After taking a couple of weeks to recalibrate after someone attempted to break into our home, I finally loosened up a little. And then it happened again. This time someone broke off the new lock my landlord installed on the back gate.
Here's the thing: I'm pretty sure this was done by a homeless person seeking shelter behind my house. However, the fact remains that I have to assume these two events are linked. This means that, much as this person might be looking for a safe place to go, he (or she) also attempted to get in at some point. I can have empathy, but I also need to protect my daughter.
Now I was in a real jam. I was totally freaked out, and my only option seemed to be to move. I do not want to move. I just moved six months ago and I moved nine months before that. I am slammed with work and being a mom, and don't have enough time as it is. Plus, the expense. Not to mention the fact that--recent events aside--I love my house. However, it goes without saying that it is also unacceptable to keep living in fear and on edge in my own home. It felt like I was getting my hand forced into a move I didn't want to play.
As I was in the middle of this, my weekly department meeting rolled around. We end each of these meetings with Yeahs and Mehs, where each team member shares our best and worst part of the week. As I've mentioned before, I work for a very forward-thinking company that's all about Whole Self. Still, I am sick of feeling like Crisis Girl, where something has always gone wrong. I decided that I was going to give a fake meh before the meeting. Then my turn came around, and I couldn't do it.
Thank god I didn't. The entire meeting came to a halt as one of my co-workers said, "Wait. We need to solve this." Within three minutes, they had hive-minded a middle-of-the-road solution: get a dog. This thought had occurred to me previously, but I discounted it since I don't have a backyard or extra time. Everyone poo-pooed that. They agreed that I should just get an older, sedate dog and it would be fine. I thought about it and realized that plenty of people I had known when I lived in Boston and New York had perfectly happy dogs. It was totally possible.
Plus, all of this aside, I want Izzy to grow up with a dog. When I was a baby, my parents got a German Shepherd puppy named Taischo. Taischo was my best friend and an extremely integral part of my childhood. I still think about him often all these years later. Not to mention all of the wonderful dogs who have come since Taischo.
I felt reinvigorated at the very idea. It gave me hope that this phase of fear in my life could come to an end. I scoured a local shelter website to identify a few dogs who looked like they might be right for us. Then I took Izzy down to the shelter with me to see how she interacted with them.
I got to the front desk and asked about a couple of dogs. I was warned that one of them was very meek, and always kept his tail down. They weren't sure he would bond and settle into to a new home. "We'll see the other one, then," I told the attendant. That dog, Honey, was exactly what I thought I wanted, but then I realized she and Izzy were too interested in each other. Honey was too strong, and could clearly inadvertently take her down in the course of playing.
I went back to the front desk. "Maybe meek is good," I told them. "Can we meet the other one?" So we met Mozart, a German Shepherd mix. He walked in to the room and was much more mellow than the first dog. I sat down and let Izzy wander around, wanting to give Mozart his space. After about a minute later, Mozart approached me sniffing. Then, this big dog gave me a big lick and ... sat down in my lap. I leaned my head against him, and it was like a sensory recall of my childhood with Taischo. Mozart got up and started wandering around the room with Izzy. His tail was up as the two of them checked out all the corners of the room together. This was our guy.
Flash-forward a few days and Mozart--now Scout--is firmly established in our lives. Already, it's hard to imagine life without him. Him and Izzy follow me around the house in one big trail of adorableness. He's more gentle with Izzy than I could have ever dreamed and she adores him. "'Cout!" she giggles and points, every time she sees him.
For a dog they said might not be able to bond, I'm not sure that an animal has ever loved me more or been more attached to me than Scout. He's constantly by my side, and always full of love. Scout is three years old, impeccably trained and housebroken. Clearly, someone dedicated a lot of time and attention to this dog. It's befuddling how an animal like this ends up in a kill shelter. Thank god he's not there anymore. Scout deserves a wonderful life, and we are going to give it to him.
Ironically, Scout came to live with us a year from the day my ex left in the wake of the episode that kicked off the Year of Fear. Scout's arrival feels like the bookend to that. He may be sweet as pie with Izzy and I, but I also know that Scout is not going to let anyone fuck with us. I am so grateful to him for making me feel safe and settled. And, the biggest bonus here that I wasn't expecting: I think I make Scout feel safe, too.
It turns out that, ultimately, the answer to fear was more love.