I don’t have kids, but I have two little girls. Penny Lane, a spunky, beagle/terrier mix who can be too smart for her own good and Sage, a golden retriever/chow mix whose sass and blonde locks veil the most affectionate soul imaginable.
I keep their pictures on my desk at work; in fact, I currently have a self-made countdown calendar on my desk, their picture covering December 19th. Penny Lane and Sage are framed across my living room. They have more face time on my Instagram than me. They are undoubtedly my pride and joy.
My bosses joke that in my interview I told them more about my dogs than myself. I’m likely to somehow bring up my dogs within the first two minutes of meeting people. Like a proud parent I will find a reason to talk about them.
I found them both when they were puppies. Penny Lane was first. It was Christmas morning, I was a junior in college and completing year one of my relationship. My mom, Stepdad and I were travelling to my sister, Maggie’s house.
When I saw the shivering puppy on the side of the old country road I screamed for my parents to stop. They did, but were hesitant knowing what was coming next. This wasn’t the first time I’d brought a dog home. From birth on, I was very much a dog person
I jumped out of the car and ran to the abandoned pup. She had no collar and was just skin and bones. I saw the fleas jumping on her back and swollen tick bites behind her floppy ears, but I didn’t care, I swooped her up in my arms and carried her to the car.
My parent’s tried to talk me out of it, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I didn’t know how I’d swing it. I lived in a dorm on a sorority floor. Dogs weren’t allowed. I didn’t care, this pup was mine. I would make it work.
Maggie was less than thrilled when I brought the flea infested pup into her house on Christmas morning. “It’s a Christmas miracle,” I pronounced. When that didn’t work, I started playing dirty. I called my nephew, Dylan, who was a toddler at the time, over. “Look Dylan, Santa brought me a puppy!” Maggie couldn’t argue that.
So Dylan and I interrupted Christmas morning and went to give the dog a bath. Then we feed the furry little thing biscuits and gravy and all the other fixins’ of a southern breakfast. Penny Lane was pleased and gave us puppy breath infused kisses in gratitude, my favorite smell in the entire world.
During that Christmas break Penny Lane stayed attached to my hip. She became my best friend, my shadow. She was the first person I ever watched The Godfather trilogy with. Penny Lane was my rambunctious adventurer who had a talent for destroying all things mine during her teething stage.
I met Sage for the first time about 4 months later. My oldest nephew, Braedan, found her abandoned on the streets of Newport, Kentucky. Sage was a fluffy blonde furball. She was cute like a chunky baby. And she was so sweet. My oldest sister, Shaundi, who is equally a nut-job when it comes to dogs, brought Sage in and everyone fell in love with her.
That’s the thing about Sage; you can’t not fall in love with her. She’s also well aware of this fact, to the extent of arrogance. When we go to the dog park, the only dogs we’ve ever seen her aggressive with, were dogs equally as pretty as her! They had bitch fights. It was like a high school locker room.
“Your tail looks like shit today.”
“Yeah, well your paws are dirty.”
I fell in love with Sage immediately, well, we, minus Penny Lane. Penny Lane was not impressed; in fact, she didn’t really like anything about Sage. Penny would ignore her until she felt like Sage was getting too much attention then she would attack (playfully?).
The first night I ever saw us as a family was a night spent at Shaundi’s. I was playing fetch with Penny in the bedroom and Sage came to join us. She was so big, she didn’t know what to do with herself. She was clumsy and tripped over her own paws, but she was determined to battle Penny Lane for that ball. They fought like sisters. And they are sisters.
Shaundi knew I fell in love with Sage so she let me keep her. Perhaps, one of the most selfless gifts one can offer another, because still, every time Shaundi and Sage reunite, I see the shared love illuminating between them.
So there we were off to take on the world. And we have. unfortunately, I travel a lot for my job between July and December so the girls had to return to Kentucky to be cared for while I was away.
People tell me I’m crazy for trying to keep two dogs by myself in New York City.
And the truth is, yeah, I am crazy when it comes to my dogs.
I’ve grown for seven years with these two precious souls. They’ve shown me that unconditional love is a real thing. They’ve taught me responsibility. They’ve licked away my tears. They’ve cleaned up after me; in fact, about a week after they left, I looked down and saw that my floor was covered in food that they hadn’t been there to collect. (Somewhat kidding . . .)
And I’ve been there for them. I’ve walked them in the rain and snow. I’ve cleaned up their vomit, piss and poop, sometimes combined. I’ve held them through fireworks and thunderstorms. I’ve sang to them through seizures. I’ve loved these two little girls to the height of my capacity.
My dogs make me a better person. They make me a happier person. They’ve made me a more compassionate person. My love for Penny Lane and Sage has offered light on my darkest of days.
I’ve missed them, desperately.
But I don’t have to miss them much longer. In 5 days they’ll be cuddled in my arms. They’re all I want for Christmas and I’ll have them. My dogs will once again be my Christmas miracle.
And when I return to New York, they’ll be with me. We’ll be on a new adventure together. They’re a part of me, the best parts. I don’t get to keep them forever and always, but I’ll have them for many tomorrows. And I’m going to be grateful for every moment I get.
♫ “Dogs and angels aren’t very far apart” – Charles Bukowski