16 pounds of anger and love

It took me years to convince my partner to adopt a dog.

I had known from a young age that I wanted to join the Peace Corps, and luckily my partner supported me. Three years after our relationship, I was accepted and went to Mongolia. I joked that on my return as soon as I got off the plane, we would take a taxi straight to the shelter. In the middle of my two years in Mongolia, he proposed, and I started planning our wedding. It turns out that wedding planning is tough, which put my plans for a dog on hold.

Once the seed is planted for a dog, it will grow until the desire is unbearable. I was wandering through Central Park pointing out every single – and I mean every single – person with a dog and asked, “Why is they getting a dog and I am not?” This started out as a joke, but after we got married it became a serious question. The question became more and more difficult for him to answer.

I was teaching at the time, and when the New York schools declared a rare snow day that year it felt like a gift. Snow-covered NYC is like no other place in the world. Walking around town during a huge snow storm is magical. The whole city is stopped. Central Park muffles the noise of traffic and people, and everything is quiet. During the blizzards, my husband and I had a tradition of taking advantage of the city in that state. Fortunately there were no dogs around. Luckily I had Instagram. My Instagram was devoted to dogs, hiking, and tattoos, but mostly dogs.

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As we sat in a cafe and watched the snow fall, he read and although I’m an avid reader, I flipped through Instagram and crawled over the mutt. I worked myself into such a heartbroken state that I started crying with frustration and the sheer kindness of dogs. I wish I could say I’m kidding, but no. The memory is burned into my brain.

I returned to work the next day. I called my husband on my way home. I often got off the subway early to walk past the East Harlem school where chickens were standing in a fenced yard. If I couldn’t have a dog, at least I could look at chickens. The logic isn’t right, but I was desperate. I was just about to do my daily pitch for a dog when he said, “Okay, we can get a dog.” I practically ran home. We agreed to meet and three days later we had Bertie – or Bertram if he’s naughty.

Bertie is 16 pounds of anger and love. A mess of a Chihuahua mix, it’s a cocktail of neuroticism and fearlessness. Although my husband fought a dog’s responsibility for a long time, he was all there on the day we picked Bertie up. When Bertie was too tired to go up the stairs to our fifth floor corridor, my husband carried him.

Bertie is not an easy dog, but he is our dog. He chose us and we chose him. We are a neurotic and fearless family.


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