It was late spring and I had my windows open, a strong breeze billowing the curtains out into our garden level apartment. The sun was shining through the tree in the backyard, and the apartment smelled of 409, furniture polish and candles. Once again I had used my time without a three year old Matthew to clean. Cleaning was mindless, with music to sing to and nothing but me and my cleaning implements, no crazy child to distract.
My burgundy flip phone began to play Three Days Grace and I knew my time was up as I answered it. “Hello?”
“I’m on my way back with Matt,” his father informed me.
“Okay, I’m home.”
“Got him a dog, too. . .” he told me.
“I’ll explain when we get there.” and he disconnected.
“This motherfucker!” I exclaimed to myself, pissed. How’s he gonna just get the kid a dog without asking me?! I barely had time to take care of the kid, let alone a fucking dog. . .
Soon Matt was bounding through the door, all smiles. “Dad got Meeha!” he told me as his dad followed behind him into the apartment. He carried a small white thing in his arms, and a bag.
“Its a fucking chihuahua.” I said, not at all impressed.
“Poppa said I could have her!” Matt exclaimed, grinning and holding his arms out for the rat like creature. I rolled my eyes.
“Yeah, Matt asked dad to take her home and he told Matt he could so. . .”
“So you didn’t think to ask me if I wanted a. . . dog?” I thought, if you could call unfortunately ugly creature a dog that was, all bug eyes and pointed ears. “Jesus, why is it shaking like that?” I said out loud.
“She’s nervous,” his dad said, gently petting the animal. I swore the man loved dogs more than he did people.
“Mommy, Poppa said I could have Meeha, so I can have her, right?”
And his big brown eyes and chubby cheeks sealed it. I was now the proud owner of an oversized white rat. Sheesh.
Number one, I’m not an animal lover. I don’t hate animals, but I prefer them being owned by someone else. Let alone chihuahuas. . . I just always thought that dogs should weigh more than five pounds and not basically be bald, that’s all. I had never met a chihuahua I liked. I viewed them as nasty little ankle biting creatures, with microscopic razors for teeth and venom in their mouths instead of spit. I had less than no desire to own one myself.
But my child was my world and he wanted her. I knew that my three year old could love something furiously one minute and despise it the next, so I also reserved myself as being the one to ultimately be the owner of the nervous little bitch the rest of her life. It was taught to me that once you owned a pet, you always own that pet.
Matt’s dad brought with her a couple toys, a blanket, her birth certificate, and some treats and food. He sat with her awhile and taught Matt how to pet her and not pull her ears, and tried to get her to stop shaking. She looked at me with her bug eyes and shook harder, sensing my disapproval of her existence.
I read over her records, noting she was up to date on her shots and just shy of a year old. I also complained about the spelling of her name. Her name was spelled phonetically, which was not the correct Spanish spelling. I still cringe inwardly when I write it out. “Meeha” should be “Mija”. But I’ve grown as used to the incorrect spelling as I have to the neurotic animal.
After his dad left, Matt attempted to play with the dog, much to her dismay. She seemed content to just sit on the couch and shake. Poor kid needs a real dog, I thought to myself. You know, the kind you can throw a stick for and not be worried that the stick would be bigger than the dog? I made dinner and got Matthew ready for bed. He insisted that Meeha wanted to sleep with him, despite the panicked look on her little rat face when I placed her in bed with him. She quickly escaped and hid under my bed while Matt cried. I tried to talk the dog out, but she refused to make eye contact with me as I sat on my knees on the floor, peering under the bed skirt. “Maybe she will sleep with you once she gets comfortable, kiddo. She’s awful scared being in a new place.” Matt seemed to understand so I left the dog under my bed and my child in his bed and went and sat on the couch to read.
