When my husband and I started dating, I was a single mother. A Yorkshire terrier puppy named Wharton had stolen my heart just two months prior.
In the midst of graduate school and multiple jobs, I think owning a dog gave me permission to be maternal. At 22, I was nowhere near ready to have children.
But I liked to think that one day it still might happen. A dog, I believed, would give me practice.
And, it’s true, I endured all of the frustrating stages required of little creatures.
Bladder control (often in the wee hours of morning).
Destruction of property.
If I’m honest, I think my dog represented something even deeper: my fear of being alone.
But time never stays still.
In the first year of my teaching career, I lived on my own. Wharty – named affectionately for my favorite writer, Edith Wharton – made an excellent roommate. Even when my new boyfriend, who would later become my fiancée and husband, visited us, he never ceased to entertain or snuggle.
And so began a nearly decade-long adventure with my pup.
When I got married and returned to graduate school, Wharty gained not only a “father” but also long nights curled up against mom.
When we drove across the country during our move to California, Wharty enjoyed the view of America from the front seat (except, you know, when cops were in sight).
And when we carried our human children across the threshold of our first home, Wharty embraced his role as protector.
But, sadly, during one of our weekend trips in my son’s second year of life, an accident happened that permanently damaged Wharty’s right eye. Despite our best efforts, he never regained sight on this side.
When our daughter came along, it all felt like too much to handle.
And our increasingly anxious, half-blind dog.
Wharty was born on Easter in 2008. In the beginning, I told friends he was both my rotten egg and my miracle. I think I’ll always remember him as a little of both.
After several months of prayer, sobs, and hard realities, we chose to rehome Wharton with a family whose children are grown. They were thrilled to welcome him. In many ways, we see this transition as our pup’s retirement. After all, there are only so many times a Yorkie’s legs can be tugged.
I know that the coming weeks will produce sorrow, which will pave the way for healing. And, of course, we understand others have also made this difficult leap.
In nine years the toys strewn around the living room have changed. But, just the other day, I let the worlds collide and invited all creatures small to unite one last time with Wharton’s endless basket of accrued, mildly damaged toys.
For 30 minutes squeaks, squeals, and flashbacks reigned. The only rule was fun.
And this, this is how I hope my children will remember their first, and my only, pet.
One Year Ago: A Mother Nose