My hand and shoulder are searing with pain. Every jostle as she stops and pulls shifts the bag I'm carrying. Her momentum drags my hypermobile body out of alignment. I trade the leash and bag between my hands, as if I have a choice in the experiences of my body.
I get into my partner's front lobby and dry her off with the towel I brought. I search for dry spots in the towel to absorb more water from her fur. I can't stop the thoughts as I grab each of her legs and beg her to stand still.
"Fuck that internet article that said puppies don't need as much stuff for an outing as kids do. Fuck that person struggling to have empathy for people who don't have human children. Fuck those comparisons. She's worse than the toddler I nannied. Or the 20 I helped care for at the daycare. She's .."
I can't even look at my partner and I wonder why. I start rambling at him. Oh. I'm desperately trying not to let my emotions and mind loops spill onto him.
It's time to grab that distance that makes me feel like I'm not a ticking bomb that others have to defuse. My hand pushes the door into the rain.
My head is spinning with all the pros and cons. Each step home, a little more damp in a jacket I thought was waterproof. Maybe it used to be waterproof.
I line up my past experiences with my curiosity and self-doubt. I think about all the small decisions I can't seem to get right.
I'm back to rumination. The only way my mind can temporarily get relief from emotions it never learned how to handle. Internally, I'm explaining my behavior and decisions to everyone. But the only judgement I'm concerned about is my own.
My phone starts fritz-ing and shuffling songs. I'm too wet for its waterproof rating. I awkwardly hold it in the front of my pants as I balance a hood and traffic vigilance. My endlessly looping thoughts carry me home.
Inside my apartment, I'm soaked and searching for a place for my jacket. I guess the door handle works. My partner sends a picture of her laying down. "So far, so good". I'm glad she's being easy for him. Tiny daggers enter my heart as I silently wish I was someone else. Anyone who could handle her with the patience and love she deserves.
I dry sob while crouching in my living room for a moment.
The problem is me. I lack patience. I lack consistency. I lack self-control.
I keep telling myself some external change will fix it, fix me, but I don't believe that. Not at the deeper level where you actually admit things to yourself.
I try to soothe myself with the many things I've overcome, but it only reminds me of trauma. My resilience was forced, not chosen. Where do you find pride or solace in that?
I take a snapchat of how wet I am in my bathroom. Look friends, here's a random slice of my day. The interpretation is up to them.
My glasses and shirt are off. Up next: soaking tight leggings. I go to sit on my bedroom floor to avoid getting my bed wet. I remember that even though I can't see it, my floor is covered in tiny plastic bits and chewed pieces. Pepper Ann's trail of destruction. Which I'd rather not get on my damp ass.
I allow myself another moment of frustration and exhaustion.
With my leggings around my calves, I waddle-shuffle to my bathroom where I can sit down on a bathmat. I've been panting from walking and undressing. I was too wet to take a break at my partners and still summon the gumption to come home.
As I struggle to peel them the rest of the way off, I think how ridiculous this would look to an observer.
Yet it would probably feel familiar to anyone with disabilities and chronic illness. The end of an ordeal that tested your limits. The daily moments where the ordinary becomes insurmountable.
The wonky collagen in my skin is rejecting the new-ish waterproof boots I needed to wear. I'm already sitting close to where my band aids are. Gratitude flows over me for the energy I can save.
Maybe if I knew how difficult she is compared to other puppies. If there was some guarantee things would be 20% easier in the next two months. What if it's worse though? I can't shake that. I also can't shake that rehoming her could send me into a shame spiral and depression.
Wrapped in a towel, I crawl in bed. I cover my blister and start pouring my thoughts into my phone. This is not what I am supposed to be doing with this rare puppy free time.
I knew I wouldn't love another dog the way I loved my service dog Franklin.
I just didn't expect to dislike and sometimes outright hate a new dog. I didn't expect my grief over Franklin to be as overwhelming as it was and sometimes more so. It's summer now and when I watch Pepper Ann pant, I remember years of his labored breathing. The emergency vet visits and hospitalizations. Being sent home with a month's worth of antibiotics.
Then watching him die the next day.
Guilt is threaded through the grief now. I resent every extra thing I do to quell her neediness that I didn't do for him. I wish almost every day that she was him. I never once thought to give him up, despite every vet bill, new medication, or treatment.
Sometimes when I want access to all of my data, it's not to improve. Instead it's to dwell. To show everyone the large and small ways his loss ate into my life. To map that pain for myself as if it would show me a path out of it.
As if I want a path out of it.
Training isn't the problem, I tell myself. She has 50 hours of basic obedience already.
Training won't stop her from walking on my stomach. From punching me with her front paws when she jumps up. "Off" only works after the fact. How do you train a dog to not constantly need your attention? She chews through everything. She barks less in her crate sometimes, but not any less at people outside my apartment. It won't stop the oodles of frustration-based aggression whenever she sees other dogs that we can't approach because of social distancing.
I don't think I'm the only one in this duo that's unhappy.
Two nights ago, she cut her gums chewing plastic and drooled blood all over my bed. That's what prompted me to ask the rescue I got her from if someone would foster her for a while. A trial separation. I built a home for their "no" before it arrived.
I'm the healthiest I've been in a decade.
It takes a lot of commitment, energy, and consistency to maintain that fragile homeostasis. Everything else goes to this baby creature that I thought was an investment in my health and has been anything but.
Her noise, her demands, the blood and destruction, and hurting me physically every day have amped up my PTSD and ADHD. I can't get anything done. My self-confidence is withered. My lack of motivation and concentration is feeding my inner low self-worth demon. The one that's always looking for proof that I'm just as shitty as my dad told me I was. Just as lazy as everyone reinforced throughout my 20 years of undiagnosed ADHD.
There's no healthy confidence coming to save me. I buried those gold bars in backyards of hobbies and spaces that don't exist in pandemic times.
Tension exists between caring for her and the mental energy I need to sell to keep us both alive. I don't know how to resolve it.
Two bags of puppy food and several bags of treats are on the way to my house. I wish I could stop them. Retroactively subtract a bag of food. My doubt, indecision, and exhaustion are the bigger commitments now.
[Header image: seedlings (forget-me-nots) pushing up in a gold container. There's a teal floral curtain in the background. These seeds were sent in a one year sympathy card from Journey's Home Pet Euthanasia, about the loss of my service dog Franklin.]