The first time I saw Galen she was going by the name Julia. And I didn’t see her so much as I saw the picture of a grey-speckled month-old Australian shepherd/black lab pup, head cocked left, sporting a seemingly perplexed look. I was surfing Petfinder looking for dogs that were one- or two-years-old, house broken, and in Central New Jersey. It was November 2010, and my family was absolutely not ready for a new dog.
We were still grieving; at least Kevin and I were. Our two daughters, then ages 8 and 6, seemed to be dealing with Gryffin’s sudden death two months earlier better than we were. Of course, he was our first child, and when a child – even a canine one – is ripped from your life without warning, the heartbreak feels irreparable.
Yet there I was, and there I had been for the past several weeks, staring into the sometimes funny, sometimes quizzical faces of shelter dogs. Kevin wanted to wait until spring at the earliest, before bringing a young dog, especially a puppy, into our home. He said he didn’t want to deal with a puppy during the height of winter. (You would have thought he could foresee the snow-filled season awaiting us.) But the real reason was more complicated: His emotions were a painful mix of sadness over Gryffin’s death and guilt over replacing him.
The fact that I was considering a new dog was perhaps the most surprising turn of events. For the first time since we’d moved to our New Jersey home, with its unusually dark hardwoods that showcased every golden hair Gryffin shed, I wasn’t vacuuming daily (or twice daily). I was adding that most essential resource – time! – back into my life. And we had freedom! The freedom we hadn’t had for ten years, to leave home for a day or a weekend without worrying about who was going to take care of the dog. We could be spontaneous!
But when I came right down to it – the time, the freedom, the spontaneity – none of it made up for that empty feeling that overcame me every time I turned into the driveway and didn’t see Gryffin saunter toward the car, tail wagging, face smiling.
Then one day, I came upon pictures of Galen’s litter and fell for… Trevor. Trevor was a handsome little guy who, unlike his sister with her unique grey coloring, resembled the iconic black lab pup. He and his siblings were going to be offered for adoption that weekend at a garden center just ten minutes from our home. It was time to let Kevin and the girls know what I’d been up to.