A Bittersweet Goodbye

I haven’t written over here much in the past couple of weeks because…well, I’ve been grieving.

Her name was Josie and we only had her for one week…

Puppy

But, in that one week I fell head-over-heels in love with her.

She came to us as a foster pup for Tucker’s Eighth Grade Community Service project.

Originally Tuck wanted to work at a nursing home or senior center, playing checkers or reading to shut-ins, but rules and restrictions made it unbelievably impossible to find an applicable situation.  Andie also had to complete community service hours this year, and she discovered a small dog rescue in the next town over where she went once a week to “socialize” the pups; i.e. sit on the floor and play amongst a pack of puppies!

“I’m always looking for foster families if you guys are ever interested,” Heather, the director of the shelter mentioned a few times.

Tuck was reluctant at first, knowing a puppy is a lot of work, especially in the early morning hours when his teenage body clings to the mattress for any extra minutes of sleep.  But with a deadline looming, he ultimately agreed to head over to the shelter and pick out a pup.

Upon walking in the door, he immediately saw Josie.  “That’s the one,” he said, but I encouraged him to take his time, get to know all five of the puppies who’d just come two-thousand miles from the “high-kill” shelter in Arkansas.  (“High-kill,” Tucker discovered through his research, meant that dogs brought to the shelter by their owners were euthanized in three days and those found on the streets, five.)

We stayed an hour, sitting on the linoleum floor, puppies nipping at our ears, but Tucker never swayed from his certainty about Josie.  We left with a big bag of puppy chow and the crate in which Josie would sleep.

I won’t go too far into the details, but let’s just say, Tuck got a lot less sleep than usual and cleaned up his share of “accidents.”  I, on the other hand, discovered just how wonderful it felt to be needed; to have to plan my daily schedule around a puppy’s needs to be let out several times throughout the day.  As Meg has gotten older, we’re down to just one walk a day, but with Josie, we were taking three.  And rather than walking alongside Meg in silence, I laughed out loud as Josie tumbled over snow banks, and I squealed words of praise every time she peed or pooped, mimicking her mentor teacher, Meg.

I know what you’re thinking, So why didn’t you just keep her?  Believe me, we talked about it.  And we totally could have, but the thing is, I believed (and now I know first hand) that it would be so much easier to keep her than to let her go to another family who’d have the chance to love and adore such a wonderful puppy.

It was the Saturday after we brought her home, we were at the kid’s last ski race – a big festive, end of ski season party on snow – and Andie was walking Josie in and out of the pop-up tents, around beach chairs and grills, proudly announcing to anyone and everyone who cooed over our newfound pup, “She’s a foster dog. You can adopt her.”  And before I knew it, another ski family from another mountain had fallen in love with her.

All their references checked out and a few days later their application was approved.  I’d already known, when Mom fell to her knees on the snow at that ski race and held Josie to her chest, that she’d adore her as much as I did.  Still, it didn’t make it any easier when the entire family arrived on a late Wednesday afternoon, having driven nearly two hours from their home in Massachusetts, with a new pink leash and lots of squeaky toys in hand, ready to take Josie home.

I waved and watched them drive out, Josie looking back at me from Mom’s lap in the front seat.  The tears totally surprised me, but I just couldn’t stop them.  They came hard and fast and from some place so deep, I knew they were about more than just the loss of that sweet, sweet pup.

Enough time has passed to understand that as I enter this knew phase of parenting, especially with Tucker, whose voice has gone down deep and whose height has shot up to just an inch or two from mine, that this grieve is about so much more. About those long ago days when I felt so needed, when I held a little one to my chest and napped and felt comforted in knowing there wasn’t anywhere else in the world I’d rather be.

Puppy2

Lee and the kids keep trying to comfort me, reminding me just how chaotic the house was while Josie was with us.  And I nod my head as if I agree, but I know that in fact the chaos was part of the joy.  All the scattered puppy toys and bones underfoot, just like the long forgotten Playmobile, Matchbox cars and wooden train pieces.

Even though it’s been so painful to say goodbye, the amazing part is, I’ve already told Heather from the animal rescue that I’ll foster another pup.  “The longer you do it,” she told me, “the easier it gets to say goodbye.”

Time will tell, but in the meantime, I will delight in every photo Josie’s new family sends my way – Josie on the end of her pink leash being walked by her adorable girls, Dad giving her her first bath, asleep on a pile of fuzzy pink blankets – and know that I am willing to open my heart and love again…and again…and again.

Am I alone in grieving my kids growing up or have you experienced some of that too?

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