A tale of two puppies.

It’s been a rough few days. I honestly don’t remember crying this much since my brother Lanny died almost 10 years ago. My eyes are swollen, my heart is broken, and, in some sense, I feel like a failure. But, in a weird twist of fate, I’m also happy and have realized a lot about life in the last four days.

I’d been thinking about getting a puppy for a while and socialized the idea with my closest girlfriends. I’d also been thinking about whether or not I wanted to raise a family, potentially on my own. A human baby. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I don’t have many regrets in life but some days I do regret putting my career first and not focusing on myself and building a family, something I’ve always wanted. But, alas, life works out the way it works out, ya’ know? And now I wouldn’t trade Cutline or my career for anything in the world. Between my *real* nieces and nephews and those I’ve claimed as nieces and nephews over the years, I’m a 20-time auntie. And I’ve realized that, in a weird way, that truly completes me.

So with all of that in mind, I decided that I’m not at a point in my life to go the baby route solo (and bless you ladies who make that choice; I bow to you). And because Baxter is approaching five, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of half of his life, I decided that a puppy would be great for Baxter and for me. He’d have a playmate and I’d still have a dog at some point when Baxter is no longer (which, right now, I can’t even begin to think about).

I did some research. Probably not enough. I found a place, I went there, I met Lulu North. I named her in honor of my Grandma North. She was the first puppy I held and she was so sweet and so shy and reminded me so much of Baxter as a puppy that I couldn’t resist her. They told me she was a little underweight. I didn’t care. I took her to their vet, who told me she could potentially have growth issues. I didn’t care.

I got home, totally in love already, and found out that my dear sweet grams, who just celebrated her 94th (and I was lucky enough to be in Michigan with her on that day just a couple of weeks ago) was not doing well. My aunt had sent me an email hours earlier, which I missed. My grams had been in a hospice facility since shortly after her birthday, my incredible aunt by her side every minute of the day. She passed away while I was picking out Lulu. That means something, right? I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. And I was happy to have a puppy who could keep my mind off of my sadness. A tiny puppy with giant floppy ears and the sweetest eyes. But things quickly went south with Lulu.

She refused to eat. She refused to drink. She was only a couple of pounds but, man, was she feisty! I took her to my vet the next day, worried sick because I read everything on the interwebs that said if mini puppies don’t eat every couple of hours they could die. The vet determined she potentially had a stomach blockage and she had low blood sugar. We came up with a plan and she instructed me to take her to the ER if she got worse. She also gave me an unfit for purchase certificate (I’ll get to that in a bit) and told me Lulu would likely require a lot of medical care and she’d probably only be five pounds full-grown (I was originally told 8-9 pounds). I was a little worried but decided I wanted to keep her. I hand-fed Lulu supplements for the next 20 hours around the clock and bought every single thing – in multiple varieties – that I read about and that friends told me that would help puppies eat… dry food, wet food, peanut butter, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, you name it. None of it worked. She still seemed OK energy-wise but I definitely felt it change. At 5:00 am, less than 48 hours after I brought her home, I rushed her to the ER. I’m not getting into the details here because, well, I can’t. It’s just too sad. Too raw. Too much. For a little tiny baby to be that sick so early in life is just plain sad.

One of the things I learned through this process is that New Jersey is one of several states that has a lemon law for puppies. Any for-profit place that sells puppies (pet stores, brokers, breeders) is required by law to refund or replace a puppy that was deemed unfit for purchase by a veterinarian within the first 14 days of purchase or six months for congenital issues. (I received that within the first 24 hours of taking Lulu into my care. Gutted.) There are many other aspects of the law that really don’t matter at the moment. Yes, Lulu was a lemon. Yes, to bring some levity to the situation, I called her Lululemon once or twice. She hadn’t even learned her name in her short life so she didn’t care.

There’s something about this law that brings on an incredible amount of guilt. I was so heartbroken about the life of Lulu that I wasn’t sure what to do. I was skeptical about getting another puppy. What if this happened again? Am I a total jerk for not grieving enough for Lulu? Should there be more time between the time she left me and when a new puppy arrived? Had I failed with her? Was there something else I should have done? I had so many questions, so much guilt, so much sadness, and also anger because she should have never been sold to me. For better or worse, my heart is simply too big and too fragile to be in this kind of a situation. I was mad.

