I'm not really a dog person.
And I didn't want another puppy. The first one died, horribly, the victim of parvovirus, a harsh environment with virtually no veterinary care, and my ignorance.
When the second puppy, Molly, came home, it was duty and determination I felt, much more than love: duty to my son, who'd sobbed his seven-year-old heart out when the first puppy died; who couldn't hear her name uttered without tearing up.
I wouldn't let him suffer that again.
So I paid a con-man five times what the vaccine vial and syringe were worth and injected the puppy myself, when nothing else was available. I assiduously scrubbed my house and porches and walkways with chlorine, the only thing that definitely kills parvovirus.
I kept the puppy away from areas of the yard where the previous puppy had been. I wiped the bottoms of our shoes with chlorine if we chanced to step in those areas. I researched optimal diets and, in a land where 50% of the children are malnourished, cooked beef and vegetables for the puppy.
This puppy was not going to die if I could help it.
I worried and fretted and prayed. I, who hesitates to ask for prayer for myself, and hid my head in embarrassment when people prayed over me, asked others to pray for this puppy, to pray for us.
And she lived. She lived, and came back from that poorest-of-poor countries to the USA, where she got an engraved, heart-shaped tag and goes for hour-long walks with me nearly every day.
"You love your dog," my mom said, matter-of-factly.
"I guess I do," I said.
I'd filled out papers and spent hours on the phone and at the airport to bring her back with us, because I liked her and wanted to keep her, of course, but also because I knew I couldn't be sure what might happen to her after we left. I gave her a special diet for weeks before our trip to ready her for the long fast of the trans-Atlantic flight. I made her kennel as comfortable as possible.
In the heat, I use a shedding blade to thin her coat. I refill her water bowl when it doesn't really need refilling. On walks, we share a water bottle.
When I wasn't looking, between the cooking and the cleaning with bleach, between the ball-throwing and the frantic Internet research, between the tummy scratching and the vaccinating and the kennel preparation, all dutifully undertaken in determination that this dog NOT DIE, somehow, love crept in.
Duty came first -- not sentiment, just as it does for many exhausted parents-of-newborns.
And I think maybe, just maybe, that's perfectly okay.
I'm not really a dog person. And I didn't want to get another puppy. But a year later, and eight thousand miles plus some along the journey, I love my dog.