Serendipitous Bonding

Photo by Spencer Gurley on

When people get married, no matter how long they have been together, there is always a subtle change in their relationship. No one can argue that point with me and it is really not the point I want to write about in this blog. I knew my husband for a very long time before we married. We had not lived together but we had worked together for more than a decade and had seen each other in the best and worst of times. Still, once you cross that threshold and begin a life together, there are things you are constantly discovering that can surprise you and either fortify or destroy the bond.

We decided to move to Costa Rica with our young children and promised them that we would/could get the dog we could not have had in Manhattan. Everyone was excited about this idea and although I figured that the additional work would fall on my shoulders (women are still bearing the brunt of family life now, even more so 20 years ago!) I eagerly joined the project. We adopted a 6 month old mixed breed from a woman who worked in a rescue center. That puppy (Winnie) lived with us for almost 17 years. She was amazing and a wonderful companion to our children even though in general she was not good with other people’s children.

A few years after we adopted Winnie, we began construction for our house and as often happens, a construction dog was taken in by our workers. By the time our house was finished a year later, construction dog (Lucky) had given birth to 8 puppies! We were able to give away all but the little runt (Sol) who was also with us for a long time. She died at age 15! Sol was a nervous little dog, no doubt affected by the fact that her mother rejected her at birth and was generally not very loving towards her. When Lucky died, Sol became an indoor dog because it was too sad to see her unable to fill the “guard” dog role Lucky and she had taken care of. Sol was our daughter’s joy, the only one she let hold her and pet her. Sol and our daughter shared a birthday, the bond was real.

Next came Canela, a stray puppy who came to drink water and eventually won me over. She became my fervent companion even though I was not used to having a dog that was as big as she was (mixed Rhodesian Ridgeback/Labrador). Canela and I had many adventures together. One involved my falling on her as I was making my way to my room in the dark. Thank goodness she was a large unit or I would have killed her with my weight. That fall resulted in me having to wear a brace for some weeks (hairline fracture to my humerus bone) and then some therapy but Canela was unharmed! Her passing was very sad for me.

One day my husband innocently mentioned getting a black labrador. At the time he said this, Winnie, Sol and Canela were all alive. I was very upset, accused him of wanting me to continue to spend my days as if I were a dog pound runner. We agreed to hold off any talk of dogs until another future day. My husband was still traveling to NY for work every few weeks. One afternoon my daughter and I were busy preparing for something when Winnie began barking and wouldn’t stop. Winnie was usually a quiet dog so we decided to investigate the situation. We quickly found the source of the discomfort: a timid, black puppy was sitting in the shade of one of our fruit trees.

We ventured close to her and noticed she had chewed through her leash and was still wearing a collar. She had a sprained foot and could not walk. We took her to a vet who set her paw, told us he calculated her age at about 5 months and guessed she could be a labrador/sharpei mix because of her black tongue and other markings. We took her home and thought about letting her heal but then putting up posters so her previous owners could retrieve her. I sent pictures to my husband and promised him that she would be gone before he returned from NY, after all, I was the one adamant against adopting another dog!

My husband returned from his trip just as my daughter and I had to leave for our own trip to NY to explore possible colleges for her. He was left alone with this new puppy for one month. During that time, he never complained or mentioned my previous resolve about NOT getting another dog. I confess we were not very aggressive about posting flyers looking for her former owners because rumors reached us that she was neglected and not loved by her owners. They knew we had her and never came to ask. My husband and Lila bonded so deeply during that time alone together that ten years later, she is absolutely beside herself if he goes too far away from her at any time during the day. It is precious to see this relationship. My husband’s kindness and capacity to love this additional animal without reserve is just another thing I learned after being married to him for almost 30 years!

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