This past week, I was feeling a little sorry for myself. I wanted to buy myself something nice for my birthday but decided I was too broke even to get the new tennis shoes I need.

I was wallowing.

I do that. I’m a wallower. I try not to wallow in public too much, so as not to get a reputation for walking around with a cloud over my head, but mild misery is my default mode. My comfort zone.

Joe Btfsplk
Joe Btfsplk. If you’re as old as I am, you’ll remember him.

Then I thought about last year’s birthday. Talk about misery. I had made a commitment to say farewell to Frankie in a week, on November 1, the Day of the Dead. I’m not going to link to any of my posts from that time, or even look at them myself; it’s too upsetting. But remembering last year, when I really had a reason to wallow, I realized I had gotten myself a pretty great early birthday present in July: Madeleine. She’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Catching the Happiness Bug

Adopting another dog wasn’t an easy decision. I felt like I was betraying Frankie, who I was/am still mourning. And I was free of responsibility for the first time in years. I wanted to travel.

But a funny thing happened last spring. I got infected by a friend’s happiness.

Leo, who blogs at Kenzo the Hovawart, also had a terrible horrible year, having to say good-bye to his beloved Viva. He wrote a lot of sad posts, which made me sad too, thus keeping me in my comfort zone.

Then he adopted another dog, Tilde. He kept posting pictures of her playing with his first dog, Kenzo, and writing these really funny blog posts. Clearly he was–dare I say it?–happy, even though I knew he was still thinking of Viva.

I felt envious.

The urge to travel was still there–and so was a fear of the unknown. What if I didn’t like a new dog as much as I liked Frankie? I’d be stuck at home AND in a bad canine relationship.

And if I liked the new dog, that would be even worse. Dogs die and rip your heart out.

Still, the possibility of happiness, even if it couldn’t last forever… it had a certain appeal. And so I took the plunge.

Madeleine the Monkey

As has been confirmed more and more since my last post, Madeleine isn’t much like Frankie, except for being small and white and cute and stubborn (it comes with terrier territory) and bending gender stereotypes–Madeleine pees like a boy, Frankie peed like a girl. Madeleine is bold, food driven; Frankie was shy and, though he liked his chow, was too stressed to eat at all outside. He didn’t spend his waking hours trying to manipulate me into feeding him or trying to find food in every nook and cranny.

Madeleine is a gremlin, a troublemaker, too smart for her own good. I spend a lot of time during my walks with her feeling frustrated, wanting to yell. True confession: I poked her in the side one morning because she was barking–not out of fear but because she thought it would elicit treats from me. I was annoyed with myself: In heading off her (once legitimate) anxiety over seeing other dogs pass in the street, I had inadvertently trained her to associate barking with treats. She wasn’t going to let the fact that she’d overcome her anxiety stop her. My poke didn’t bother her but made me feel like an awful person.

But I spend far more time laughing than I do frustrated when I’m with Madeleine, at her and at myself. I love her spirit, her energy, and, in the end, even her ability to outwit me.

And she walks really, really fast, guaranteeing that I produce endorphins.

She’s also very sweet. I suspect that if I was lying injured in the street, she would go for help, or at least guard me. I adored Frankie with all my heart, but I was never sure about his interest in taking on any kind of caretaker role reversal.

Arrr, arrr, arrrf!

A bit patchyI’m not suggesting that Madeleine is a cure all for my foul moods–as evidenced by my bout of wallowing over being broke. Nor am I recommending that everyone who is mourning the loss of a pet rush out to get another one. We all have to go at our own pace.

Above all, someone in the throes of a serious depression might find the responsibility of caring for a dog to be burdensome. Another blogger friend, Pamela, wrote very movingly about that on Something Wagging This Way Comes: Dogs Don’t Cure Depression.

I’m just saying that opting for the possibility of happiness by getting a dog turned out to be the right decision for me.

My friend Cynthia put my wallowing into perspective. En route to dinner with her last week, I complained about being broke. On the way home, I mentioned that I’d spent a half an hour on the internet looking for a pirate costume for Madeleine. She laughed at me and said, “I thought you couldn’t afford tennis shoes.”

It’s always dangerous to have friends who have your number.

Not to mention dogs.

18 thoughts on “Catching Happiness”

  1. I LOVE this wonderful wallowing story. Madeline reminds me of Molly. We had been losing so many dogs over the past few years (old age and cancer) that I knew it was a time for an emotional, financial and physical break. I thought we’d try living with just two remaining dogs. We never got there. And I fear financial ruin but it never stops me from buying their Halloween costumes.