Engrossed in my book, I was startled an hour later when something white dashed across my living room floor towards me. I had forgotten about my new pet, but she was quick to remind me as she jumped up onto the couch and nestled into the crook of my curled up legs. I raised an eyebrow at the dog as she looked at me worriedly. “You must not have gotten the memo that I don’t like you.” She continued to look at me and then away, curling up and looking depressed. I sighed deeply, feeling pity. “It must be hard to be that ugly, I guess I should at least be nice to you.” And I grudgingly gave her a pat. Contented by this, she closed her eyes. And content myself that my child was asleep and my new pet didn’t seem to need anything other than my body heat, I opened up my book again. A while later I went to bed, leaving the sleeping animal on the couch.
I woke to her sleeping in between my legs. Uncomfortable, I got up and began to make coffee. Half asleep I filled the pot with water and shuffled to where the coffee maker sat.
And almost tripped over the five pound little asshole as she ran circles at my feet. I carefully pushed her out of the way with my foot.
“You’re gonna learn how to fly if you don’t stay out from underfoot bitch,” I grumbled. Seeming to understand she went and sat in the dining room, out of my reach.
I decided we might get along, after all.
We soon got used to each other, but I also soon realized why Poppa was so willing to give the poor excuse for a dog to his grandson.
I discovered that the animal had a thing for shitting in front of closets. And that she had a love affair going on with her pink polka dot baby blanket, often humping it at awkward times. “Why’s she do that, mommy?” “Because she’s got an itch,” I told the curious child and tried to hide the blanket, which made the dog mope. She never ate at her dish, always grabbed a mouth full of food and ran beneath the kitchen table as we sat eating dinner, always leaving behind the pieces that were supposed to represent peas, which she obviously didn’t like. She begged. She blatantly stole food, one time even trying to drag a piece of pizza away from Matt as he sat on the living room floor watching TV. The piece of pizza was almost bigger than her and it was hard to chastise the dog as I tried not to laugh. I had to admire her, that was an awful gutsy move. Whenever it was cold or wet outside, she would come inside and jump on the couch, and dig into the cushion as though her life depended on it. I tore apart the couch the first time, thinking that maybe there was food between the cushions. Finding nothing, I was puzzled. She continued to do it, on the bed, on the other couch, in my recliner. . . it finally occurred to me the connection between the weather and her furniture digging. She was trying to warm her paws. I bought her clothes, realizing that she was probably cold – she sat in the corner of the couch and shook and wouldn’t move until I removed them. I tried scarves – she’d hide and find a way to get them off. She also seemed to dislike my bathroom rugs, pissing on them any chance she got, usually after I just washed them. She teethed just like kids do and chewed up anything plastic, usually Matt’s favorite toy of the moment. She was terrified of storms, choosing to hide inside closets and under beds any time it rained, and wouldn’t come out until the next day – no matter what treat I offered her.
Her odd habits frustrated me, and I threatened to get rid of her. Matt cried though, and I couldn’t imagine hurting him. We had so little. So when I got a little extra money I bought a carpet cleaner and tried to figure out ways to curb her bad habits, to no avail.
Even though he adored her, she seemed to dislike Matt – mainly due to him being rambunctious and loud. She ran from him often. But in her defense I found her on more than one occasion in unusual circumstances that only my child could have put her in. . . Inside a large laundry basket. Underneath the same tipped over laundry basket less than an hour later. . . Barricaded under Matthews bed. . . In the kitchen cupboard under the sink. . . One time she unexpectedly bit Matthew, and while I suspected the minor scrape on his lip to either be a made up scenario since I wasn’t in the room at the time to witness it, or a provoked reaction, I didn’t confirm until just recently that the child tried to put underwear on her head and she retaliated.
Being a single parent was hard enough. Now I had this pain in the ass dog.
Who I found curled up next to Matt in his bed one day when he was sick. She refused to sleep with him, but must have made an exception when she sensed his illness.
The same dog took on a grown adult who was playing a trick on Matthew, trying to hide and scare him. I never saw the little thing be so vicious, as she tried to bite the person who seemed to be threatening her boy. Matt was one of her humans, apparently.
I would sit evenings and talk on the phone with dad, while throwing a toy for her. It was our little tradition after the hooligan went to bed, me talking to dad and throwing her toy for her.
