If you had asked me six months ago if I was going to get another dog anytime soon, I would have said no.
I had my two remaining pack members and had decided I would just love them. I was being selfish and didn't want to put myself through any more potential heartache.
But I think John Lennon said it best when he said life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. (I wonder how many dogs he had...he had to have a few to have that depth of wisdom.)
An innocent post on Facebook led me to our fourth German Shepherd and a new member of our pack. Ava.
Oh, she was gorgeous, all big ears and wide smile in the photo I saw.
The first thing that struck me was how much she looked like Comet, Lamar's first shepherd and Roubaix's sire.
Comet had been the 120 - pound hulk of a dog who had been the Gibbs to my quirky Abby-ness. I swear, if he had been able to slap me upside the head, he probably would have.
But he had loved me and I him, as I did Venus and Roubaix - having unique, special relationships with each of them. I will always believe Venus was my true soul mate, my Velcro dog, the one who ‘got' me; Roubaix was my spoiled boy, the mischievous one, the one who when he grieved himself to death after his mother passed, I couldn't bring myself to write about him because that made it real.
I had said "no more" - I would love Pumpkin and Angel Doodle and that would be it. No more - such a permanent stance.
Cole had told me when I lost the evil beagle and Venus within a week of each other that the love I had would be greater than the pain.
And here I was, heading to my hometown to get this new love.
I woke up that morning, nervous, anxious and excited.
This was the first time a family decision had been made about getting a dog - usually, it was me, rescuing one and bringing it home, Lamar shaking his head, wondering what kind of crazy dog woman he had married.
I prayed that morning, prayed for her sweet family that was wanting her to go to a good home, prayed for her to adjust well, for our dogs to adjust well, prayed for us all to be a happy family.
But we talked it over, under and through and knew our hearts, no matter our fears, needed this. Needed her.
We wondered what the other two pups would think.
"I know what Pumpkin's going to tell Doodle," I said. "'I told you, I told you - you think you are the baby and just you wait - that girl will bring home another dog. I told you, I told you!'"
I'm not sure if that's what Pumpkin really said or not, but she got her whiskers twisted. Even though that little border collie had not been happy about her promotion to alpha dog, she wasn't so sure she was willing to give it up to a new, bigger sheriff in town.
Angel Doodle Loopy Loo hid behind my legs and peeked at her before finding her confidence to shower her with her sweet puppy pittie mix kisses. Ava seemed to relish the attention.
In person, she was even more like Comet - the way she walked, the way she held herself. Her inquisitive nature, her hearing Cole's loud playing in the bedroom made her sprint to check on him.
She immediately took to following Lamar's every step, like Roubaix did, being his shadow.
Seeing her hopping onto the couch and the way she laid her head in Lamar's lap reminded me so much of Comet, I found myself in tears, feeling almost as if, by some small way, the dogs we had lost over the years were being returned to us in some form.
I thought of the times I had fussed about the accidents, the drool, the trash that had been systematically dismantled from the kitchen to the corner of the living room.
How when they were gone, I sobbed and said if I had it to do over again, I would never, not ever, fuss about what my dogs did again.
My time with them was too short and messes and accidents can be cleaned up. My attitude with the collie and the doodle had become one of less fuss, more forgiveness.
Even as I typed this, big Batman like ears peered over the screen of my laptop, before her smile appeared. A quick pup kiss, and she was off to check on Cole again before returning to her new designated spot on the couch.
Cole was right, the time had come where the fear of the pain would be outweighed by the love of a dog.