Today is the 10th anniversary of the day that Katy adopted me. It’s also the 4th anniversary of the day she left me. I’ve been wanting to pay tribute to her, but this week has been so frustrating with ups and downs and maybes. It took an episode of Life Below Zero to draw it out of me.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mama. I got married young but wanted to wait until college was over and I was established in my career before we started a family.
I began to have a nagging feeling right away, that I’d never have a baby. I thought I was going to die young. I prayed and prayed a selfish prayer that God would just let me have that experience before he took me.
As you may or may not know, my marriage ended before children came along. I had one unplanned pregnancy after that, but it ended in disaster after only a few weeks. As those of you know who have had a baby in your womb but never got to hold her in your arms, there is a magical transformation that takes place that makes you a member of a new club.
Tonight I am frustrated again. I’ve learned that the test that is required to determine my “disability status” will cost $800, and is not covered by my insurance. As I said, the ups and downs and maybes are taking their toll this week.
When we got home, I warned Drew that I’m emotional and please don’t take it personally, and then plopped into my chair. He brought me dinner then put on Life Below Zero, where one of the men featured was calling to his dog and she wasn’t moving. I already had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, anticipating his loss. But as he reached into her house to touch her, she looked up at him and revealed a litter of puppies. I’ve been crying ever since.
When Katy came along, she had big paws to fill. Magnum, my first dog, had been an absolute angel. He had the most gentle temperament, but he was also a fierce protector. It was years after losing him before I could think of getting another dog. But the time came, that I was ready for another dog.
I was going to be moving into a house by myself and wanted a medium sized dog as an early warning alarm if nothing else. The woman who was trying to find a home for her told me that she’d been abandoned at a trailer park. She was tied to a trailer where she was fed scraps by various park residents. That’s why she was so fat.
The woman brought Katy to my apartment to meet me. I sat down on the floor across the room, and said, “Hi, Katy!” She walked straight to me and laid her head in my lap. She cuddled me like it was a familiar place for her. I think we both knew she was home.
Katy was ravenous that first week or so. She’d ransack the garbage at night and she’d inhale her food. I’d accidentally left out a log of premium wet dog food. She had eaten half of it by the time I realized it. I couldn’t understand why she was so hungry, but I understood why she was so fat now. Or so I thought.
One day I came home from work and found her laying in the kitchen with her head propped against a cabinet. I suddenly suspected that she wasn’t just fat, she might be pregnant! I got down on the floor with her and put my hands on her belly. I could feel the babies moving around!
I took her to the vet. He did an x-ray and confirmed that she had at least six pups inside her. He said I probably had about three weeks before she was due. It was about 10 days later that the puppies came.
Those angels were born into my hands. She gave birth to seven puppies, but only three survived. The survivors were all three born into my hands. The gross and the ick of the moment was completely invisible to me. Those were our babies – mine and Katy’s so the stuff they were covered with didn’t bother me in the least. The only thing that bothered me was that four hadn’t survived.
My miscarriage gave me the experience of being pregnant. The birth of my puppies gave me the experience of watching living creatures take their first breaths. I got to watch them struggle to find a teat to latch on to. And over the next few weeks, I got to watch them learn to stand and walk and bark. A puppy’s first attempts at barking are so sweet and breathtaking. I can’t even describe it. My heart was and is full.
So Katy was so much more than a pet. She was part of a fulfillment of a prayer that I’d prayed so many times. She gave me three babies to watch as they developed into beautiful dogs with unique personalities. They will be 10 years old on December 21, and I ache knowing that they have entered the period known as the “senior dog years.” My babies!
But there is more to that prayer. I have been adopted by Laura, so now I have the smart and beautiful daughter that I have always wanted. While I’ve referred to myself as mama to all of my fur babies, Laura calls me Mama. Again, I think that mothers know what a joy that is. It’s magical. So appropriate that we bonded over Harry Potter and got matching Deathly Hallows tattoos to symbolize our blood ties.
So this has been my weird tribute to Katy and to motherhood and womanhood in general. This Thanksgiving, I’m especially thankful for girls: sisters, cousins, mothers, daughters, friends, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, etc. I think it’s so important as a woman, to be surrounded by other women in their various forms. Even dog form. I miss you Katy-Girl. Wish we could snuggle again. You were one of a kind.