A Pack Of Three
When we last met, Betty and I were about to take our vows as celibate lesbian separatists since my life in the dating world was slightly more successful than Geraldo Rivera’s show on Al Capone. I had recently started a new job and was having lunch with a new friend. We got on the dating subject and she mentioned that she used Yahoo personals. When I got home, I thought, "Why not?" and created a profile. As I doubtfully cast the new line into the pond of gay dating, I still assumed that the only thing I was likely to catch was an old, sodden sneaker.
So the next day, I was more than a little surprised to come home to a "wink" from a handsome man with blue eyes and dark brown hair. Yum! I was instantly aflutter. Then reality set in. Wait a minute. Profile pictures can be deceiving. I shouldn’t get excited until I investigate this a bit further. I clicked the link for his profile and searched for the deficiencies that he was bound to have. I scanned through it. Hmm, so far, he actually looks better than normal. He’s a doctor. That means he will certainly be able to spell and know the difference between "they’re, their and there." That’s a step in the right direction. He’s originally from Ireland. I am a sucker for an accent. So far, so good but there has to be a catch here. I read it again checking to be sure I hadn’t missed any telltale signs. No red flags. But I couldn’t be convinced quite yet. There had to be something wrong with him. I thought, "I bet he has a conjoined twin coming out of his back or something." Lord knows, by this point, I had seen it all.
I sent him a message and later that evening we chatted on instant messenger for about an hour. He was quite charming. Unbeknownst to him at the time, I had saved the first transcript of that first chat. Three years later, on our wedding day, I gave it to him. It was a fabulous and emotional way to reminisce on how far we had come as a couple. Here we were about to take our vows and we got to read our first conversation with one another. During that first conversation, we chatted about all kinds of stuff. In a lighthearted way, we even joked about how awful our names would be hyphenated and for the sake of any future children, we could never, ever do that. After getting tired of typing, we spoke on the phone and Greg invited me to a performance of Verdi’s "Vespers" for which he had tickets the following day. I couldn’t wait.
We met outside of the theater a few minutes before the show started. He was even better looking in person. I was excited and a little nervous. We went inside as the show was about to start. The concert was being put on by the Handel and Haydn Society, who unknown to us, were trying something a bit avant-garde. The lights dimmed and the first curtains opened revealing portraits and paintings of the Virgin Mary through the centuries. The concerto began and the music was quite fitting with the theme. Then a second set of curtains opened revealing over a hundred, motorized plastic Virgin Mary statues on wheels. Nope, I’m not kidding. This veritable league of Blessed Mothers buzzed around the stage to and fro, and hither and yon. As I was totally not expecting that to happen, it took every ounce of me to maintain some semblance of composure. As it turned out, Greg wasn’t expecting it either. The moment we glanced over at each other we burst out laughing. Then like schoolboys caught by their teacher, we had to stifle ourselves. It turned out to be the perfect icebreaker and a league of Virgin Mary’s had blessed our first date. Who could ask for more?
We couldn’t wait to see each other again and made plans for the next weekend. On that date, we planned to meet again a few nights later. The time had come for the true litmus test - Greg had to meet my dog-child. I invited Greg over for dinner. While I answered the door, Betty waited at the top of the stairs. He came up and her tail started going into a full-force butt wag - the kind of wag that looked like she was going to fall down from not being able to stay balanced. Great! She likes him. The two seemed off to a good start.
The three of us spent practically every spare moment together - weeknights, weekends, and trips to the Cape or Vermont. Greg and I were becoming a couple and with Betty, a little family. It didn’t take long to see how much they truly loved each other. We did it, Betty! We found the person who would round out our pack. A year after we met, and after alternating between each other’s places six nights a week, we decided to move in together. Our place was in Jamaica Plain and overlooked a pond. Though we worried about how she would do, Betty settled into our new place quite easily. One of her favorite things was to sit on the couch with her snout on the window watching the ducks and cars go by. It always made us smile when we’d hear her snore away as her head and shoulders were warmed by the sun’s rays. Coming home from work was the best. When Betty would spot us from the window, the tips of her floppy ears would bounce a bit and then her tap dance would ensue on the windowsill. Nothing beats the greeting one gets from a dog. It’s unbridled love.
We found a few spots where she could run off-leash with other furry friends. On mornings before work, we’d go to the pond. Greg would either run with her or I’d take her to meet dog friends for some play. She loved this constitutional. It was generally fun for us, too. That is except for when she would decide to take a dip in the murkiest part of the pond. It was under a bridge. And the water glistened with a greasy, smelly slick of god only knows what on it. We would plead with her not to go in. "Betty, no! No water! No water!" And then, just like the defiant puppy with her head above the marigold, she’d jump in. Minutes later, and after she was sure that she had fully saturated herself, she would emerge stinky and slimy and terribly pleased with herself. Given that we lived in an apartment building and the only option to bathe her was our bathtub, it entailed having to get her through the building’s foyer as neatly as we could and then giving her a bath in the tub all before getting ourselves ready for work. While it often added an element of stress to the morning, because Betty enjoyed it so much, it was easy to overlook.
