In Colombia (my home country) the treatment of pets is very different than in the United States. Dogs and cats usually stay outside. We certainly don’t snuggle with them at night and we rarely recognize them as members of the family. We do love them, and spoil them at times, but we have it clear we are from different species, therefore we live separately. They are companions, soft to the touch, we take care of them, but their place is outside, in the backyard, or out in the farm, depending on where you’re located.
Then I moved to the United States where people share their dwelling space with their pets using terms of endearment and worrying about their illnesses as if they were… people! I found it a little funny and weird that people referred to their animals as “my baby”, “my lil man”, “my son”…
Then, I hit a bump in the road. A series of jarring circumstances ended up with me renting a room in a house whose owner was a divorced woman who lived with a dog, and a cat. And she LOVED them as family, which I couldn’t understand. A few weeks into living with her she called me one morning excitedly, “I have the perfect dog for you!” Was I asking for a dog? Did I ever show any desire to complicate my world even more by bringing a dog into my life with all the responsibilities it carried? “What? I don’t have time for a dog!” I responded unhesitatingly. “Oh… he is super cute, you’re going to love him!” She continued as if my answer had been, “Yes, when am I going to meet him?” And somehow her wording switched my thinking.
She brought home a little mutt. “Boomer” was his name according to his birth certificate where it also said he was a chihuahua. Apart from his size I couldn’t see the chihuahua in him. I didn’t like him at first. He was overweight (he had spent his past few years tied to a pole being fed with bread), some of his teeth were green, his breath was… well, terrible, and he was extremely needy. I had been emotionally exhausted for a while, therefore there was nothing in my heart to offer him. So, I looked at him and said, “Hey, I’m gonna take care of you, but I will never love you.”
He wanted to climb to my bed and I pushed him out every time. And less than 24 hours in the house he started getting into huge fights with my landlady’s cat where both of them ended up hurt; he wasn’t potty trained as my friend had assured, and I was angry that I had to clean up his mess every single day. Not a great start for Boomer and I.
Then my father had a stroke and I flew to Colombia thinking this was going to be the last time I was going to see him. It was a stressful emotional time as my father went through surgery and I spent days with him in the hospital and then at my uncle’s house. My father was okay when I flew back to the States, but this experience had left me much more exhausted than I already was.
When I returned home, I tossed my luggage to the side, I looked down and there it was, little Boomer’s face staring at me, wagging his tail just a bit as if being careful not to upset me. His big eyes so bright, his little body directing all its energy towards me. Only he and I in that bedroom. I couldn’t take it anymore. I hugged him as I cried and told him, “I love you” for the first time. Boomer had torn down my walls. Now we both were vulnerable.
We began jogging together so we both lost some weight, I got his teeth cleaned and though he had three extractions he could start chewing his food better. His fur changed from a dull color to a shiny black. I missed him when I was at work, and if I was a little late he was already howling claiming my presence.
We moved out of that house when I started to earn a full time salary, but we kind of had to move because the fights between Boomer and the cat made the landlady and I fight, too!
I taught Boomer to roll over, I potty trained him. He had a bed, but I never denied him space in my bed whenever he wanted to jump in. After a hard day, he was there; after an exciting day, he was there; when I was sick, he was there with his little face on my chest… And when my mother passed away unexpectedly he cried with me as he lifted up his little legs to give me a hug. He howled as if something in him had died too.
I never wanted to leave him, now that he had become “my lil man”, “my baby”… But I wanted to travel. I wished for the opportunity to live somewhere else if only for a year. I always thought I would take him with me. Unfortunately, the opportunity opened at a school in China, and there are strong regulations for pets to come here. Also the flight would have been traumatic for my baby, spending almost 30 hours in a kennel in the cold cargo, and being in quarantine at the airport without me being able to see him. That would have been too much for both of us.
For the grace of God, a family in New York volunteered to take care of him and I am humbled and thankful to know they love him as much as I do. However, there is no one day without me thinking about him and all the time, events, jokes, visits, trips, and adventures we shared together.
I also wonder if it is too selfish of me to want him back even though he is being so well cared for by this family of five.
I’m still “stationed” in China for half a year more. Whatever happens, I thank God for the extraordinary gift of Boomer. I have learned a lot about myself because of him. Always in my heart and thoughts ❤