There is a new man in my life. He's fun. He's an attention grabber. He makes it clear that I'm his favorite. It was love at first sight. His name is Figaro...and he is a 7 lb mini schnauzer-pomeranian mutt.
Three years ago, my childhood cocker spaniel, Nala, died after a long battle with liver disease. It was totally heartbreaking. She was willful and a bit of a pill, but she was the sweetest, most loving little thing. She would steal money from my purse and eat it. Once, she even went into my coat pocket and snapped my CTA card in half. If I had a man over, she would plop herself firmly between the two of us on the couch. But, you couldn't help loving her. At my lowest points, all I needed to do was take her for a walk. She would skip happily along and gleefully look up at me. We would trek to the park near my parents' house where she would whine until I'd let her sit on my lap and use the tire swing or she would jump to the top of the play set and use the slide. She even is hugely involved in how Kent and I first started dating each other.
Losing Nala was rough and, although I began looking right away, it took some time before I really felt like my life was in a place where I could have another dog. Finally, this past June, I became very serious about it and was even sending messages to shelters on PetFinder.com. Nothing was quite panning out. Then, when I went home to surprise my niece on her birthday, I happened to take a look through the Des Moines Classifieds to find the craziest looking little thing. He was gangly and wild looking. He looked like the puppy from my favorite childhood book, The Puppy Who Wanted A Boy.
It turns out that he had been a bit of a "surprise" and they were just trying to offload him. They were asking the bargain basement price of $75. There was no way I was leaving without him.
I sheepishly went downstairs to tell my parents that I was buying a dog and that I needed a ride. My parents are pretty used to me wanting to get a pet. When I was 8, I had my little sister take a notes to my dad about 15 times in one day that read: "Can I get a rabbit: yes or no?" and "Have you decided yet? LOVE, Ana" I spent months campaigning for Nala! And here I was, standing before the court again...at 26. My mom told me no. My dad gave me the eye roll and asked where the puppy was. I felt defeated and went back upstairs to look forlornly at the puppy.
Then came a familiar sight: my dad peeping his head through the bars of our loft and asking to see what the puppy looked like. "He looks like TRAMP!!!", I said pointing to the screen. "Call the number. See if he's still available," my dad said looking amused. I called and called and called as if I was psycho dialing an ex. There was no answer and no voicemail. I was desperate now! I sent an e-mail and hoped for the best.
I heard back...after I was hours on the road back to Chicago. I was almost in tears. THAT was the dog I had been looking for. My dad looked back at me and said ,"if you come back next weekend for Father's Day, I will get you that puppy for your birthday." We called the woman back and asked if she could hold on to Figaro for a week.
The next week, I called twice to tell the woman that I wouldn't be taking Figaro. I was terrified. Was I really ready to have a dog again? Honestly, I was really just afraid to love something with that much intensity again. Would I be able to open up the part of my heart that had been so scarred? My dad called me, however, and gave me that little bit of coaxing I needed.
Every second up until the moment I actually held Figaro in my arms, I was scared. When I picked him up, when he played with me in the yard outside his house, when he followed me to the car to leave without a second thought or look back, all my fear was gone. This tiny puppy saw me and knew in an instant that I was going to be his. Why should I be afraid that he was going to be mine?
On the people side, bringing Figaro into my life has shown me that I shouldn't be afraid to let myself love and be loved again. Although I've thought I was ready and I've been shopping around, this fear has certainly been shifting around through my subconscious. If a man tells me, "Ana, I want to be with you," if he's not afraid to be taking this risk, I shouldn't be either. I think I'm finally ready to say, "okay, let's do this."