I love you, buddy. Let’s get that out of the way. I know you’re a little frightened right now and unsure what to make of us. Matty is big and loud and male and refuses to use the universally accepted high-pitched dog-parent voice to talk to you. Hazy keeps shoving a laptop in your face so you can be on her Zoom calls. George insists on hugging you, refusing to entertain the idea that most dogs don’t like hugs and despite our frequent reminders that you’re new and scared and need your space. And Rosie, well, she may only be a third your size, but she growls at you when you get in the car, sit too close to her on the couch, or try to eat your own food. It’s a lot, I know.
I don’t know too much about what life has been like for you before us. I know you lived for about five months with your foster mom Colette and her family in Oklahoma, where you got lots of love and freedom. You had lots of dog friends there, including your best friend Sarah, a small pup who probably never growled at you for attempting to eat your own breakfast. You roamed around with your dog friends in the big yard and never had to learn to walk on a leash.
Before Colette, you spent some time on the streets. You had heartworm and multiple ear infections that have left your tiny ears firm to the touch. I have the feeling some other bad things happened to you there, because you’re scared of everything and everyone, you’ve got a chipped tooth, and the rescue org had to dart you in order to approach you. This breaks my heart because it’s only taken me a few days to realize you are the gentlest, sweetest, most lovable little potbellied pig that ever roamed the earth. Even after all that time with kind and loving Colette, she still had a hard time getting a video of you to share with me, because you’d think you were in trouble and flop on your back each time she pointed her phone at you.
I’ll never forget when we picked you up off your transport in Connecticut, partially because it was just this past Saturday, but mainly because you made such a dramatic entrance. We were one of the last families in line. As each of the families before us picked up their dogs or puppies, the pups emerged from the van, on leashes or in a volunteer’s arms, butts wiggling, tails wagging. Each family oohed and awwed and grabbed their new pup, stopping to pose for a sweet picture. Then it was our turn. The transport van people said you had refused to come out of your crate at any of the pee stops on the long drive from Oklahoma to Connecticut. As someone who literally can’t endure a 2-hour drive without stopping to pee, I don’t know how you survived a 24-hour one. As we held our collective breath, we could just see a glimpse of you dragging your adorably speckled feet from below the van doors. You did not look like a pup relieved to finally find his forever home; you looked like you were the latest handmaid to arrive in Gilead. The transport guy handed us a Ziploc bag of your paperwork and anxiety meds (!) and a sad little scrap of a fleece blanket, the only thing you had to remind you of your previous home.
I held your nonplussed future dog-sister back while she put on a brave front and wagged her tail. Matty slowly approached and attached your new camo leash to your neon green Martingale collar. We then attempted to drag your Eeyore body to the nearby strip of grass, thinking you had about 24 hours of stored up pee to let out. Somehow, incredibly, admirably?, you continued your pee-strike. After 10 or so futile minutes, we brought you to the car, where Rosie reminded you she didn’t want a brother with a quick growl. As we drove to a nearby dog park for Pee Attempt #2, you placed your sweet face on the divider between us and I felt a glimmer of hope.
At the dog park, we hoped you’d feel more at home. You wouldn’t have to be on the leash that was so foreign to you. We brought you in the park, shut the gate behind us, and unclipped your leash. You promptly rolled over onto your back, exposing your salt and pepper belly. Rosie ran off to explore. I spotted a tennis ball. Rosie’s never been interested in balls or sticks, but I hoped you might be. I threw the ball and yelled, “Go get it, Rocky!” You did not go; you did not get it. With no incoming belly rub, you flipped over onto your front, as if to say, I guess this is my home now.
We drove you to your actual new home, where you immediately flopped into the bed we’d bought you, a bolstered one, just like your foster mom said you’d like. Like a very big, dark Goldilocks, you also tested out Rosie’s bed several times. I tried very hard not to laugh at you, because we’re trying to make you feel at home.
We practiced walking on the leash several times that Saturday. Despite Rosie repeatedly demonstrating her signature handstand pee, sometimes literally right in your face, your bladder of steel continued its strike. You barely ate your dinner that night, although Rosie was more than happy to help you out. You basically didn’t leave your bed all day, like you were starring in your very own depression meds commercial.
Sometime Saturday night, the dam burst, and you peed and pooped in Matty’s bathroom, right in front of the toilet like a gentleman. Sunday morning, you ate a little breakfast. Sunday evening, when I got back from a run, you greeted me at the door, wagging your tail. I almost cried.
Gradually, over the week, you came out of your shell. You ate all of your dinner Sunday night, severely disappointing Rosie. You started approaching us with a wagging tail, first the kids, then me, then Matty. You came and sat on the couch with us when we watched TV. First you sat on the couch cover we’d put on just for you, then you tried to sit with Rosie (growl), then you proceeded to drool and shed your black fluff all over the couch and every single cushion on it.
You’ve started to figure out how to walk on a leash, except that you go on the wrong side of every single pole like a big dummy nine times out of ten. You’ve peed and pooped on walks several days in a row now. Yesterday, you tried to play with Rosie. I wish I could explain to you that Rosie literally doesn’t know how to play. She’s like an unfrozen cavedog lawyer and dog things are very foreign to her. That’s why she pees in a handstand, carries her toys to her crate and then ignores them, and can’t catch a ball to save her life. So naturally, when you came bounding at her, tail wagging, she ran for cover. I was really proud of you though.
Today, you barked at the mailman after hearing Rosie bark at him. Frankly, I’d rather you try to emulate the handstand pee than the mailman barking, but I’m just happy you’re feeling more comfortable.
You come running over anytime any of us starts talking dog-talk to Rosie. We have to use one hand to pat each of you at the same time so nobody gets jealous. You’ve gotten bold about demanding your belly rubs and pats, nudging us with your big noggin if we take a break for even a second. You like to sit on the couch downstairs while Matty and the kids are at their desks.
You even ventured upstairs for bedtime reading, although you weren’t ready to make the leap into the big bed yet. You’ve started smiling, cuddling and playing, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re all* so happy you’re here.
By the way, don’t worry about Rosie. You two remind me of Dale and Brennan from Step Brothers, two middle-aged reluctant siblings who are about to figure out you’re best friends.
And just to reiterate, I love you, buddy.