    I adore the way you write, think and feel.

  2. How “wonderful” to find a fellow wallower!! And how refreshing to find someone who admits to it! I live in denial, but in truth, I think we all have a knack for wallowing at some time or another and about some thing or another. I loved this piece – it oozes human-ness in all its complexities. Madeleine sounds like a little cracker, with a knack for kicking one’s butt into life. No, dogs don’t cure depression, but they do give you a reason to get up in the morning, to get outside, and give structure and meaning to life – those things are usually casualties in the onslaught of depression.

    1. I suspect there are people whose default is happiness — but I don’t know many of them and suspect I would have a hard time dealing with them. I suppose “wallow” is one way to say “overthinking” and most people I like are a bit obsessive. Madeleine is impossible to ignore; she’s a little life force, and that’s a good thing. Nice to e-chat with a fellow wallower; we’ve got to stick together 😉

  3. Sometimes we’re surprised by joy. And sometimes it pees on our shoes, barks at us for attention (or treats), and leaves furballs all over our floors in a kind of stealth joy.

    Great post, Edie. I’m glad Madeleine is a good distraction from at least some wallowing. 🙂

    1. Ah yes, the furballs — or, in Madeleine’s case, little white hairs that she leaves all over the house. That’s a whole other thing. I suppose the fact I barely notice Madeleine’s shedding any more is a sign of acceptance. Or of giving up on my even cursory attempts to be a good housekeeper…

  4. Laughing out loud over here, about the tennis shoes versus the Halloween outfits, your friends observing skills, and last but not least, Madeleine’s spicy character. I suppose it is a coincidence she behaves a lot like Tilde in many ways, or maybe it was what we both needed? maybe they picked us, as people like to say… although I don’t believe that of course, if only as a last defense for my comfort zone!

    1. Yeah, I wasn’t really planning to follow quite so literally in your footsteps. Leo, but adopting a Jack Russell terrier–without realizing it–was kind of asking for it, wasn’t it? Let’s split the difference and blame our badly behaved subconsciouses…

  5. LOL. Loved the last line from your friend. Been there too. I am so sorry to hear you are broke. It sucks to be broke and want to be doing things. That damn roof probably did not help at all.

    I am very glad that Madeline has brought so much to your life, even if it means a little frustration. She has most definitely made it more exciting. I have to agree, seeing Leo so happy with the addition of Tilde touched me too. It was great to see her making him so happy. I am also loving how Madeline is making you laugh again.

    I can’t believe it has been almost a year since you said goodbye to Frankie. I hope he lets you know how much he approves of Madeline. 🙂

    1. Good memory, Mel! I’m still paying off that roof. I appreciate the sympathy and the empathy.

      It IS hard to believe it’s been almost a year, isn’t it? Even stranger is that it’s almost exactly 10 years since I adopted Frankie; scary how quickly time passes. But if there was ever a dog with a personality to distract me from all the sadness, it’s Madeleine.

  6. I keep telling my husband that we need to cut back on our spending, and then I turn around and shop endlessly for the dogs on the internet (I finally did buy myself a pair of shoes too though).
    We got a puppy about two months before our senior beagle died. It has not made the pain go away, but it has been a big help. We have two senior girls as well, but the puppy really has gotten us all moving more.
    I know how to wallow pretty well too, sometimes for no reason, but for the most part I think the dogs (and the blog) keep me too busy to do it very much.

    1. You’ll be happy to hear I just bought the shoes too and decided to pass on the pirate costume; I figured Madeleine would be happier with me if my feet didn’t hurt and that she would be glad to pass on the pirate costume. And, yes, the distraction factor can’t be denied when it comes to wallowing…

    1. You’re no slouch in the happiness department these days either, though it’s always bittersweet, isn’t it?

  7. When my Kissy was so sick 11 years ago, I didn’t think I wanted another dog. I didn’t want to go through the pain and heartache of trying to decide what would be best for another dog. But after just one day of coming home to an empty house, I couldn’t stand it. At first the hubby resisted, but then he suggested a Golden Retriever instead of another small dog. And I agreed. Now we have 3 dogs, making me think I REALLY AM a crazy dog lady. I’m a little “worried” about being broke, too; but there’s no way I’d give up the furry loves of my life! I’d sooner go hungry myself! I’m also glad you and Madeleine found each other — I love reading your stories about her mischief!

    1. The heart wants what the heart wants — though sometimes it takes a while for us to recognize just what that is. It sounds like your heart wanted a lot of furry fun!

      I’m thinking Madeleine is enough dog for me for now. But you never know…

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