Our very best boy Dylan died in April, before we moved to New York. Living without him has been agonizing. Dylan was the kind of dog people write novels about. He was a Lassie, Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller kind of dog. Dylan was the kind of dog who only seems to exist in fiction, who changed his people irrevocably, had a preternatural intelligence and loyalty that ran deeper than oceans. He was also exceedingly handsome, to the point where it was unusual to be out in public without garnering compliments. He was the kind of dog who makes you believe in God. Dylan truly was the best damn dog who has ever lived.
We waited a long time before adopting another dog. It was hard. We resisted the urge to rush into adopting out of grief. We made ourselves really feel and process the loneliness and the utter emptiness of life without Dylan. Those first few hours and days were all but unbearable. We laid on the couch clutching his toys and each other. We drove to the secret spot in the mountains where we got married, just the two of us and Dylan, and spread some of his ashes in the icy winter river.
God, it was awful. And it was beautiful. We found that elusive grace that can only emerge from grief.
We waited until we were in New York and the sharp edges of our pain had dulled. And then we decided to adopt a pup. We spent hours perusing rescue organizations. We found a dog. A labrador basset hound mix who looked absolutely ridiculous and I loved instantly. We had a Skype interview to prove our merit as dog parents. We signed up for the next adoption event.
Adoption Day was the gloomiest, stormiest day I’ve ever seen in my entire life. A longtime desert-dweller, I was not accustomed to the kind of persistent torrential downpours that are somewhat common here. It was miserable. We thought about our trek all the way out to Brooklyn, about slogging a new dog all the way back. We thought about cancelling. We thought about Dylan, and we knew it was time.
Around the corner and onto the train, cold and sopping. But on our way! And then it happened. The thing all women Subway riders are warned about. The masturbator appeared. He came in from another car and sat right across from me. He looked me dead in the eyes and stuck his hand down his baby blue sweatpants. He leered. And he started stroking.
And I froze. I was furious at myself, but I didn’t holler at him. I didn’t stand and deliver a triumphant feminist manifesto. Instead, as it always does when I’m uncomfortable, my face turned into the grimace emoji. I turned my dripping wet grimacing face to my husband who, still chattering away about our Dog Day, hadn’t noticed The Masturbator. I reached out. He looked at my Grimace. He looked at The Masturbator. And then Daniel stood and delivered the Feminist Manifesto for me! Gosh, I love him.
Daniel hollered and berated and all the while, The Masturbator kept jerking it. He didn’t stop, not even while Daniel loudly yelled, “We can ALL SEE YOU. Get your hand off your junk. You don’t do THAT in HERE.” My beloved husband, protector of all. At the next stop we, and everyone else in the car, promptly exited and reported The Masturbator.
We were now cold, soaked, sexually harassed, and late for the adoption event. Maybe it was all a sign that today just wasn’t the day. But, we had to. We just had to keep going. For Dylan. All the way to Brooklyn on the delayed trains. Off at Marcy Station, on to a little dog store by the river.
There were puppies. There were oldies. There were tinies and mediums and bigs. All kinds of dogs! There was a scaredy in the corner, refusing to look at anyone, and a Happy Lab who charged at me with a full erection (honestly, I couldn’t escape men and their boners that day). And then, there she was. That weird-looking beauty. A stubby little basset hound with the head of a Labrador. A Bassador. Our new best friend!
I turned to point her out to Daniel. But he was on the floor. And the scaredy from the corner was creeping into his lap. The little girl who had refused to look at anyone all morning nestled into Dan’s lap. She was a black lab with a fresh pink heart-shaped scratch on her nose and a splotch of white fur on her chest. Our new best friend.
We named her Marcy. After the Station and the highest peak in New York. A peak her big brother Dylan loved to climb.