Broken Hearts and Second Chances

Posted on Sep 6, 2015



Sugar Magnolia (AKA Maggie) and I have been living together for about two months now. We are bonding and having fun, and also learning interesting facts, such as: some shoes aren’t just comfy for feet, but make a very nice after-dinner snack as well. Who knew?

Each time we are separated and reunited, Maggie’s whole body wriggles with pleasure when she spots me again. Last week after spending an entire night apart she flew at me so hard that my lip and chin became swollen and black and blue. She is innocent and a rascal, delightful and delighted, yet I’m pretty sure that, (as with so many rescue pups), for all of her cheerful spunk, deep inside Maggie’s proud little chest is beating a broken heart.

She loves me it seems, but I’m not her first love.  She scans the faces of nearly every passerby.  She eyes a man and woman walking up the street from way far away, and her tail starts beating expectantly. She stares intently as car doors open and looks yearningly for who might be inside. Most disconcerting of all is how hopeful she looks when a school bus stops nearby and the children pour out.

I adopted Maggie here in Brooklyn, but she had been pulled from a high-kill shelter in Alabama. I have no idea how she spent the first year of her life and I’m curious. I observe her quirky behavior; interested and shyly affectionate with children, thrilled by couples, ready to sit in one stranger’s lap, and then terrified of the next, and various scenarios rise in my head. One thing seems pretty certain however—she is definitely missing someone.

I will never know if the people she is looking for gave her up intentionally, or by accident, responsibly or irresponsibly. And unlike a human friend, or the people I interview in my oral history work, she is not going to tell me her story; at least not in words. For a time I became a little fixated on this, a little stuck in my puppy’s past. But a few weeks ago, upon reporting to her trainer that Maggie now happily walks into the elevator without fear, I was told that her quick adjustment is an encouraging sign of strong emotional resilience. In other words, she can let go of the past when it serves here to do so.

Though her heart may have been broken, it is still soft, pliable, and drawn toward happiness; which really can never be anywhere other than here and now anyway.

The strategy then is that whether each day goes well, or not, I try to show Maggie that right now she doesn’t need to worry; she is loved and will be taken care of.  This has been a helpful practice for me too, as this long hot summer has been filled with heartache. I am grateful to be her second chance, a sweet reminder to believe in my own.

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