Ani was supposed to be an adopted puppy. Actually, she wasn’t supposed to be adopted at all — at least, not by us. I’d just put Foofer down, and hadn’t really decided if new pets were something I could handle, then or ever. I told myself, and hubs, that if we did get a new pet, it needed to be a puppy, because dammit, after losing Foofer, we needed a puppy.
Hubs got back from an opera excursion with secret information from a close friend of ours. This friend knew my heart, somehow; she knew I would only ever adopt my pets, she knew I couldn’t walk my way out of my grief, and she knew to slip the information to hubs and not me, because I’d just shrug it off and say some version of, ‘thanks, but I’m not ready.’ She knew exactly the type of care I needed to give in order to feel whole again. She’s maybe a genius.
A lab that tested pain medication on animals had just been shut down, and one of the beagles wound up in a shelter 40 minutes from our house. Ani had been badly abused and was released into the world a terrified creature who flung herself from one obstacle to the next with little to no joy in the process. I didn’t melt when I saw her. I didn’t feel anything. My heart was still broken and the shards that remained were too jagged and unrelenting to be touching each other.
I walked into the kennel’s yard, and she beelined for me, despite her general terror and her specific reluctance to be near humans. She lay her head on my thighs, and I, unmoved in my grief, knew I was taking her home because even though my heart might be dead forever, I definitely wasn’t leaving her by herself in that kennel. I agreed to foster her until they found a forever home for her.
We arrived at home and she stood shaking in the doorway. I sat with her, and let her shake against me, and I knew it was a failed foster. She was home. The shards of my heart throbbed a little, and remembered how to remember. We named her Kahani, after the moon in Haroun and the Sea of Stories. It means ‘story’.
Ani keeps tabs on my blood sugars. She snorts when she is happy. She has learned to play with other dogs and not be terrified of feet. She comes when she is called and wags her tail only when she is excited. She loves food and belly rubs and is unafraid of rain and thunder.
Ani put the pieces of my heart back together every time she took a chance with us. The effort that went into letting us feed her, walk her, bath her, and, eventually, cuddle her, was monumental for her, and the privilege of watching her do it made my heart whole. I healed while she did, both of us in different but equally necessary ways. She’s a special story, our Ani Boopster, with her zero cutes and magnificent spirit.