Love for Animals
Never in a million years were we planning on getting a dog. We love dogs and cats, and one of my favorite ways to wind down after a long day is to curl up in bed and scroll an IG feed full of cute puppies and silly cats. The 9-screen Tiktok Sandman challenge took up an entire hour of my life; I was laughing hysterically and feverishly while Devin looked at me, concerned by my inability to stop giggling.
Pets as a Non-Option
We love cats and dogs, but considering we’ve had to move 3 times in 6 months, and most of the places didn’t take animals anyway, it seemed like a far-off plan, something we would do when we had our own place, when it was financially feasible, when we could get a little Corgi puppy, or Dachshund puppy, or French bulldog puppy. Or a cat, or a Savannah cat, or a Main Coone kitten (thank you Instagram for my increasingly expensive #petgoals).
While I always loved animals from afar, in meme and Tiktok form, I never understood the kind of commitment to having an animal that I saw in other people. That seemed like too much work to me, more responsibility than I wanted. A puppy dream was a pipe dream, one I fantasized about, but was worried the reality of would be too difficult.
An Unexpected Surprise
That all changed when I met Bradley. We were working up on Devin’s parent’s farm lot when a stray dog came wandering into the property. As we power-washed the roof to prepare it for a coat of silicone paint that would hopefully seal out rain, he played beneath us, wondering and curious. He jumped up to greet us, but rolled over to show his belly when we moved too quickly toward him. He was both scared and ecstatic, sleepy and energized. Instead of a leash, had had an electrical cord tied to an old collar with no nametag. He was covered in fleas, quite underfed, and I loved him more than any pup I’d ever seen, instantly, and unquestionably.
Now I Get It
Within a span of several hours, I understood every dog mom and dog dad’s paw printed license plates, bumper stickers, key chains, willingness to clean and organize and profess their love of their own dog. I wanted bumper stickers and key chains. I wanted his face all over my phone. Now I understood.
Bradley was starving. After a long day working in the plot, Devin and I were hungry. We could not decide what to do with Bradley. We asked neighbors if they knew whose he was. There was a phone number on a neighborhood bulletin board, asking if anyone had seen 2 dogs, one “white and brindalish”. When we called the number, they said they’d already found their dogs. I didn’t want him getting hit by a car, but it was getting dark, and we had to decide what to do.
Taking Bradley Home
I couldn’t leave him there, hoping that he would be there again next week. Devin and I loaded Bradley up into the back of his truck, took him with us to grab some Korean food (he inhaled a piece of meat jun like nothing I’d ever seen) and went about getting him supplies. Bradley was covered in fleas, but I didn’t care. I held him in my lap as we drove to the pet store. I didn’t even blink buying the first round of pet supplies he would need. There was no concern in my head except to get him clean and safe and healthy. He scarfed down a bowl of dog food in 3 seconds flat.
Bradley’s First Bath
Next, because he really needed to get clean, we took him to Devin’s shop. Bradley was terrified of the hose, so we filled up a large cup, pouring the water over him at 9pm at night as he shivered and twisted and scratched my legs with his overgrown nails. I loved him even more. The flea shampoo got all over me, and my shirt and shorts were soaked. I cradled him, determined to get the soap off his skin, and then, once he was dry, I held him while I scoured every inch of his fur with a flea comb.
Fleas, Fleas, Oh My
There is something extremely satisfying about the “pop” of a flea between your first finger and thumb when you have OCD, or maybe for everyone. I thought to myself that cleaning fleas from dogs could be a kind of therapy, then realized how ridiculous that sounded. I combed him for over 30 minutes. From his cheeks to his haunches, Bradley had more fleas than I could count. He fell asleep in my lap as I combed and combed and combed him.
We weren’t supposed to have him in our old house, and the new place we were about to move into wasn’t ready yet. Our attempts to get him to pee at a neighborhood park were unsuccessful, as all the new smells and sounds had him too amped up. We couldn’t leave him at Devins shop, so I carried him into the truck, sat him on my lap, and we snuck him into our room in our old house, hoping he wasn’t a whiner or a barker.
We couldn’t sleep for the excitement of him. As fleas kept dying and falling from his fur onto our sheets, we couldn’t have cared less. As he squirmed and twisted and took up space on the bed, we didn’t complain, just petted and hugged him. We stared at his small exhausted body, his eyes shut tight while he breathed in his dog dreams, and couldn’t fall asleep.
The First Night
At around 2am, Bradley hopped up off the bed, clearly searching for what we knew was coming. He looked around, found no better option, and within 5 seconds was peeing like a horse on the floor. Dogs don’t like to pee in places where their paws get wet, but he had no choice. We figured he’d been dehydrated, and the water we’d given him had finally worked through his system. I couldn’t help but laugh—what were we supposed to do—because he had nowhere else to go, it seemed mean to get mad at him. Devin cleaned up the puddle, while I wiped his paws, and we all fell asleep, finally.
Going to the Humane Society
The next day, we knew we had to get him checked out and see if he had a microchip. I took Bradley for a walk, while Devin got us ready to leave. Bradley looked like he’d always been in my car’s backseat, nose out the window, panting in the wind. At the Hawai‘i Humane Society, we learned he wasn’t chipped, and that he would be held for 5 days, with his photo on a website so someone could claim him. They lead Bradley away, and I started counting the hours.
Getting Bradley Back
Yesterday morning, at 8:30am, we got the call. He was healthy, neutered, and ready to get picked up. Devin was at work and I had to get some writing done and apply to jobs, so we would have to wait until the afternoon to get him. Finally, Devin called me saying he was done with work, and I rushed out the door to pick him, and then our new pup, up.
Last night, we bought him supplies: a bed, a collar, toys, toothpaste, everything we could think of that we would need. There’s a small pond in our backyard, and Bradley pounced it as though it were land, his front paws immersed in muddy pond-water while looking confused. We couldn’t stop laughing.
Falling in Love All Over Again
Now, it’s Saturday morning as I write this, and Bradley is resting on the ground, while I type the chronology of our getting him. He has no idea how much of a surprise he was in our lives.
I’ve noticed that most often the surprises in life that you don’t expect—having to move, finding a stray, quitting a job you can’t stand, meeting a new person, paddling out when the waves don’t look great—are usually the best ones. These are the times when you find a new, even better place to live, one that accepts pets. This is the time when you find your doggie soulmate. These are the times when you start writing because you’re not bartending and getting wasted all the time. That is the time you fall in love, as I did with Devin. Or the times when the waves aren’t stellar, but you have the most fun just because you paddled out.
These are the other definitions of stoke. Stoke that is not only about surfing and catching waves, but stoke that runs deeper, that is celebratory and also scary, that includes having the faith of the late take-off in your own life. This kind of stoke requires you to trust, but also to believe, in yourself and what is in store for you.
Bradley was in store for us, regardless of the challenges he’s presented, and probably will present, but it doesn’t matter, because it was meant to be. We couldn’t be more stoked.