Today, I choose Alvin. I will laugh with the jogger who calls his eyes “hilarious.” I will delight in black tufts of hair sprouting from God-Knows-Where. I will stop saying “All creatures are beautiful and worthy of love” as if it means he’s not and he isn’t. Today, I say ta-ta to Talisa, the one that might have been instead of him.
Talisa was born looking like a brown bear in the mountains, one of ten Border Collie-Shepherd puppies available for adoption soon after our family of five began looking. When I showed a picture of her to our three school-aged girls, they let out the most emphatic “O-Ah” I’d heard yet. I sent in an adoption application on Monday and got an e-mail back on Tuesday saying she was ours.
Meanwhile, of course, I kept hustling. It is a fact of spiritual gifts (yes, the hustle can be holy) that they can be used for good or for ill, to help or to hinder, to shed light or cast shadows on our story. How do you discern the difference?
I showed Talisa’s picture to my husband, Rush; he said her blue eyes made her look soulless. I wondered if her muddy muzzle would clear up over time like baby acne. I googled how long the drive to the mountains would take and realized the trip was longer – much longer – than I estimated.
Then I saw a picture of Phoenix.
He looked more me. Not like me. But like the dog I imagined for me. He had shy brown eyes. A cool-white coat. And the kind of fur in which you could bury tears. I began to turn a decision about a dog into a decision about the kind of person I was. Do you do this, too?
Talisa made me a parent who put what the kiddos’ want first. Phoenix turned me into a parent who made the adults happy and trusted a happy home is what the kiddos need. I put in an application for Phoenix, too, just to see how the story would spin.
Three days later, Alvin (nee Phoenix) was riding home, wedged between our girls, in the backseat of the car. I wrote the break-up e-mail with Talisa when we returned.
I thought a lot about Talisa in the days that followed – checking the website to see if she’d been adopted (she had), googling Border Collie-Shepherd breeds to see how she’d age (total crapshoot), imagining how much more memorable a drive to the mountains and a litter of puppies would have been for our family’s first dog together.
Regret is a two-timing shark. Not only does it swallow you whole the first time you chose “wrong” but then it spits you back up into a “coulda been/woulda been” soup that, if your brain likes small, repetitive tasks as much as mine, can be stirred for days, weeks, months without realizing that you’ve been baited.
Well, today, I’m not going to be the bait. Say it with me, Today I’m going to quit swimming in the thought shallows. The “right” choices are often only known in time and in time nearly all “wrong” is forgiven.
Besides, dogs are like friends. Timing is a better predictor of success than temperament. Who’s available when you’re looking is a better predictor of companionship than who’s looking good in retrospect.
A quick Internet search tells me Talisa means “consecrated to God.” Perfect, I think. God can have Talisa, and I will vow to make Alvin my own. I will howl when he runs like a bunny in the backyard. I will still myself to offer him rest on my rising chest.
I will coo “All creatures are beautiful and worthy of love” like it’s right true.