The Surprises of Unexpected Pet Love
“Mom, I never expected it to hurt this much to say goodbye to Mills,” my daughter texts me after she and her husband decided to give a stray they had found to a foster dog-mom.
How tender to hear these words from your grown daughter? We learn that things can break you, or break you open. But I know the strength of my child, and from my mother heart, it was as if I was watching her emerge out of a soft cocoon and grow a larger, more complete self.
But the journey was full of ups and downs.
A week prior, my son-in-law did something surprising. Houston was experiencing wild weather, and while running errands in the Mills neighborhood, he came across a scared little dog.This precious pup was shaking something fearful. Noting the collar, my empathetic son-in-law picked him up and brought him home, quickly naming him Mills.
Social Media would certainly help find the owner; he told my skeptical daughter.
When it didn’t in the next few days, he and my daughter brought Mills to a vet to have his chip read, to find the registered family.
“He has no chip. They were probably waiting to place it when he got neutered,” the vet continued. “He’s a sweet dog. Why not keep him?”
It doesn’t take long to fall in love, does it? They began looking forward to coming home, greeted by a grateful companion. Still, they hoped the owner would show up, so no decision would need to be made.
Several days in, realizing, no one was claiming the pup, they began to ponder. Should they keep Mills? This wasn’t on their agenda. He would grow to be a big dog, about 80 pounds when fully grown, and neither my daughter nor her husband are large. Children were next on their list, not a dog. They both worked long hours, and were on the go. Was that fair to Mills? This lovely soul deserved lots of attention and responsibility. Should they go into it without thinking it through?
"You both need to be in 110%," was all I dare offer.
They began researching, soul searching, and in the meantime falling in love.
“Maybe my husband needs Mills,” my daughter wondered. A month prior, he had said goodbye to his best friend, a twenty-eight-year-old gentle soul who died prematurely from cancer. The next day she shared more. “I never knew a dog could add so much.” We never had animals as she was growing up. Allergies were a huge obstacle.
Truly, I began to believe the pup would remain with them. “How is Mills?” I would text daily. From the pictures and conversations, I was beginning to fall in love with him, too. “Let me know if I’m a puppy grandmom!” I said.
“We’ve decided not to keep Mills,” My daughter lamented one day. “We could make it work, I think, but he’ll be such a big dog, and not sure how he’d fit in with children.” My momma radar knew a part in her was fractured.
Through diligent efforts, they found a foster home, to a woman who refuses to allow such pups to be euthanized. When she met Mills, the foster mom had no hesitation. “He’s such a sweet dog, I’ll place him quick, no worries.”
Hours after they had said goodbye my daughter texted, "Mills is gone. This is so hard.”
I felt the sting of loss, too. Not only for Mills, but for the hole I now know is in my daughter’s heart. My experience says when a frozen lake deep inside you thaws, what flows out can allow you to grow in unforeseen ways.
I texted back, “That pain tells you something good, that you own the ability to give your heart completely. Embrace it and let the hurt become mixed in with your strength and compassion. It will make the dimensions of you larger if you welcome it. "
Mills, like all the first loves in our life, will never be forgotten by my daughter. It was one of those life lessons that you never saw coming and bowls you over.
But you get up, not sorry for the experience. Somehow, deep inside, you know the love was worth it.