Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pepper - The Spice of my life

I grew up with pets - all sorts of them. Unfortunately, for the first several years of my marriage, we never had one. Michael always had reasons and I never really pushed it. My kids kept asking for a pet and the closest we came to having one was a goldfish that lasted two days.

In 1995, our lives took a dramatic turn. The California housing market was really bad - we put our home on the market and after several months, sold it at a loss. My brother visited us and convinced us that the real estate market was booming in Sri Lanka, so after a few months of consideration and encouragement from several old friends who were in the housing and development market, we decided to go to Sri Lanka for two years.

We shipped all our belongings and arrived on an auspicious August night. The next day, we had the largest family reunion since my mother passed away in 1983 and it hasn't been eclipsed since. It just so happened that siblings, half-siblings, and neices and nephews who lived in different parts of the world happened to be visiting Sri Lanka for various reasons and we all got together for the most memorable lunch.

A week later, we had rented a large house with a large yard and the inevitable request for a pet dog. We wanted a male tan German Shepherd - seemed the best choice for our family. Territorial, yet loyal and loving to its own family. We visited several breeders but didn't find the dog we were looking for. There was one more place to visit - they had advertised black German Shepherds. Not our ideal choice, but since we were half-way there, why not go there so we could tell our kids that a dog was probably not in the stars for us yet.

We arrived at the kennel and were greeted by a raucous barking brood. Many of the dogs had already been booked except for three - all females. Apparently, the male dogs are snatched up right away because dogs aren't usually spayed or neutered in Sri Lanka, so owners don't want to have to bother with the possibility of dealing with females getting pregnant. This was my fear too and I was not really interested in checking out the remaining dogs. God had plans beyond my comprehension. The runt of the litter, a feisty little thing started barking and wagging its tail and following my seven year old daughter. About an hour later, we were driving home with this brand new puppy, whom my daughter aptly named Pepper.

The first night we placed her inside a large box filled with a blanket and a rubber ducky in the master bathroom - she couldn't settle in and kept barking until we brought her into our bedroom. For the first few weeks, I woke up at five to take her outside to potty train her and had to put up with a few "accidents." Soon, she was my alarm clock as she woke me to go out to do her "business."

Pepper's first few months were riddled with health issues, yet her will to live made her a survivor. Almost a year later, she was on a Singapore Airlines flight headed to her new home with us in California. She loved to travel, so we did many roadtrips with her to San Francisco and Arizona and finally to our home in Nevada.

Fourteen years ago when we took her into our home, I couldn't have predicted that Pepper would completely spice up our lives and leave an indelible pawprint in our hearts that could never be forgotten.

She brought a defiance without being totally disobedient, she brought protection without being overbearing, she brought tenderness without being overly sentimental. It's a common opinion that dogs take on the personalities of their owners. In many ways, Pepper reflected me.

Now, as I hold on to the memories of her, I will know what it is like to hold something that I didn't give birth to, yet love like my own child.

No comments: