As a child, I grew up with poodles. My mother, a passionate dog lover, chose that breed for our family. Later in life, when I decided to get a puppy on my own, it was natural for me to get a poodle. That was when I opened my heart and soul to this gorgeous creature I named Alba: Her name means “dawn” in Italian.
Alba was not the kind of puppy who liked to cuddle with me or snuggle in my arms, so we didn’t have an easy beginning. She was distant and I was set in my ways, a bit anal retentive and not sure how to share my space with her. Thinking she didn’t like me I asked Michael, my boyfriend at the time, if he would help out. He offered to take her to his apartment for half the week–a joint custody kind of arrangement. This went on for about two months.
At the same time, I had returned to school to get my Masters in Social Work. When my sudden acute onset of sensory neuritis began I really needed help with an active, energetic puppy and appreciated Michael’s support. One day, when I went to Michael’s house to visit and see Alba, she, for the first time, wagged her tail incessantly, jumped up into my arms and would not stop kissing me. From that day forward, I never wanted to part with Alba. From that day forth we became inseparable. I could not write a paper for school without her sitting under my desk, her eyes on me, hopeful to be petted during a break from my studies.
Alba became my constant companion. She helped me through life’s ups and downs. She cuddled and soothed me with her presence and her wet kisses after all my relationship breakups and shared my joys too–she always seemed to know if I was sad or happy, and then react accordingly. When I suffered painful flare ups from the neuritis she was the only creature I wanted to be with as I crumbled into a ball on my bed, every part of my body hurting.
When she was around five years old Alba began to develop various illnesses and ailments. I became not only her mommy but also her nurse and caretaker. This went on for many years. I would not have had it any other way: our human animal bond was as strong as Fort Knox.
One morning in mid-February I woke up to a blizzard. The sharpness and misery of the icy air reflected how I felt. Alba lay on the bed and could not move. She seemed to be paralyzed. I wrapped her in a blanket and got her to the Animal Hospital where the Vet could see what I didn’t want to acknowledge: “She is suffering,” he said gently.
I couldn’t stand to hear those words. I didn’t want her to keep suffering, but I was also suffering at the thought of having to “put her down.” The all-consuming pain made me shiver as she looked at me with such trust in her bright, wide, expressive, brown eyes. She was my child, my best friend, my confidant, and I was her mommy and her world. I couldn’t deny her what she needed. She deserved to be at peace. I had to let her go–and I did.
My relationship with Alba had been the most intense and fulfilling I’d ever had, far more than with any ex- boyfriends or even my ex-husband. Animal lovers can understand that this bond can sometimes rival what we have with another human being.
When I got home, I tried not to look around my apartment but couldn’t help but see her comfy, blue, doughnut shaped bed, that she loved to curl into and her stuffed animal toys on the floor. I fell onto the couch where we used to sit together. I was unable to move her belongings. Her chew toys on her bed, must not be disturbed. I placed her leash on my bed next to me and told myself I would never get another dog. This painful loss was too much to bear, especially since I had just recently lost my brother and mother.
Six weeks later, my new puppy “daughter to be” was born. I had soon realized that I could not live without another dog to take care of. I took my new puppy home and began a new life with my second “dogter.” I named her Dea (Day-ah), which means goddess in Italian. I also gave her a middle name, Della Vita, which means ‘of life.’ She undoubtedly is a goddess of life. She is so in love with other dogs and with people that she will stand on her hind legs and give knee hugs to strangers on the street. Some people tell me that Dea’s hug was the nicest thing that happened to them that whole day and they thank me.
I am happy to say that Dea has a completely different personality than Alba because I never want to compare them. She is a needier dog but no less lovable. She taught me that I could love another dog. Dea is not a replacement for Alba, but an addition to my heart and my life.