Tuesday. Last day together for me, Bella and Johnny Depp.
Click the play button above to listen to my post.
Bringing Bella home…
Sunday noon and an hour and a half east of Toronto, I exit the 401 at the prescribed ramp. Ejected onto a barren side road, somewhere along its lonely stretch, I must find the agreed upon meeting point.
In minutes, I see it and turn the car into a gravel drive, wheels kicking up a dusty pebble trail behind the car.
My destination appears to be the sort of god-forsaken gas station typical to side roads along Ontario’s 401. I’m talking about the ones not quite at the right exit ramp to ever find themselves busy enough to warrant a lick and a promise.
I park, turn off the engine and get out for a little walk to the station store.
Inside the store, my gut proves correct. The shelves have more gaps than merchandise, and likely, all probably stale. Ignoring the century-old bags of chips, I grab a pack of Juicy Fruit, the yellow kind, and plunk it on the courter.
“That’ll be fifty-three cents,” says the lackadaisical, bored-out-of-their mind young girl at the cash. Teenagers. It’s not what they say as much as how they say it—slightly saucy lilt on every word, no extra charge.
But then again, I remember I am in the middle of butt-*uck nowhere. And so is she. So I suppose a big sigh and dramatic eye-roll as she takes the twenty I offer to pay for the gum is one of the interactions that will help her get through her shift.
I take the change, walk back outside and notice I have company. A guy is leaning against the driver door of his car, parked beside to my teal blue Toyota Corolla.
“Hey,” I say to the guy, “I’m Karalee. I think you’re here for me?”
“Yup. Here for a Karalee,” he answers.
And then, circumventing further niceties, he unfolds his arms, uncrosses his legs, and turns to open his vehicle’s back door.
“Do you have the money?” he asks over his shoulder.
I slide the envelope containing $250 cash out of my purse and extend it toward him.
“It’s all there.”
He takes the envelope and tucks it into his back pocket.
“She’s the runt, you know. ”
I knew that. The week before, my friend Penny had collected her sister, which is how I knew there was one puppy left in the first place. The runt, of course.
He leans into the car, and I watch his butt waggle about as wrestles away in the backseat. And then he comes out, turns around, and there in his hands is the teeniest, fluffiest furball I’ve ever seen. He passes her to me, along with a large envelope.
“These are her papers. She’s got great parentage, and you might think about breeding her.”
The words register, but I kind of ignore them. I’m busy falling in love.
That Friday, before the boys left for the weekend with their dad, I’d mentioned I’d have a surprise for them when they got home.
Waiting on their return, with the as yet unnamed furball puppy in my arms, around 8pm I hear their feet clomping in the sun porch. Seconds later, three boys explode into the kitchen.
“Where’s the dog?” asks my 13-year old big boy.
“Where’s the dog?” demands my 11-year old medium-sized boy.
“Where’s the dog?” pipes in my 9-year old baby boy.
Boy precognition, times three.
They name her Bella.
In case you’re wondering…
I had sound logic for getting a dog.
Firstly, I believe dog and god are synonymous. Kidding. Not sure about god, but very sure about dog. Warm body. Always happy to see you. Nonstop love cuddles. What isn’t wonderful about dogs? More so, though, is my adamant belief that kids and dogs belong together, like, you shouldn’t have one without the other.
So there was never a question that I would get a dog. But as a single mom, with job and the mega-life-juggle just to keep laundry done and lunches packed everyday, figuring out the right time to get a dog was the problem.
And then the timing became obvious.
As my boys grew older, changes began to knock my parenting abilities off kilter. While parts of their growing up was kinda nice—tears and tantrums replaced with the stove-skills to make their own KD—some of the new stuff was a less fun.
Though I tolerated the grunt-like speech interjections that bookmarked our verbal exchanges “Uh! Nothing is wrong, mom. Uh!” I was having a hard time with the emotional winch that had tightened on the umbilical cord to each son, cutting off our womb-like connections.
Ugh. Puberty. Rotten terrain, with mom-dom on the wane.
Time for dog.
By a year one, our shitzu toy-poodle hybrid, weighing in at ten pounds soaking wet, could hunt.
