I first saw her by accident. Or by divine intervention. I’m still not sure which one it was or how she got here. Let me start at the beginning.
We were walking down a street in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Since it was our 15th visit to this provincial city, I knew to come prepared with dog food for the street dogs. I just didn’t expect to come home with one. I digress.
We were walking down the street when I momentarily stopped. I turned and casually looked into the tiny store. In the back was a puppy looking back at me. I walked in to say hello and meet the little grey dog sitting so calmly in her gated area. Not even a bed or a towel to sit on. Her name was Natcha. At 3 months, her window to find a home was closing. I came to see her every day. I stopped by to hold her and encourage her, but I had no plans to bring her back to Ohio with me.
Six weeks earlier I had to help my girl dog Missy, “cross over Rainbow Bridge.” Rainbow Bridge is a wonderful poem about what happens to our pets in their afterlife. The “sequel” to this story is called Bailey’s Heartstrings by Joy Chicatelli. The idea behind this book is that our beloved pet helps us find their replacement before they “cross over.” As anyone who has lost a 4-legged member of the family knows, loss is painful. Grief is unique to each person. For some, a new 4-legged member helps replace pet relocation the loss. For others, we just aren’t ready to let go. I wasn’t ready for my Missy to be replaced, to become a memory. On the other hand, had she guided me to that storefront? Why did I stop right there and turn and look in that store? Did she find this little grey hiccup of a dog? Or was she not ready to be replaced either in my mind or in our home? Why did I walk down that street at that moment?
On the last day of our vacation, I stopped to say good-bye to Natcha. Somehow, in my good-bye, I said hello to a new life with a new dog. The paperwork was hurriedly filled out, and 18 hours later I was at the airport with 7 pounds of puppy and crate combined. I was in a daze as we started the 9 hour journey home, through two U.S. Custom check points. Not a peep from this 3 month puppy. Although, as I came to find out, you purchase a ticket for your pet, the seat is under the seat in front of you. Not a peep from this now legal immigrant, not a peep. We were safely through baggage in her home airport when she finally answered a dog she heard barking in the distance.
She was bi-lingual from a two-daddy foster home, truly an example of the modern family! Once home my postnatal angst deepened. Did I honor my Missy by bringing this little alien home or did I diminish her memory? Would she be forgotten or better remembered? Looking back, the answers came quickly.
Finally home we let her out of the crate. She immediately ran upstairs and found “Missy’s” perch at the top of the steps. Why there? Out of the whole house, why did she choose to go to the place Missy loved to reside? The questions continued. I took her to my office the next day, just as I had done with Missy for the last 4 years. Building tenants came to meet the new little immigrant. Within moments the verdict was in: this was Missy. She didn’t look like Missy. This was Missy in heart and soul.
Lessons from the Natcha Journals
1. I love dogs. One breed I swore I would never own was a Terrier. Imagine my surprise to find out that the Schnauzer is a member of the Terrier family. They have a persistence that borders on the diabolical. What could all of us accomplish if we had a persistence that bordered on the diabolical?
2. She isn’t pretty. My Missy was pretty with her long blonde cocker spaniel eyelashes. Natcha is cute. And cute is as much an attitude as it is a look. A cute attitude gets you through a lot of mis-steps.