Our first foster failure was Meadow, and that decision had everything to do with my husband Mason. But, our second failure was Adriana and that one was all about me.
I met Adriana six years ago when she was a week old. She was living under a bramble patch with seven littermates in one of Springfield, TN’s poorest communities. Her mother, a stray, took care of her pups the best she could. But, she couldn’t protect them from flea infestations, wild animals, and wicked southern thunderstorms. So, when the pups were two weeks old, all eight moved to the Farnival.
The same summer we fostered those eight puppies, I lost Miss Annie, my 15-year-old Yorkshire terrier. Miss Annie was the love of my life, my soul mate, and I was crushed. I was also scared. Losing Miss Annie hurt so much, I was afraid to love like that again. I honestly didn’t think I was capable of it. Then, on a hot August afternoon, things changed. And I learned exactly what Emily Dickinson meant when she said, “The heart wants what the heart wants…”
Laurie Fulsome walked up our gravel driveway with her baby tucked under her arm in the same careless but confident way an athlete carries a ball. During those first couple of seconds, I summed Laurie up as self-assured and athletic, both positive traits for anyone adopting a dog. Adriana and her litter had just turned six weeks old. They wouldn’t leave our care for two more weeks, but initial introductions were underway.
Mason leaned against the railing on our deck, looking completely at ease. As relaxed as he looked, I knew he was logging details from under the brim of his baseball cap. Those brief meetings with potential adopters required making life-changing decisions in a short amount of time. An extra set of discerning eyes always helped. Mason offered Laurie a chair, but she declined, sat on the deck, and plopped her baby down.
“Do you know which puppy you’re thinking about adopting?” I asked. The puppies were snoozing on a dog bed in the living room. All eight of them only took up a quarter of the oblong pillow.
“I’m really in love with that white one I saw on the blog a few days ago,” Laurie said. “Was her name Adriana?”
I heard what she said, but it took me a second to understand. I had to replay her words. Once the meaning settled, panic set in. Adriana. She was talking about Adriana. I knew the photo well. Adriana is sitting in the yard, but the grass is out of focus, a green cloud framing her tiny silhouette. When I first saw the picture, my breath caught. But, I didn’t think my reaction signified anything besides an acknowledgement of her cuteness. I didn’t think it meant I had feelings about her.
At that point, Miss Annie had only been gone for a month. I didn’t want to care about anyone again, especially not a dog. Loving a dog means accepting that one day we’ll lose them. There was no way in hell I was making that kind of commitment again. Right?
Overcome with turmoil, I excused myself and hurried inside. Without considering my actions, I scooped up Adriana, raced down the hallway, and plunked her in their crate. I closed our office door behind me. If Laurie saw Adriana, she would adopt her, and that couldn’t happen. But, I liked Laurie, didn’t I? The very few bits of logic I had left all said that my actions didn’t have anything to do with Laurie. They had everything to do with Adriana. What was I doing?
Forcing myself to move slower, to calm down, I gathered a different puppy named Angie from the pile in the living room and walked outside. For a stranger who only knew them through pictures, the one visible difference between Adriana and Angie was the latter had light brown splotches on her back.
“Here’s Adriana. They one you were asking about.”
“I love her spots,” Laurie said. “You couldn’t see them in the picture.”
“No. You couldn’t,” I answered.
My heart rate slowed after five minutes. After ten, I was confident my little subterfuge would go unnoticed. I’d figure out my feelings later. Maybe, I’d learn to like Laurie so much by the time the pups were ready to leave, I’d change my mind. But not now, because now, when I thought about someone else holding Adriana or feeding her or training her or walking her, I felt nausea.
I wish I could explain why I felt such a special connection with Adriana, but the only word that comes to mind is recognition. I recognized Ade from the moment I saw her, even if I wasn’t ready to admit it.
As though the universe conspired against me, things suddenly got more complicated. Laurie asked if she could go inside to breastfeed her baby. That meant she’d be thirty feet away from Adriana. I didn’t want Laurie any closer to her than she already was, but I couldn’t say no to a nursing mother. With great angst, I showed her into the living room. She situated herself on our couch. The puppies, minus one, slept a few feet away.
My heart was beating so loudly, it took a few minutes to hear Adriana’s cries. Once I heard them, I couldn’t hear anything else. Who could blame her? I had ripped Adriana away from a warm mound of slumbering bliss and locked her alone in our office. Her tiny whimpers sailed through the hallway and into our living room. They were so clear it was like a speaker hung over our heads.
Laurie looked at me with a puzzled expression. I responded with a shrug, hoping Ade would stop before I had to lie. But she didn’t. Instead, her whines only got stronger, each piercing cry evidence of my ruse.
“One of the pups doesn’t feel well,” I said. Sitting on that couch, lying through my teeth, I rationalized my anxiety about Laurie like this: she was raising a baby. She wouldn’t have the time or energy for a puppy. Yet, some part of me knew if she wanted to adopt any other one, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes.
Mason walked into the living room. “Who is screaming?”
“Angie doesn’t feel good,” I said.
“Angie is right-“ He started, but I cut him off with a single look. A moment passed between us, a moment of understanding that only happens between people who intimately know each other’s body language. Mason understood long before I did that I had fallen in love with Adriana.
“Huh,” he said, a smile hovering at the corners of his mouth. “She seemed fine a few minutes ago.
“She must have gotten hold of something,” I said.
“Must have,” he said.
It took two more weeks to admit what my heart wanted. But once I did, we adopted Adriana. She became our second foster failure.