Our house on Roosevelt Avenue, a half acre surrounded by forest, provided ample prey, and she regularly dropped a menagerie of bloodied fur tufts or mouthfuls of feathers at our feet for approval. Her mandate: chase and torment all surface-dwelling creatures. Thus, she also launched herself, commando style, at the throat of any dog who ventured near or on our turf, regardless of breed. We peeled her off many a German shepherd or lab ten times her size, miraculously unscathed.
Rules? Training? What were rules or training to an adorable fluff dog or the three boys smitten with her? I was no better. She was horribly behaved. She never, ever came when we called, and she used those big doe eyes of hers to bend us to her will.
We were suckers for the girl in our family.
Atop a pillow on the couch, she became a given in the Jones/Clerk household, a la princess style and with mega ‘tude. She logged her hours, side-by-side with my sons, through the video-playing, movie-watching and first girlfriend eras. She had a sweetie too. She was gaga over Johnny Depp, worshipping him onscreen through the entire three-movie Pirate franchise.
Years went by, and the boys moved through and past their sullen, silent teenage years, Bella at their sides. And I discovered nothing couldn’t be said or heard when my hands touched a boy’s hand, across our furry conduit of unconditional love.
We moved to her second home in 2008.
In our new neighbourhood, her fierce, feisty fire infected the families living next door to us. Her mission, I believe, was to convert former big dog lovers to the gentile genre of small breeds. And before long, to the right of us, Will and Kate, teenier even then Bella, became the new mascots in the Einwechter family. And on our left, little Elvis was adopted into the Hewick household, bringing a little something extra along with him. Love.
Yes, he and Bella couldn’t keep their paws off each other. She had no shame, and at times, seeing them together was almost embarrassing, what with Elvis so many years younger. But who could deny a later in life May-December romance? Not us.
Pommel Gate legacy in place, we moved in 2015, to our cave in Halifax.
And this is when we noticed our little girl getting old. We were soon retrained to carry her more often than not, to feed her tasty morsels long denied, like bread and snacks, and to watch our feet constantly, lest we trample her as she slowed and slowed and slowed.
Who ever dreamed a fluffball could get old?
Very difficult things…
I was as much in denial as my sons, so Bella had to talk to me in a dream first.
“I had a dream last night, about Bella. She was gone,” I said last Sunday morning, selfishly unburdening myself to Warren’s girlfriend, Sara.
I didn’t dare mention it to Warren. The two were leaving for a week’s visit to Ontario, and I didn’t want to alarm him. Sara was more rational about these things, and she and I had a few conversations already about Bella since Sara had gone through this, with her family’s first dog.
That Sunday, getting the dream off my chest seemed enough to shove endings out of my mind, so I could regroup and focus on my next goal, keeping Bella alive for Warren’s Ontario return, a week later.
I got the two off to the airport and came home for another round of syringe feeding our little girl.
Denial is powerful.
So Bella had to tell me again, louder this time since I wasn’t listening to her. And on Monday evening, she made it clear that it was time.
Fair enough. I’d figured out when we were ready for her, and she’d figured out when we were ready for her to leave.
Tuesday morning, I went to work, and Warren and Sara’s friend Liane came over to keep Bella company. When I returned home, later in the afternoon, I got Bella and I all set up on the couch, comfy pillow in place, her head on my lap so she could see.
And then I called upon Johnny Depp, to come to the big screen in front of us, one last time, for her and I to watch him together.
One by one, I called the boys to say their goodbyes from Ontario, via FaceTime. I scratched our girl for them and lifted her head, so each boy could have a last look into those big, beautiful eyes of her’s.
“Goodbye princess,” said my 28-year old big boy.
“Goodbye princess,” said my 25-year old medium-sized boy.
“Goodbye princess,” said my 23-year old baby boy.
Mornings are for remembering. Never did I dream when I picked her up at that lonely gas station how important she would become to our family.
Love. That was our Bella. Miss you forever little girl.
Tuesday afternoon with mama, Bella and Johnny.
Cary and Bella.
Graham and Bella.