Though I’ve mentioned him in a post or two during the last year, I’ve not spent much time talking about Truman.
It’s time to rectify that.
It’s time to tell the story of H. S. Truman Brooks.
It began when Archie died.
What I neglected to discuss in my post about Archie was the chaos that roiled the human component of my family during that time.
The morning of September 15 as I wrestled with the specter of euthanasia for Archie, my phone rang. It was my sister.
“You need to come to Florida,” she said. “Mom needs to have open heart surgery.”
My mother, whose last visit to the doctor was for my birth in 1968, had gone into the hospital the day before with some serious breathing issues and chest pain. The doctor had kept her overnight for morning tests.
In any case, I asked my sister the logical question.
“Today,” she replied.
My mind went immediately to Archie in his cage at the vet’s office – clinging to life and fighting to live. I told my sister that so long as he was breathing I would have to stay in California. Even if he came home from the vet, he’d be in no shape to travel and I wasn’t going to leave him.
Part of me thinks that this is in part why Archie let go when he did. It was, in a way, his ultimate last gift to me in a 10-year relationship filled with his unconditionally providing for my emotional needs.
Archie passed that afternoon and I made my arrangements to head for Florida.
Needless to say I was devastated and barely in control of my emotions, but upon arrival in Florida I had to slap on a happy face and bury my pain. Breaking down in front of someone who’s just had major heart surgery isn’t such a good idea.
There was ample mishegoss during the week (as there always is with my family). My brother had major surgery (a story for another post) and of course all of this transpired just before Rosh Hashana, and my sister was expecting 13 people for dinner on Friday and 20 for lunch the following day. And we were doing all the cooking.
And so the week went: Driving to Fort Lauderdale to visit mom. Driving to Miami to see my brother. Racing to the market for cooking supplies. Standing in the kitchen deciphering kosher cookbooks. And all the time weeping uncontrollably in between.
Such a lovely time it was.
And the only thing that made me feel better was looking at pictures online of puppies.
It was during one of these canine cavalcades that I came upon a site called Next Day Pets. It’s kind of an aggregation site where people who have pets to sell – from average folks needing to get rid of a pet to high-end breeders – can list their animals from dogs and cats to other more exotic species. For the dogs you can sort by pretty much any breed. I’d already thought about getting a second dog (someone to keep Archie company) and had been toying with the idea of a Labradoodle.
Since I couldn’t even look at the face of a Wheaten without hyperventilating I perused the pups of mixed Poodle and Lab descent. I figured I’d learn a bit about the breed and see if I could find some people whose puppies might merit a closer look when I was more ready to bring another puppy into the house in a couple of months.
Then I saw him.
It was a picture with a lawn chair and this little black pup had his paws on the cushion and was gazing up through the armrest with eyes I recognized. It was the same look Archie used to give me – just when he’d done something wrong and knew he needed to suck up.
A few emails later and I was on the phone with the breeder.
NOTE TO READERS: In March 2008 I received several a couple of emails from people regarding the breeder from whom I received Truman. Both pointed me to stories accusing the breeder of … well, for lack of a better description, unethical breeding practices. One person had gotten a puppy from her. The other was a veterinary technician. I must say that in my extensive research on this breeder nearly two years ago, I found no evidence of such things. And my experience with her has been stellar – not to mention the fact that Truman is healthy and happy. That being said, based on the accusations, and the proof provided to me, I am opting to remove any and all reference to her name or kennel from my site. I will refrain from any further action, but feel that in light of the information I have received at this point, I can no longer vouch for her or recommend her as a breeder.
It was about two minutes into our chat when I began to weep. I told her the story of losing Archie and the experience I was having at the moment with my family.
“I’m a horrible person, how can I think about getting a new puppy now? My dog’s bed isn’t even cold yet. What if I’m making a big mistake?”
Her response was a balm for my raw nerves and a comfort to my broken heart.
She shared her own story of losing her “soulmate” dog several years earlier and how merely weeks later when another puppy came into her life she thought the same thing … and that dog is now her shadow. After sharing her story, she then also told me a bit about Truman (whose name at the time was Spike), and said that based on just the bit I’d shared, she was pretty sure that he’d be a match.
And then she offered the most gracious thing of all.
“Look Cathy, if you connected with this puppy just by the picture, you owe it to yourself and him to see. If it doesn’t work and it’s really not a fit, I will take him back. The most important thing to me is my pups’ happiness, and I know you will be a wonderful parent to him.”
One month later I drove to San Francisco International Airport’s cargo bay to pick up my new furry child.
It’s now just a bit over a year since that fateful day, and the dog now known at H.S. Truman Brooks has proven himself a most worthy successor to Archie.
There are moments when I think of Archie, when he comes into my mind so strongly I look around half expecting to see him come trotting up. It’s generally in those moments, when I catch sight of Truman nearby that I realize that may just be Archie’s paw guiding me as a reminder that even when we lose someone important or a deeply connected relationship ends, there will always be another soul nearby to help soften the blow and cushion your heart.