Almost ten years ago, I received an e-mail about a cocker spaniel taken in by a local rescue group where I’d adopted another cocker spaniel, Bailey. I had just lost Bailey a few months prior, and since they knew how much I adored cocker spaniels, they thought I might be ready to adopt again.
“Well, let’s meet,” I said. “If she doesn’t try to eat my dachshund, I’ll take her.”
And so we did. Phoebe gave her approval in about five seconds flat. And so our journey began. Given our rocky beginning that first night, I never would have guessed that she would become my next heart-puppy. She was truly terrified, and terrified dogs bite. A lot. She didn’t trust me at all.
In time, I would earn her trust. But first, I had to give her a name because the one the rescue group gave her didn’t suit her at all. A coworker suggested I give her a strong name, a name she could grow into. B’Elanna Torres, for those of you who aren’t Star Trek fans, was a Klingon/human engineer. Smart. Tough. Strong. Brave. Sometimes emotional. Always dependable.
And that is exactly what my little dog turned out to be.
She was far more than that, though. After she decided I was an okay person, she was absolutely devoted to me. And being devoted to her changed my life. You see, B’Elanna came into my life when it felt like everything was going wrong. Every year since 2001 had brought some huge upheaval or tragedy. My husband had walked out on me. Alex (another heart-puppy) had died suddenly. I was laid off from a job I loved and was currently working at the job-from-hell. Mac (my first heart-puppy) had died after a long battle with Cushing’s disease. And then Bailey had died suddenly, 14 weeks after I adopted him.
B’Elanna distracted me from all my pain, focused my attention on all the good. She loved to ride in the car. She loved to zoom. She never fought with or chased the cats, but she did claim Katie’s bed, even though she had two of her own. She liked bananas. She loved nectarines. She decided one day to give my chai latte a slurp when I stupidly left it unattended. Ever after, she deemed herself my official drink taster. Because it might be poisoned. Or yummy.
B’Elanna hated every dog park we visited, and particularly hated every jack russell terrier she ever met. But she was incredibly tolerant of all the dogs I brought home for overnight stays for rescue groups, even the Saint Bernard, whose enormous presence terrified her.
She was a lap-sitter, a hugger, and a kisser. She liked to jump up in my lap, put her front feet on my shoulders, and kiss my nose while I gave her a vigorous body rub. She didn’t mind sharing her chair or blanket. If one of the other dogs wanted to curl up beside her, that was okay, although she’d often give them an exasperated look. She didn’t even mind sharing my lap. She’d just climb over the big dog and find a spot, no problem.
Bella was the friend that Phoebe and Callie Sue desperately needed. Her very presence seemed to calm them. She wasn’t the gregarious, playful friend. She was simply a constant, reassuring presence.
I suppose that’s what she was for me, too. Sometimes silly, often adventurous, usually opportunistic, and always, always here, touching my hands, kissing my face, curled up in my lap. Here. As if it were her job to reassure me that everything was going to be okay.
Nine years, eight months, and one day. B’Elanna, my sweet, silly, brave little girl, I am beyond grateful for every moment. You were so brave, and you made me brave, too. I know my boys and the Phoebster are welcoming you home.