Life as a Dog? An Odyssey

Ok, let’s just say for a minute that you got an email one day from an anonymous woman telling you that your dead husband had been reincarnated into the form of a pedigreed, German Shepherd puppy, born on what would have been your twentieth wedding anniversary.

Would you,

a) Laugh and delete the email

b) Be a little fearful and delete the email

c) Contemplate accepting the dog for a moment and then delete the email

d)  After a great deal of consternation, teeth gnashing, friend consultation and at least one consultation with a psychic, accept the dog into your home

e)  Hop on a plane at first light so the adorable puppy, already named after your late husband could leap into your arms, no questions asked

Logical people (of the type I consider myself to be) would probably choose a) or b). Possibly c) if they were enlightened. I might have considered myself to be a c) except the emails have been perplexing and have contained cute puppy photos and messages from my late husband. Thus, perhaps it’s no surprise I seem to be leaning toward d), though am pleased that I do draw the line at e). Well, more or less.

Since Harley, our Golden Retriever died, I’ve been more than content without a dog. Olivia begs for one from time to time but I continue to dig in my heels and refuse to go down that path. Despite this refusal, there have been signs that perhaps I wasn’t going to be able to maintain my state of doglessness for long. As I am driving, I often find myself looking straight into the eyes of a forlorn looking puppy in a rescue shelter ad on the side of a bus. Or laughing at Olivia as she melts into a jibbering babytalker upon seeing a dog doing something, anything cute. Or an email last week from a fan of my book, asking if I would mind if she named a pregnant rescue dog after me. And then, by some sort of serendipity, she got word of another rescue dog being named Abigail the same day.

And now this. That scenario above is not fictitious, by the way. It really happened. Sometimes I wonder if these things happen only to me. Am I some sort of conduit for para-crazy shit happening in my life? I really don’t seek this stuff. I try to lead a normal, drama-free life. Really, I do. It seems a puppy, possibly even my husband in the body of a dog, has managed to wiggle its way into my life, despite my best efforts to simplify. Life is having its own way with me, once again and once again I seem to be accepting it as it comes. I won’t deny it makes for some awfully fine writing material. This story has the mark of Hollywood on it, don’t you think?

The caretaker of this puppy tells me she once knew Arron, believes with her entire being that this puppy is the incarnation of him, that out of his love for the kids and I, he has come back to be with us, if we want him. Of course, there is all kinds of wrong with that last sentence. I can hear you all smacking your foreheads at my gullibility. “You’re being taken for a ride! Don’t do it!” I hear your cries. I know. I have followed my intuition before. It doesn’t always end me up in the place I think it will. Yet I have never regretted any of my gut decisions. Each one has enriched my life in some way, if not always in a pain-free way.

Yup, there is no question this plays on every single one of my vulnerabilities. How could I NOT take in a puppy who was the reincarnation of my dead husband? What ELSE would my husband, lover of all things canine ever come back as other than a dog? The very notion makes even me roll my eyes. Every single person I have told this story to fears for my sanity, maybe even my safety. I fear for these things myself.

The dog is a pure bred German Shepherd. A loyal dog. A protector. The dog is bred from a pedigree of Westminster show dogs. I probably didn’t even say that right, so little do I know about such things. There is a waiting list of 45 people who want dogs of this pedigree. And despite the odds, despite having to break a contract, give back a deposit, find a way of getting the puppy to me, she is willing to do all of this, for me, and for Arron.

She tells me that he is a jokester of a puppy “one they call Bluebeard“ and a talker, unlike his litter mates and so much like Arron. She has had Arron coming out of the puppy to communicate with her, helping her to find me, driving her nuts apparently telling her she has to somehow get this puppy to me, if I am willing to accept it. She has sent pictures telling me that I must get Olivia to see them.

I laugh when I imagine Arron in the form of a dog, a very smart dog coming to live with us. I have read that German Shepherds are very good judges of character. So now I will be adding one more layer of judgment to any relationship I might want to have. What would I possibly say to a prospective date? “Please meet my husband, Fido? I already have visions of my dates being chased out of the house, accompanied by the applause of my children. And I thought the kids were tough! And dear god, would I have to banish the dog from my bedroom? Even just thinking about telling him to “Sit” or “Heel” sends me into fits of giggles.

But you know what? I keep imagining walking a dog again, getting exercise, seeing people in the neighbourhood, connecting, having someone excited to see me when I walk through the door, having a protector, seeing a happy doggie grin and, despite myself, I get kind of excited.