We used the opportunity of the new move to go from the queen-sized bed in which the three of us slept, to a king-sized bed. Betty had slept with me from the time that she knew not to pee in the house. Well, that and after she promised not to chew anything labeled Coach, Gucci or Ferragamo. If she did, she would be ousted to the dog bed. And I’d take her Coach collar away. She kept up her end of the bargain and for the better part of her life; she always looked at the dog bed as something that would come in handy if we were to someday get a dog. She would occasionally lie on it, but only during the day, never at night. While it was quite big enough to accommodate her, she would often curl herself into the tiniest ball. It was almost difficult to picture how small this sixty-three pound dog could make herself.
When in our bed, the tiny ball gig almost never happened. Most often she would be uber cuddly and would curl around our legs. Sometimes she would even spoon with us. It would usually happen at some point in the night. I always found it entertaining to open my eyes to a snout in my face. Other times, at some point during the night, she would manage to get perpendicular to one of us with her legs splayed out in front of her. Whenever she did this, the king-sized bed immediately felt like a single in a European hostel. Greg or I would be relegated to the edge of the bed, hanging on like on the side of a mountain. If you’d nudge Betty awake, she’d look at you as if to say, "Woman, what IS your problem? Can’t you see that I was trying to sleep?!"
Our apartment in Jamaica Plain was the place in which we created many happy memories. It holds a special fondness as the place in which we first lived together as a couple. It was also where one of our two proposals took place- Greg’s. (Mine to him was in Capri. Since Betty wasn’t there for that one, I won’t digress with that story.) It was a night that I’ll never forget. We were in the midst of an enormous snowstorm and I was coming home by train from NYC. Greg kept asking me to let him know when I arrived at the train station. Cell coverage was bad and we couldn’t stay connected. I tried a few times and then gave up. Because of the heavy snow, the above ground train line that ran closest to our house stopped service three stops away. So I had to hoof through the snow, in a suit, with a roller board. Needless to say, at that point, I just wanted to get home and wasn’t too concerned about calling Greg. I just wanted to be dry and warm again. When I entered the foyer to our building, Greg called me. It turned out that I had just missed him and Betty around the corner. He asked for me to wait for them there before going up. They came in and we went upstairs. Greg opened the door to reveal our place filled with candles, flowers and notes to me. He got on his knee and behind him was a big sign that said, "Will you marry me?" Betty stood by him with a big bow around her neck and a grin from ear-to-ear. They both knew the answer before I even said it.
As much as we loved the place, we knew that we were outgrowing our 800 square foot condo. We were about to get married and knew we wanted to start a family. One Sunday, when Greg’s mom was in town, we went to brunch in Cambridge. While we hadn’t officially started to look for homes, we somewhat accidentally stumbled across the place that we would eventually buy. We fell in love, bought it and moved in just months before our wedding.
Once again, we worried about how Betty would transition to the new place. What would she do without the ducks to watch? Would she miss the pond? Would we find new cool dog friends? As usual, she and we did just fine. Her home was where we were. We found a new routine and new playgrounds. She had friends to romp with and new places to explore. We lived in a quaint courtyard and shortly after moving in, she was dubbed "The Mayor of Laurel Lane." As we would meet people and they would ask "whose dog was she first?" We would lovingly say, she was Greg’s "gift with purchase" when he got me.
Besides anxiety over moving, Betty had a short list of fears and dislikes - fireworks, thunderstorms and luggage. Fireworks were seasonal so they were somewhat manageable except the weeks surrounding July 4. Betty would first "duck and cover" when the fireworks began. She would seek out potential hiding places as if we were being bombed. Then, she’d feel some sense of obligation to her humans, so she would proceed to bark and howl while running around the house, checking for evidence of an attack.
Thunderstorms were the one fear over which we had no control. Fortunately, she wasn’t as neurotic about them as some animals can get, she just needed reassurance. One night during a big thunderstorm, I felt tapping on my chest. Being groggy with sleep, I dismissed it the first time. A few seconds later - tap, tap, tap. I opened my eyes and looked up. Sitting in front of me and trembling from head to tail was Betty. She had the look of "I’m so sorry to bother you, but I really need to be held." I cuddled my baby and told her it would be okay. It was the cutest thing.
Finally, there was the luggage issue. Betty never approved of the traveling that Greg and I did as a couple. Whenever she saw the bags come out, one toy would always surface - this squeaky plastic porcupine. She rarely played with the porcupine at other times. It was in some way for her, a pacifier of sorts. She would hide it, bury it or sleep by it. No matter what, one thing was always true, it was the medium that Betty used to let us know that something wasn’t right in her world. And it wasn’t as if she was left in kennels whenever we were away. Betty was always left with family. She either stayed with my parents, my cousin Doreen or occasionally, my friend Scooter. She was happy as a lark to stay with any of them! They were among her peeps for whom she squealed at the mere mention of their names. We loved that we never had to worry about her with them. She would be showered with affection and treats - maybe even a few extra since she missed us but that’s what grandparents, aunties and uncles get to do. When we returned, there would always be the initial excited greeting. It typically came with running in circles and an ecstatic wheeze of sorts - kind of like an "Oh my god, I can’t breathe! You’re back!!" The best greeting, however, was not the first one, but the second one. It became the one we competed for and we referred to it as "The Second Coming." This was the subsequent return after coming home. Quite often, it was when we’d come back from the first day of being back to work, but sometimes it was even after just running out to get milk. Betty would greet us with an even bigger fervor as if to say, "I thought it was going to be way, way longer than that!!" Reunions were always happy. She liked when the pack was back together. And soon our pack would get bigger. Greg and I had started the adoption process. Betty was going to be a big sister...