The sleep deprivation didn’t help. Did you know that a three-month-old puppy can only hold its pee for four hours? Me neither. For months my boyfriend and I took turns waking up in the middle of the night to walk the dog. It felt like we’d had a baby—except one who would never figure out how to feed itself or say anything or make any money.
The feelings I had after adopting Romy were parental clichés: immediate and overwhelming love paired with nauseating dread that I’d somehow kill him within two hours. Since I was young, I’ve been terrified of being inadequate—in relationships and otherwise. It’s Brené Brown 101: By loving someone imperfectly, it reinforces your anxiety that you’re not worthy of love. So when we first got Romy, if I made a mistake—forgot to feed him or stepped on his paw or whatever—it set off a total shame spiral: “I suck at this! The dog clearly wishes he was still homeless!” Or, worse, my boyfriend became a projection screen for my insecurities: “Admit it, you think I’m a bad dog mom, and that I should be sterilized!” Of course, my narcissistic self-flagellation preexisted Romy, but he fanned the flames. Annoyingly, it seems that every big step in our lives—a relationship, a kid, college, whatever—is just a new stage for our childhood traumas to audition their many talents.
The shelter was full of supersweet, seemingly well-adjusted dogs. I wasn’t interested. But then I spotted this snow-white, three-month-old puppy, visibly shaking at the back of his crate. The lady at the shelter told us he’d been found alone on the street in Shanghai. Something about how visibly traumatized he was made it clear that he was a great choice for a first dog.
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