I would often take her with me out to visit dad, and she always sat in the passenger seat next to me, and slept for the hour and a half it took to drive out there. She seemed to enjoy the ride, sleeping the majority of the time. On our first visit out there, Dad seemed about as impressed by the animal as I had initially been, grumbling about the damn rat. I would usually take Aaron to the store while I was visiting, this time not being an exception. Not wanting to leave her in the car, I left her with Dad while we went. I came back to find her curled up under the blanket dad often wore around his shoulders, my dog curled up at his hip, under the blanket.
“So. . . You don’t like her, ‘eh?” I commented.
“Damn thing needs some fucking hair. She was cold.” he answered.
Just then, Aaron came in. Meeha jumped up from beneath the blanket and stood in front of Dad, barking at my brother. . . as though she owned the place. As if she was protecting Dad.
And I looked at Dad and saw the amusement in his eyes, and knew that he and my rat dog had bonded. He was another one of her humans.
Not long after, Dad came to visit me in my apartment. He sat playing with the dog while we chatted in person for once. She went after the toy in his hand, and accidentally scratched him and drew blood. As dad cleaned up the minor scratch, she sat with her head hanging at the other end of the couch until he called her to him and let her know he wasn’t mad.
There was a period of time when we were in between homes of our own, and Matt, Chase and I were staying with Grandma for a while. Meeha stayed with Matt’s dad while we did, because Grandma couldn’t have pets. He called me one evening, and in a panicked voice told me she’d run away. My heart dropped into my stomach. I raced over to his neighborhood as fast as I could to try and help find her. We did find her after awhile, in a neighbors yard. And the joy I felt when I saw her sealed it.
I loved this damn dog. I was one of her humans.
Soon we were back in our own home, and she was back living with us. I found the dog sleeping under Chase’s crib on multiple occasions, she had accepted him as another one of her humans as well. No one was allowed near Chase accept for me and Matthew. Anyone else was met with her disapproving growl.
But always the little annoyances. . . I found her on more than one occasion on the kitchen table, cleaning the kids plates they had left. She knocked over the garbage can in the kitchen one time and drug the bloody wrappers from a roast I had put in the crock-pot before work into my living room, staining the carpet. . .
Pain in the ass. I paid an extra deposit for the little bitch to move in with us, and paid a monthly pet rent, and this is the shit she did. . .
But now she was a part of the family. So I put up with all of her bullshit because I couldn’t fathom life without her.
She tried to attack the maintenance guy that came in to fix some stuff – I had requested a call ahead, and he must have missed the memo. I ran into him in the parking lot as I was getting home from work.
“Is it you that has El Diablo?” he asked, with a slight Spanish accent.
“I’m sorry?” I asked, lifting Chase from his car seat.
“You live right there?” he asked, and pointed to my windows.
“Yes. . . ” I said, now getting the drift. “I have a request in for a call ahead because of the dog. . . “
“I didn’t see that, and tried to go in. . . El DIABLO! He flew off the couch at me!” and he was laughing. “He must think he’s a big dog!”
I laughed too. “She thinks she’s a damn rottweiler. I’m so sorry. Kept you from getting in though, didn’t she?”
He nodded emphatically. “I’ll have the manager call and set up something with you. . . you can lock her up?”
“Oh, absolutely I will.” And there after he’d wave to me when he saw me and ask after El Diablo.
And so this was our life, me and my boys and this little rat dog. I shooed her off of the kitchen table, I kept my bathroom door closed, I made sure there was always a blanket for her to curl up with, no matter the season. We played catch in the evenings while I was on the phone with dad, now two hooligans in bed. She protected and watched over her humans, and I in turn dealt with her less than stellar habits.
And then dad passed away.
