In September, I began to seriously consider getting my first dog.
I didn't think a puppy would be a good idea since I have a full-time job and no idea what I'm doing. I'd have to adopt an older dog who could teach me how to be a good dog mom. Soon after making the decision to give it a whirl, I saw Jasper on the Humane Society's website. He was older, he'd been in there for months and he had ridiculously large, pointy ears, like a bat.
I spent maybe 10 minutes with the shy, inquisitive little dude before taking him home.
"I'll just try it for a few weeks to see if we're a good match," I told anyone who would listen.
I was scared. I worried he'd get in trouble, I worried I'd do something wrong, I worried he'd need more than I could give him. But I also loved him to pieces.
My friends worried that this dog — who was 7, 8, or 12 years old, depending on which paperwork you wanted to look at — would prove to be too sick or old or broken to manage. But they also saw that I loved him to pieces.
By the third week, there was no way I was going to take him back. Jasper Chester Percy Bruce Wayne Princess Batman (naming him was a group effort) wasn't going anywhere except to the mailbox, the park, the grocery store and my friends' houses.
Then Wednesday, just four short months after taking him home, I took him to the vet. In the span of a week he was having accidents at night and considerable trouble navigating the world around him. Walks at night became difficult and then stopped altogether. Morning walks were filled with hurdles for him that were invisible to me. I thought we'd put him on medication; I never dreamed we'd be putting him down. But either a brain tumor or a series of strokes had rendered him nearly blind, incapable of learning a new environment and generally miserable.
To say it was anything less than complete heartbreak would be a lie. I suspect, like the people and kitties I've lost before him, I will always miss him. As he left this world, I told him he was the best dog I'd ever had and how grateful I was that he taught me how to be a good dog mom to him.
My friends' mom advocates thinking of 10 happy memories for every sad one — that it helps assuage the pain by re-framing the lost person in their minds the way he actually was: a peerless gift.
The night Jasper died, we followed that advice, remembering how little he cared for four-wheeling, how proudly he walked in his hotdog costume, how he first stole the flannel blanket, then the electric one, then half the couch. I remembered his slow walks through the neighborhood and insane sprints through the house, parkouring off the furniture.
I packed his belongings away as quickly as I could, wishing we'd found each other sooner and had more time to watch detective shows, to check the mail, to lounge in the sun on the patio.
Then I realized this was a chance; I could shrink into grief, or let Jasper break my heart open wider. Two days later, I was back at the Humane Society getting Wally, an old, stinky Great Pyrenees mix who reminds me of Wilford Brimley.
I'm just gonna give it a couple of weeks to see if we're a good match.