I never had a dog growing up. I didn’t know anything about them when I got Abbey for John except they get fleas and sometimes bite people if they get mad. John had always had and loved beagles. John had so much love in him that he needed one more thing to dote on, care for and love. John needed a dog the way a plant needs water.
Since I brought her home, to Abbey I was the sucker that always fed her and John was her master, her love. That’s how it always was and I was okay with that. Her love, but not her loyalty, was for sale for treats and I was content to allow that to be our relationship. Then John died and I watched as she mourned for him even as I did. No two creatures missed him more in their daily life than her and I. She would look for him, night after night roaming from the basement office, to his spot on the couch, to the bedroom over and over until she wore herself out. I was stunned and saddened to watch her search for him day and after day. I was sad that she was left to me and my dog ignorance. I was certain John would have known how to comfort her, but I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know anything about dogs when I brought her home to John who cried tears of instant love when he met her. Now she was mine. Mine to love, mine to care for, mine to translate her dog needs and ways into action. She was mine, but it took a long time before I became hers.
The process of her adopting me began with resuming our daily walks. It was a week or so after John died that I decided I needed to take Abbey for a walk. She hadn’t really been out since he died. Those around me offered to take her but I knew it was going to be my job from then on and therefore thought I might as well do it. I didn’t think about how hard it would be to engage in walks with her, without John. This was our routine. Every day the three of us would walk together. John would let her off her lease and she would never go too far away from us, always listening to his commands. Later I would try to let her off her lease on my own but with disastrous results as I chased her down the path and through the park. To this day I think she was running away to find him. It was so hard to engage in this daily activity without him. To watch the seasons change, to watch couples holding hands in the evening as we always did, to hear laughter when my heart literally pained for John to be with me. So many, many walks I ended up barely getting home in emotional tack as the tears streamed down my face, strangers looking on wondering, ‘What? What happened?' As I sobbed by them my dog pulling us back to the safety and sanctuary of our home.
It took some months before she crawled up onto the couch. Laid her head on my lap and sighed- maybe out of resignation, maybe out of finally having made the decisions that I was now hers and she mine. And she is mine. To this day if I am home she is nearby at all times. I can never leave her sight without her following me. She doesn’t like it when I take a bath but worse when I take a shower, then I have to leave the shower curtain somewhat open so she can see me. Even if I’m just quickly peeing Abbey has to be able to see me, making us impossibly unfit for future cohabitation because the bathroom door is to remain open at all times or desperate scratching and occasionally beagle door battling ensues as she hurls herself into the door to get to me. It’s not all chaos though. She keeps me quiet company while I clean the kitchen or make tea. She sits under my legs or on them at night often insisting on ear rubs and pets, when she is wore out she nuzzles my feet and softly snores. The vet says that beagles simply have separation anxiety and Abbey’s is higher than normal due to her mourning of John. In that we are the same. I too have anxiety, fear and abandonment issues.
I’ve watched her these many months mourn, adapt, change, find a new routine, imprint and come to love again-fiercely. Her ability to adapt and change and be herself hasn’t been a wasted lesson on me. I too am trying to adapt and change and learn to love again, to trust in loving again, even if it means I, as Abbey has done, have to request a future mate leave the bathroom door open to ease my fears of abandonment and loss.