It is cold and windy as we step out, my amma, the newest addition to our family Darla and I. We follow Darla as she sniffs the pavement, the grass and everything her tiny nose can. I zip my fleece jacket and wish I had worn shoes. Often she comes up for air and sneezes to dispel whatever it is she had her nose in. We watch, urging her to eliminate so we can go back to the cozy confines of our home.
It has been three days since she became part of our family. I have been alternating crate time and walks all day long. Nights seem easier but I am waiting for the pattern to break, to prove that this was a bad idea.
I have emptied out a drawer in my kitchen for her food. Dry kibble and treats. The ingredient list boasts animal protein and flavors that would have been unimaginable in my kitchen. Each morning and night I scoop up a cup of the dry meal and hope she will eat. Saathi is convinced all she needs is what we eat. I try reasoning with him about the differences between canines and humans. I can understand what she feels he insists quite believing what he says. I smile and resist any attempts to feed Darla dosai and rice.
Each evening I come back from picking Laddu at school. The twins are usually on the floor, Darla leaping with joy. The shrieks resound in the air until I restore order with a thousand barked instructions. I pass Darla and she leaps in the air fully intent on landing in my arms. Often she attempts a multi-step dive, from the floor to the sofa and from the sofa to me. I keep my distance before caving in and scooping her up. Her doggie smell makes me gag, the bath from the day before having done nothing to dispel the odors. I carry her in my arms as I urge the children to wash up and sit down to do homework.
The evening is an exercise in patience. Between a hyper-excited dog, three vocal children and a kitchen that needs attention, I am glad for the sobering presence of my Amma. She makes dinner, bends down to calm Darla every once in a while cajoling tiny dog to eat. The two have a bond that is a treat to watch. Darla leaps, her forepaws on my Amma’s knee and attempts to draw grandma into a game. My mom gamely resists and ends up baby talking to the little dog.
Saathi arrives and the mood changes. He carries her around, pointing to the stew simmering on the stove, the bunch of bananas on the counter and pretty much everything in the kitchen. He has taken on the role of a paw parent seriously. He pleads with me to give her home-cooked meals. He takes her for a walk and comes back home triumphant with a bag of poop.
The boxes from Amazon arrive each day. Dog shampoo, grooming tools, pet beds, a mop with rubber bristles to trap pet hair. I unpack and array them all on the table. For now, it seems this schedule could work. As the temperatures drop and I start loathing getting outside, it will be a challenge getting Darla her exercise and potty breaks. I am hoping that the children temper their excitement and this will settle into a new normal. One in which I am not consciously planning my day around Darla instead letting the day make Darla a part of it.
I can envision the years ahead. The evolution of us as a family, the family pictures now including a tiny dog. Most of all, I envision a childhood that my children will cherish, saying to people they meet in the future “I grew up with a dog…”