It was a year ago today, on what would have been my mom's eighty-second birthday, that I somewhat reluctantly drove down to the Animal Rescue League to see this beagle puppy Tabbatha had told me about. I had no intention of bringing it home with me, but as we all know, the puppy had other ideas.
And Isabella T. Beagle (there's nothing excessively cutesy about that name, is there?) has brought me more joy in that year than I would have thought possible. She does this in all the standard dog ways--bouncing, rolling, barking unexpectedly, deploying the big brown soulful eyes to get whatever she wants.
Mostly, though, she's just there when I need her. I mean, cats are great and all, and for that matter, so are girlfriends, but there are some problems in life that can only be solved by hugging a dog. And the great thing about Bella is, after a minute or so of hug-time, she starts squirming furiously, as if to say, "OK, sad time's over. Let's go play." And she's right, of course--after hugging her, I always feel better, and playing with her always makes me happy.
Which isn't to say she can't be a pain in the ass, because she can. Janie and the cats would all be perfectly happy if she wasn't around. On the other hand, there was the time Janie was scared to the point of crying, and Bella gently climbed onto her lap and carefully licked away her tears. And though Staley--who, incidentally, is one of the greatest cats in the history of the species--doesn't exactly like the dog, the two of them are nuzzling each other even as I write this.
The main thing bout Bella--look, I'm kind of reluctant to bring this up, because it sounds like so much sentimental bullshit, or feel-good semi-mystical hooha, or something. But it's to do with the day she came into my life. I'm quite sure Tabbatha wasn't giving any thought to the fact that I was going through my annual Mom's Birthday Sadness when she called to tell me about this adorable puppy. That was on a Friday night, and I didn't care to head out that night, waiting instead until the next day to take a look--April 10th.
As I drove home with this tiny, helpless beagle snuggled against my side--the last time she'd be so calm in my presence!--the day was suddenly transformed. No longer would April 10th be a signifier of the loss of the most important person in my life. It would be a day celebrating a new chapter, a day of joy, of happiness.