Before we pulled into their gravel driveway and an Amish man handed me a two-pound puppy whom I would later call Rosie, I had never held a dog in my life. She was tired, and she meekly let my hand cushion her body against my chest. I could acutely feel the rhythm of heartbeat against my hand. So acutely, in fact, that I asked my father to take her from me out of the fear that I would damage this small, beautiful thing.
We put a pee pad inside an Amazon delivery box to carry her in for the six-and-a-half-hour car ride. As I began to drive along the thin road cutting through the Pennsylvania farmland, she whined. “It’s okay, baby,” my father assured her. She whined again. A few minutes later she threw up in the box. My father replaced the pee pad and then replaced me as the driver. She was figuring, looking at me and looking over the flaps of the box at the seat next to her.
I couldn’t imagine what it is like for her to be taken from her family at eight weeks of age and delivered to a new one without warning on a Saturday morning. After throwing up a second time, she started to explore more. I sat in the passenger seat with her and a pee pad on my lap. She put her paws on the side of the door and tried to look out the window. She climbed up onto the center console and almost fell into the space between the seats. I picked her up and put her back on my lap.
I’ve read the phrase “puppy eyes” hundreds of times in grade school, but I never understood its heart-stopping power until Rosie told me she wanted to sleep without saying a single word. I returned her to the Amazon box where she was less susceptible to the car’s jolting, and I saw the rise and fall of her belly. I am nineteen and younger brother is fifteen. Seeing her fall asleep reminded me of my baby brother’s face smooshed against his pillow on Saturday mornings.
It remains unbelievable to me that my family could purchase so much joy and excitement. After her second day at home she climbed onto the first step of the family room on her own, and I, forgetting she didn’t know how to get down, ran away to tell my mother. Her second night she slept in my room and at 4:30 am, she put her paws on the side of my bed to tell me to get up. I didn’t because it was 4:30, but my younger brother discovered the present she left us on the carpet. “Oh,” he said. “Rosie pooped on the carpet.”
I smiled. I am simultaneously breathless because she’s beautiful, terrified because she’s so small, and beaming in the light of her effervescence. Zadie Smith would call this state happiness. Rosie has completed our family. We all gather in whatever room she falls asleep in to share stories about how she stretches like a cat when she wakes up, or how our hearts melt whenever she wipes her eyes with her paws. When she asks to climb onto the sofa, we race to pick her up. When she whines my house stops. We abandon our lives to run to her.
She is not a toy; she is a conscious, living, breathing being. We talk to her and she communicates with us. It is amazing to have a little sister. I worry oftentimes, because that’s what I do, as I compare the rise and fall of her chest to my own. I expect my lifespan to approach 100 years. We expect hers to fall short of 15. It is impossible to freeze her at this state forever. She will grow, and we watch her grow everyday. Rosie is three months old and has doubled in size. Every one second for me is seven seconds for her. I think of ways to tell her body to slow down – to breathe space into those seven seconds until they resemble mine. But no one can halt the unfailing hands of time.
When I resigned myself to this fact, it was not heartbreaking, as I expected. It was energizing. We love her deeply; when my family is with her, I have no doubt there is nothing else any of us would rather be doing. As days spread out into weeks, she is the ultimate reminder that presence is more rewarding than productivity.
When I hold her, I often think of Seneca’s metaphor for making the best use of time in his 2,000 year old writing On the Shortness of Life.
You must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flowSeneca, On the Shortness of Life
When we lose Rosie, we will move on because she will stay with us forever. In the meantime, let’s drink.