I took Carter to see the movie “My Dog Tulip” which is an exceptional animated movie about a German Shepherd named Tulip, based on a book by the same name by J.R. Ackerley. It both affirmed my desire for a dog and reminded me of the realities of having a dog. Still it seemed yet another sign in favour of becoming a dog owner again. Watch the trailer and tell me you wouldn’t feel the same way:

The pup’s caretaker tells me Arron is settling now into the puppy and that she is no longer in communication with him. Perhaps by the time he comes to us, he will have forgotten who he was and will just be a dog. But let’s be honest, this will never be just a dog. She sent me a piece of rickrack that served as the puppy’s collar and asked me to take it to a psychic, which I did. I barely touched the envelope when it arrived just two hours before the psychic was due and had her open it. She shuddered a long hard shudder. “Sadness and loss,” she said. “I get so much sadness from this.” About the collar, she just kept saying, “This is from Arron. It belonged to Arron.” I told her nothing about the puppy and she didn’t pick up any puppy vibes even after I told her the story. She too was wary and warned me to remain wise, which she had no doubt I would do.

I began an email to the caretaker listing the reasons I couldn’t take the dog, but then I decided to call the breeder, as she had suggested I do. I was hesitant at first, but slowly confessed the entire tale to her, risking the confidence of the puppy’s carer in me. I didn’t mean to, but she asked questions and I am a terrible liar. At the beginning of the conversation, she told me the dog was spoken for, and by the end, suggested I come out to New Jersey. She insists the woman is wonderful, incredibly heartfelt, though expressed surprise that this woman would be the type to engage in this sort of thing. This was in keeping with what the woman herself had told me. She is incredibly uneasy about this, embarrassed, and feels she can tell no one.

Every ounce of logic in my brain tells me not to get the dog, but there is some kind of crazy gut force compelling me to take option e). I want nothing more than to jump on a plane and accept that little ball of fur into our world.

But here’s why I won’t be getting on that plane:

I do not know this woman. She continues to be remain anonymous, despite giving me her real first name. She has told me that she knew Arron, rode the bus from Montclair to New York with him in the mornings. She hinted that they had more than a friendship, but later assured me that they did not have an affair, though I don’t doubt that she had strong feelings for Arron. And so she has had to cope with his loss. I feel certain this dog represents Arron to her on some level. But it’s her projection, not mine. There was one email from her that unraveled the whole thing for me. It made the whole story even weirder than it was to begin with and I found it incredibly upsetting. All I can say is that I hope she has found some healing through this process. It certainly has been an emotional roller coaster ride.

My even bigger reason though is that I cannot bring an innocent puppy into my world and throw these psychic expectations on it, no matter how consciously I might try to avoid doing so. As much as I would love the company of a dog, it would just be too strange to have a dog that was thought to be the incarnation of Arron. I also know that its entire being would become my sole responsibility and I have enough of those. Fifteen and a half years with Harley was enough dog for me. At least for now.

I’ve taken many days to settle here, but I think it’s the right place, finally. But it feels like a new loss. How amazing this would have been if it had gone the other way. Who doesn’t want a little miracle in their life?

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  1. Jen November 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Wow, that’s a tough one. I can understand your difficulty deciding what to do. Look at it this way: if it really was Arron trying to reach you, he will find another way that is possible for you to be open to.

    1. Abigail - Site Author November 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm

      Yes, that and I realized Arron is always with us anyway. We don’t need him in dog form too.

  2. annie November 20, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Amazingingly, and I say that in consideration of all the other crazy things I do believe, I don’t believe we can come back as animals or insects or inanimate objects or plants. But, I can honestly say that if my late husband showed up in animal form, I would not want him.

    I think I would have been a bit angry if someone claiming to have been close to him showed up with him in dog form. But that’s me.

    1. Abigail - Site Author November 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm

      Yes, I have now heard that people cannot come back as animals, that its a step “backwards” so what you say makes sense.

      Curiosity trumped anger for me in this case, though it was weird all the way through.

      I laughed at “if my late husband showed up in animal form, I would not want him”, but you have a point!

  3. Lala November 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Mmmm. Hard one! I think you’re doing the right thing. When the time is right, you will find your dog. Having a strange woman “put” this on you forces you and that pup into an awkward (and unfair) position, as you mentioned. I think you’re also strong to walk away. That makes me proud of you!

    1. Abigail - Site Author November 20, 2010 at 9:10 pm

      Thanks Lala! It did make for some strange juju for this poor pup. I hope he finds a very happy juju-free home!

  4. Supa Dupa Fresh November 22, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I think my main reaction is, that if my late husband DID come back to me as a dog, I wouldn’t want to own him — but I might want to say hi. You might like the William Steig book, Caleb and Kate, about a similar scenario (only without death). The dog likes being with his wife, but is only really happy when his human form is restored. Take a peek some time. (I love Wm. Steig anyway).

  5. Pingback: Hmm. Maybe I should write a graphic memoir? - Abigail Carter

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