It’s a bit more lonely in my home office than in recent days. I didn’t even know I was missing anything, but after my husband found a lost Chihuahua just before Christmas, I found — and my whole family found — surprising pleasure in its presence.
We loved the sound of his little feet scurrying across the floor, the feel of his warm body snuggling onto our lap or beside us in bed, the sound of his plaintive whining when a favorite person would leave the house. We called him “Cookie,” because that was the incentive my husband used to lure him closer after he’d been hanging around his company’s business park for a few weeks.
We brought him home just before Christmas. He was skin and bones, all painful angles. He smelled. One of his legs was had gotten entangled in his collar, which resulted in a painful-looking abrasion. And, yet, we avowed big-dog people saw light and love in his eyes. We’re probably too soft-hearted for our own good. But what else could we do? Here was an obviously lost dog — a tiny thing with very little fur to protect it from the cold — that was clearly injured and hungry. Could we leave him to his fate? Obviously not.
After taking some pictures, we called all the local shelters, posted in every online place where local people hang out, and, finally, put up a flyer at the local convenience store at the center of town.
But there was no response. We had to take him with us when we went out of town for Christmas, an adventure that brought him closer to all of our hearts.
The reception from our current big dogs was cautious at first. As a small thing, Cookie was a little wary of the others and did a lot of growling and barking. He succeeded in scaring Cocoa, who is at least 4 or 5 times his size.
Our oldest boy, however, wasn’t cautious at all. Declaring Cookie “adorable,” he wholeheartedly embraced this little creature. Chihuahuas, we learned, are often “one person” or, at most, “two people” dogs — they tend to bond with select individuals, even within a family. And our 9-year-old animal lover became this dog’s boy. He slept in the boy’s bed and followed him everywhere he went. When the boy went outside, the dog whined at the door until he was allowed to follow.
That wasn’t a problem until it came time for school to resume after the Christmas break. Cookie joined myself and the other dogs in seeing the boys and my husband off as they left for school. What I didn’t expect, however, was that this tiny dog followed the car — which contained his boy — for at least half a mile, racing along beside it at incredible speed.
By the time I’d gotten on my bike to follow and retrieve him, my husband had already turned the car around and brought the dog back. Cookie whined and whined at the door and looked for every opportunity to escape, miserable for being separated from his person. Eventually he calmed and settled in beside me in the home office.
Since we brought Maggie home after my father passed away, I’ve done a lot of thinking about dogs and the strange and special relationship they have with humans. Why, I asked myself, do we love them so much — and they us? How is is that they fit into our household so easily and comfortably? It probably helps that dogs have been companions for humans for thousands of years, and recent scientific research shows they’re able to communicate with us in a unique way. This makes perfect sense to me, given how quickly we fell in love with little Cookie.
We’d become quite accustomed to having him in our lives and household, to the point where we took him to the vet for shots. And then, yesterday, the phone rang and I overheard my husband talking to the caller about this little pup.
His owners had seen the flyer. They’d been looking for him for weeks. When they came to see him the boy’s eyes glistened with emotion. Meanwhile, those of us brave enough to go out to meet the family had to hold back our own tears, as we realized that this was goodbye.
We’ve urged our eldest to think about it from the dog’s point of view — this is his original family who loves him and missed him. But it’s not easy, and there’s an empty place where that dog’s little body and his big personality used to be. We’re just trying to be grateful for the love and health of this sweet little dog, and the lovely time we had together.