and see if they could get along. Cricket sniffed Ellie and Ellie sniffed Cricket, and war didn’t break out, so we decided to take her home for a trial visit. The groomer gave us the supplies she’d already bought for Ellie, including cans of wet food, grain-free treats, wee wee pads and a doggy bed, plus her harness and leash. She said that, if we decided to keep her, we could pay her back for her spaying and shots, and then she’d be ours.
She doesn’t respond automatically to “Ellie,” so it’s unclear if that’s been her name all along or not. She has salt and pepper hair on her ears, and I thought “Pepper” might fit her, but Mom worried that it sounds too much like other “P” words, and could cause confusion, so we’re sticking with “Ellie.” She has a long back, and short legs, and her nose is longer than Cricket’s. Her ears sit up like pig tails, and her eyes are huge. She eats very quickly and would seemingly eat everything in the house, if we gave her a chance, so no more leaving kibble out for Cricket all day.
Early on, Ellie paced through the whole apartment, to check things out, and even went under Cricket’s couch, while Cricket watched, horrified. I think some message must have been sent, silently, that Ellie should never go under that couch again, because she has stayed clear.
We still have her in her harness all day, because the process of taking it off and putting it back on freaks her out. Even clipping on her leash for a walk terrifies her. She lets me pick her up, sometimes. Other times she turns away from me as if I am the bogey (wo)man from her nightmares.
She doesn’t know what to do with herself overnight yet. I’ve put her on my bed, but the slightest sound scares her off and she jumps to the floor and wanders through the apartment, using the living room rug as her wee wee pad, because she can’t remember that her wee wee pad is by the front door. We gently remind her where to pee, and clean up after her, and praise her when she pees outside, but I’m not sure she’s able to take it in yet. She’s started to play with toys, even pouncing on a ball when it was thrown for her. And every once in a while she gives us licks when we pet her head. She’s warmed up to Mom faster than to me, asking for uppies and sitting on her lap for a little while during the day, but I’m catching up.
Ellie is a gift, but I keep worrying that I didn’t choose her, and she just fell into my lap by luck. And I don’t trust luck, or fate, to do right by me. Part of my uneasiness is her uneasiness. She’s very skittish with humans, and when she stares at me, I worry that she’s scared of me, rather than interested. If I turn the page of a book, she stares at me, worried, but then she flops back down into her resting pose, where she looks almost at ease, stretching her legs and lifting her chin onto the rim of her bed.
I’m sure I had second thoughts with Butterfly too when she first came home, with her health issues, and her tendency to shut down and not interact at first. But she was the right dog for me at that moment and the fact is, Ellie is going to blossom over time, and she will have her own lessons to teach me, and to teach Cricket. Butterfly taught us unconditional love, persistence, and resilience. I don’t know what Ellie will teach me, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Mom was right, though, the silence was eerie. Ellie didn’t bark at all at first. She listened to Cricket’s barking with interest, and/or fear, but she didn’t make a sound, just opened her mouth a little bit and closed it again. Mom thought she heard a high pitched bark one day, not from Cricket, but we weren’t sure. Then, Wednesday night, after my long day, I came home to Ellie and Cricket waiting for me at the door, both jumping up to greet me. And then, Ellie barked, again and again and again. Her bark is high pitched and light, as if she has a sore throat, but she has a lot to say and she wants to be heard.
There was one more sign. The first morning after Ellie’s first night with us, a brown butterfly came flying through the living room, flitting everywhere frantically, seeming to sniff the air, and sniff both dogs, to take stock of the situation. It made me think that maybe Miss Butterfly had sent her, to let us know that Ellie is the right one for us.
So, we wrote the check, and called the vet to have Ellie’s records transferred, and Ellie is officially ours. And I don’t even think Cricket minds, too much.