I was gone all day that day, travelling back home to take care of arrangements, then to my grandparents. . . from 630am until 1130pm, my poor dog was home alone. Matt was with Grandma and Chase with his dad so I could attend to everything, and I walked in my apartment, more tired than I had ever felt in my life, before or since. My dog greeted me at the door, and I walked her outside, answering the phone when my aunt called to make sure I was doing okay. I took the dog back inside, still on the phone. While tired couldn’t begin to describe how I was feeling, I still felt an urgency inside to get this thing done and that thing done. I talked and paced my apartment, from the back bedroom to the front door, into the living room, back to the bedroom. . . I was walking circles, a nervous wreck.
As I walked back onto the tile in the dining room, I heard the distinct click click click of her nails behind me, but didn’t quite register it. From the bedroom back into the dining room and into the kitchen, into the foyer and then the living room, back into the dining room. . . and there it was again, click, click, click. I stopped pacing and turned around.
And there stood my littlest behind me, watching me and shaking.
I concluded my phone conversation, and sat down on the floor in front of the kitchen cabinets. Immediately she ran to me and climbed into my lap.
And I let go for a moment, one of the only times since I found out about dad’s passing, one of the only times I could bring myself to cry before his funeral brought reality crashing down around me. I bowed my head and cried over this little five pound dog who I had never wanted, but was somehow big enough to watch over us – sickness or threat, and now in my grief. She leaned up and licked my nose, and I just looked at her.
“Oh, littlest. You know. You’re going to miss him, too.”
I sat there, alone in my apartment, with just this dog and my grief. And I realized that it doesn’t matter the size of the dog, they are the most loyal creatures on this planet.
Time passed. She got me through the worst of it, as I didn’t turn to anyone to deal with all I had in my head and heart. She’d curl up next to me at night, and I’d take comfort in the fact that I at least had her and my kids. That first year after Dad passed was absolute hell, and I don’t know that I would have gotten through it if it weren’t for my littlest Meeha.
One evening while trying to jump up on my bed, she was unable to.
Concerned, I watched her try for a minute, and realizing she wasn’t able to I picked her up.
It struck me that she was likely getting old. That she didn’t have the strength or agility she once had.
She didn’t look any different, but she’d always been able to jump up on my bed and now she couldn’t.
Both boys adored her, and obviously I had become attached to her. What would I do when she got really old? How would my boys deal? How would I deal?
I immediately googled the lifespan of a chihuahua. Sixteen years. I looked at the little dog, all eyes and pointy ears, looking up at me anxiously and shaking. “We’ve got a little while yet, Meeha.” I told her, and patted her head. She curled up at my hip and laid her head on her paws, and watched as first Chase ran in the room, and then Matthew close behind, both yelling about monsters. She sighed heavily and looked up at me, and I laughed. “Yeah, they’re hooligans, huh?” I asked her. She sat her head back on her paws and watched them wrestle.
For now, we have each other. Me, my crazy hooligans, and this dog of mine, that I never wanted.
We’ve owned Meeha now for eleven years. And she hasn’t let go of any of her little idiosyncrasies, she’s still an odd little thing that only eats under the kitchen table. She doesn’t shit as often in front of closets, but still despises bathroom rugs. She still scratches her paws into the furniture to warm them up when its cold or wet outside. She’s a little more mellow now, preferring to curl up in blankets than to play, and doesn’t chase toys as much anymore. She refuses to let anyone let her outside but me now, growling any time anyone comes near her cage. She happily spends most of her days there, door open for her to come and go as she pleases. Every once in awhile she’ll come in and look up at me to pick her up and put her on my bed, or climb into my lap if I’m sitting here writing. She lays out in the sun until I force her to go in during the summer months – I worry she’ll get a sunburn if I don’t watch her. Matt still picks on her, like she’s a little sister. She grumbles at him until I tell them to both to be nice. . . then she grumbles more softly so only Matt can hear her displeasure. She still hides under the bed during storms, and won’t leave our sides when we’re ill.
And I have no doubt, she’d be there if the need arose to take care of her humans. She would no doubt lose that mellowness to protect us, and be there for us in our time of need.
This little dog that I never wanted has become an essential part of my life. I dread the day that she leaves us.
For now, I’ll enjoy the time I have with her. Annoying habits and all.