When I took Lulu to the ER, I left Baxter at home in a rush so I was also worried about him. He’s s champ and was totally fine and I contacted my amazing dog walker (after the sun came up) and she took care of him. But I still felt bad. In hindsight, I think Baxter knew Lulu was sick the minute I brought her home. He wasn’t thrilled about her but he was VERY concerned. I’m sure about me too. Dogs just know. He was up with me and at my side every minute of the 48 hours we had her in our home. And this is a dog who loves his sleep and growls when I move him in bed if it’s during his sleeping hours. He’s an incredible little guy with a heart as big as the world.

After spending hours crying on my friend’s couch, questioning myself and my decisions, and talking to several close friends, I decided to get another puppy instead of a refund. I also decided that I wouldn’t share her publicly until I knew, and my vet certified, that she was healthy. This decision was very bittersweet. But I know in my heart it was the right one. I’m just embarrassed that I was over-excited about Lulu and shared her too soon. I guess that’s the world we live in these days.

Lucy North is five-month-old, nine pound, apricot-colored Zuchon (also called Teddy Bear) puppy. And she is mine. I brought her home, introduced her to Baxter, sighed and cheered when she ate and drank, worried when she wouldn’t pee, read way too many articles on the interwebs again, celebrated when she finally did, and then sat on my couch and bawled my eyes out. For Lulu and for my grandma.

I realized at that moment I hadn’t actually had time to mourn my grandma because I was so stressed about and so focused on Lulu. The sadness that overcame me as I sat on my couch with this ridiculously adorable little puppy staring up at me with giant eyes and a playful soul was overwhelming. Teddy Bears, a mix of Shih-Tzu and Bichon Frisé, were bred to be therapy dogs and have incredible dispositions. So I knew she was the right dog for me and for Baxter (eventually for Baxter anyway; he’s being his usual serious, grumpy self and is living off of treats and love… he’ll come around).

Yesterday my vet certified that I have a healthy puppy and gave me a health certificate saying as much. I’ve never been more excited to hold a piece of paper in my hands. Lucy is playful and hilarious and sweet and caring and lovable. She’s also incredibly smart. She fetches (it’s so funny to watch). She peed once on the floor in a corner and I put pads there and she hasn’t had a single accident since. Though I wouldn’t care if she did. She pees and poos on the pads and if I don’t catch her right after to praise her, she drags the pad to me. It’s adorable. She’s eating and drinking and learning to (clumsily) walk on a leash. She’s sniffing everything in my place over and over. She’s so curious. She sleeps through the night, in her (pink!) crate, and she goes into her crate without argument. And she loves to play. With me and by herself. In a word, she’s perfect.

Baxter has been curious and reserved. But that’s who he is, always. He’s coming around and I think by the weekend he’ll be a Lucy fan. Or at least way closer to one than he is now. He’s been a little more needy, but that’s to be expected. He’s a funny little guy. He has a huge personality and is fiercely protective of me. It’s just been the two of us for his entire life (he’ll be five in January) so, all things considered, he’s handling the introduction of Lucy just fine. They’re opposite in many ways and I think that’s what makes the combination of the two of them so wonderful. One day they’ll be best buds. I just know it.

So back to one of the first things I said: I’m also happy and have realized a lot about life in the last four days. Life is so fragile. We can only do what we can do. We can’t prevent people from dying and we can’t fix things that we can’t fix. Stuff doesn’t matter. People do. Pets do (if you’re a pet person). Life does. I’ve learned this same lesson over and over in the last 10 years but, for some reason, this time it’s different. I think because of the craziness of situation: the end of life (my grandma) and the beginning of life (my Lulu) all converging into one very crappy weekend.

But then along came Lucy. And while I’m still quite sad about my grandma and Lulu, Lucy has brought a lightness to the situation that I can’t explain. And I am so very thankful that she’s in my life.


p.s. I also want to send a huge note of thanks to my dear friends who were there with me, whether physically or virtually, over the last few days. I’m also hugely appreciative of all the support from everyone. Friends near and far, old and new. My colleagues who, wow, are just ridiculously supportive in any situation. And to little Bax Man, who occupies the biggest part of my heart and is truly my little godsend.

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