A Letter for Winnie on His Fourth Birthday
August 17, 2019 was our own little Christmas morning. We woke up at sunrise to catch a ferry over to a city we used to call home. It felt a bit odd heading back to the mainland so soon after we made an extravagant farewell - and since we weren't certain things would work out, we kept our travel dates to ourselves. I still remember this day so vividly - the cloudy sky, getting toppled over the moment we met, and the ramen we ate afterwards in a town called Steveston - the day we met Winston was an adventurous day.
People have asked whether it was love at first sight. No, it most certainly was not. It is very confusing to go from a nobody to somebody-who-cares-for-a-living-thing, in a manner of minutes. I think I understand now what fatherhood is like. My heart was full, yes, but love? Meh. Love is a responsibility and a very big one at that. It's impossible to process such deep emotions when the skinny little rat-looking thing is jumping up and down and assaulting your face. After goodbyes were exchanged with the foster family and Winston zig-zagged his way to our car, Justin and I looked at each other with blank faces: oh god, what have we done. We of course never said those words out loud.
Getting home was relatively smooth sailing; so was the rest of the week. He would cuddle on the couch quietly while we busied in the kitchen, he wouldn't make a fuss when the neighbour's dog yapped, and he learned how to sit in just two days! If he were a human boy, he was the smart, well-mannered, tips-his-hat-to-the-ladies-respectfully kinda boy. But, it must have dawned on him one day that this was his forever home. That was the day he found his voice; he loves using his voice. When he feels wronged (an emotion he feels often), he will look me in the eyes and bark. He sits by me in the kitchen while I chop, which is actually quite endearing; but when I'm done, he licks the kitchen floors for anything that has flavour. It's disgusting.
If I were to give one advice to future animal parents, it is to purchase a waterproof mattress cover before welcoming a new pet into your home. Throw in a few extra sheets and blankets if you can afford it. The number of times he's peed on our bed (our bed that he was not allowed on ...yet) surpasses the total amount of times he's peed anywhere else in the apartment. I'm proud to say that I've never cried over finding pee puddles - thanks greatly to waterproof items and wood flooring. It is also a good idea to research the appropriate amount of water consumption for your dog's size.
Okay, I think I've embarrassed my son enough with these stories and my admittance of love or lack thereof. Don't worry, there is plenty of love now in the household. It's his birthday today and he enjoyed an hour-long hike and plenty of pumpkin purée. We were brought together by chance and we are very happy together. But I want to add one little disclaimer for anyone looking to adopt (which everyone should): sometimes there's this weird loss you feel, when you realize that your dog is it's own little being -- with his own stubbornness, quirks, and traumas -- and that those attributes might not be what you imagined growing old with. This isn't the same as wanting a brown curly haired dog and ending up with a short-haired black fella. You can also find a match that fits with your lifestyle and exercising needs (and you should), so I'm not really talking about that either. It's the nuanced moments, when you can't communicate with your dog when you desperately want to, or, when you find out that he likes cats more than dogs. But there has never been anything more rewarding than learning to love unconditionally, and to have him love me back conditionally.