There he was in a newspaper ad right in front of my eyes.
I just didn’t know it yet.
It simply read: “black Chihuahua puppies for sale” and listed a phone number, which I was quick to dial.
Two rings later and a woman’s voice answered on the other end.
“They are actually half Chihuahua and half Rat Terrier,” she explained to me.
“I have no idea what that would look like…” I admitted, hoping she wasn’t trying to pull a bait and switch on me.
“They basically look like Chihuahua’s but they are a little bigger and sturdier,” she reassured me.
I liked that description.
The year was 2006 and Christmas was only about a week away.
I’d been looking for a dog for the past month or so leading up to this.
I made plans to drive out the following day to see the puppies.
A Sobering Visit to a Shelter
When I began to search for the first dog of my adult life, I thought the best option would be to adopt one from a shelter.
However, the sadness I felt after I visited one was suffocating and it left me with a broken spirit.
There were of course two or three puppies in the shelter.
Everyone who was there to look at dogs focused their energy on these lucky few, ignoring the rest of them.
I couldn’t stop myself from facing the reality of the situation head-on: these older dogs were going to die alone in this awful place with no one to love them or comfort them on their way out.
No one was going to take them home.
I wished more than anything that I could take every one of these ignored dogs with me.
But the truth was, I was in no real position to take even one of them.
I had no steady place to live at the time.
I was only eighteen and had been on my own for a year already, but had been staying with a boyfriend for several months.
Floating between this friend’s apartment and that one, couch surfing and spending more time in my car driving around than I did at any place I called “home.”
After leaving the shelter with that awful sense of helplessness, I was hit with a sobering realization: if I took an older dog that needed a home more than one of the puppies, I would have less time with it and it would die sooner.
That thought was so horrible to me that I decided right then and there that I was going to do the selfish thing and find a puppy who I could have in my life for as long as possible.
Growing Up With Dogs
Growing up, we always had dogs in the family and I had loved them all my life.
My first was a Chocolate lab that was a gift from me and my grandmother for my grandfather’s birthday when I was about three years old.
When my grandfather asked me what I wanted to name him, I replied with my favorite cartoon character at the time: “He-Man, King of the Universe!”
My grandfather laughed and said he liked it.
I said goodbye to He-Man when I was twelve years old and we had to have him put down.
It was one of the hardest days of my life, even at this point.
I remember wanting to be there with him in the room at the vet’s office when it happened because I didn’t want him to be alone, but when it came down to the time it was too much for me to bear.
I was glad my grandfather was there and stayed with him, I just wasn’t strong enough.
I loved him too much.
The loss carved out a chunk of my young heart that was buried in the yard of our old house with his ashes.
Thinking back on my memories of him still hurts even after all these years, but the memories themselves are tender and filled with light.
The second dog of my childhood was named Jersey, a tiny Dachshund with a feisty personality.
I loved her dearly and our time was cut short after about seven years, when my grandmother accidentally ran over her while pulling into the driveway back at home.
To make matters even worse, I was in the car when it happened.
The Best Christmas Gift
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m out in the real world on my own without the slightest inkling of how to do anything right or responsibly.
No anchor was heavy enough to keep me in any one place for long.
I decided that I was going to give myself a dog as a Christmas gift.
And so, the next day I drove out to the breeder’s house to meet the third dog of my life, whose name would eventually become Bub.
There were three puppies left, including him.
A girl and another boy.
They were turning eight weeks old on that day and they were so incredibly small that it almost scared me how precious and vulnerable they were.
They were sleeping when I arrived.
She showed me into the room and there were three of the tiniest black and white bundles of fur curled up like caterpillars on a blanket.
Two of them didn’t stir at all when I entered the room and began to fawn over them.
But the third one opened his eye to look at me and seemed keen on having an audience.
Sensing my presence and attention, he began to crawl on top of one of his sleeping brother and sister as I watched with delight.
He certainly stood out from the others.
He seemed to have more energy and he was also the chubbiest of the three, which I’d noticed right away when I saw them all sleeping there.
He had a splash of white on two of his paws and a strikingly intentional white streak of fur running up his chest, almost in a skunk’s pattern.
I had already decided before going that I wanted a male dog, and now I was pretty sure which of the two puppies it was going to be.
I remember thinking to myself, “Yep, I want the chubby, sassy one with all the attitude.”
I had no idea what I was getting into and I hardly realized at the time just how important Bub would become.
A Mother’s Love
That was almost nine years ago.
The white of his chest has now spread further out.
His eyebrows have mostly turned white and the fur around his nose and mouth is a distinguished salt and pepper.
Things weren’t easy for us at first.
I wasn’t prepared to take care of a dog or even myself.
But I did whatever I had to.
We lived in a motel for a few months, which was kind of miserable.
I’m in my late twenties now with no plans of having any kids.
Bub became my son every bit as much as any child would have.
I remember shortly after he came in to my life, I was talking with my mother one day and I said I would gladly jump in front of a bus to protect Bub if he was in danger.
I wouldn’t think twice about it.
She looked at me as if I were crazy and asked me the most disappointing question she could have thought to ask in response.
“Don’t you realize that your life is more important than his?
He’s just a dog.”
Clearly, she didn’t understand in the way I had hoped another mother would be able to.
To begin with, he is so much more than just a dog.
In the years since she asked me that, I think I can finally answer it correctly.
Today, I would say this to her:
You say you would die to protect me because I’m your baby.
He is mine.
You’re lucky though because as I grew older, I became capable of caring for myself and making sound judgments without your help.
I shed my vulnerability and along with it, my innocence.
Bub can’t do these things — but that’s okay.
He’s only more precious for these reasons.
It’s not about whether my son is human or canine or anything else that breathes and bleeds.
It’s about loving another living creature more than yourself.
You will do anything to protect them and keep them safe.
It’s an instinct.
Besides, I wrestle with knowing that he will probably die before I will.
No mother should have to bury her own children, as the old saying goes.
I’d rather die protecting him than watch him leave my life sooner than he has too.
What kind of mother wouldn’t feel the same?