Tori, the dog

14 Sep

My dog is the best gift I ever got for myself. She makes ‘living alone’ possible. My friends think I’m a hip, independent chick, but I really need companionship, just like everyone else. Unfortunately, I dislike the extended presence of most people in my own home, so animals are the perfect answer. I grew up with dogs in my household, and the one I had from ages 6 to 12 was at the top of my BFF list. Maybe it’s because she always played the games I wanted to play with genuine enthusiasm and without much input. Regardless, that pooch meant the world to me, and I was a very sad child when my evil parents drove me away from her, to a whole ‘nother country, where they wanted me to have more opportunities for a better future. I never forgave them.

After Charlotte Maria Pessôa Varjão dos Santos Leal was left behind, it took a couple of years for my evil parents to be convinced that a dog was imperative to my emotional development. Our apartment at the time was your average, fresh-off-the-boat immigrant family abode; small, with hand me down furniture and outdated carpeting. I don’t know if I was aware of this, at the time, however, because all my friends lived in similar homes.  That’s a lie. I was very aware of it. We’d moved from a four bedroom, two bath large property with a pool in Brasil to a one bedroom basement apartment. It sucked hard.  I pestered my parents endlessly to let me have a dog; it was the least they could do after stripping me of my innocence and happiness, I thought – a small consolation prize. We eventually moved into the TWO bedroom apartment with outdated carpeting that became available on the third floor of our building. Moving on up, we were. I didn’t feel the need to rely on my literary heroine, Anne Frank, as much after this move because we now only had two people per bedroom… and I had a dog!  My sister and I went to the town of Ashland’s animal shelter, signed some papers, and took home a cocker spaniel mix.  The joy didn’t last very long, as, after a couple of months, I came home from school to find my parents had returned Choquito back to the pound. I had never wanted to break my father’s teeth with my own fist as much as I did that day. I weighed the consequences and decided my best shot at rebelling would be to skip school the next morning, and let my mother deal with the principal’s office calling. “It’s your fault for traumatizing me,” I told her. From then on, I decided I would move out as soon as I graduated from college. Only then, no one would have a say in how many animals I would cram in my home. The landlord, maybe, but when you’re a middle school student you have bigger and better things to worry about.

I don’t believe I was ever as true to my word as I was when I made that promise to myself.  I had no idea what a drastic change it would be from having my mother to lean on for every-thing – to being completely alone. Granted, she was a 30 mile drive away, waiting with open arms, my clean laundry, and tupperwares galore full of delicious food, but still, it was an overwhelming experience.  I moved out on a Wednesday, and on Saturday I was picking up Tori from the airport. I had found her on and had her shipped from Missouri to Boston. People thought it was too much too soon – an apartment and a dog – but I knew better. I knew myself enough to imagine how I would chicken out if I did truly live on my own. By Thursday night I was already crying in my living room, wallowing in my loneliness.  The incessant fire truck – police car – ambulance – screaming juveniles noise coming from underneath my window didn’t help, and I counted the hours until my four-legged companion would come and save me.

And save me she did. She was the reason I didn’t flee when I found out I had mice in the apartment (I have a real phobia – don’t judge). She was the reason I didn’t move back in with my parents when I learned that one could easily rack up a $275 heating bill in Boston’s badly insulated old apartment buildings.  She was there for me, with her pleading eyes, when I contemplated giving up once I became unemployed and depressed. She instinctively knew all I needed was for her to massage-lick my feet followed by a big dog-kiss on the cheek. I knew everything would be all right. I was her mother, and I would find a way to provide for her.

Fast forward a few years and here we are, despite the ups and downs, still a solid team.  There were some days she had to go on canned tuna and rice because the budget wouldn’t allow for her usual Science Diet, but I don’t think she minded. As she lays in bed with me in front of the fan (her favorite spot), sleepy after a meal on this rainy Saturday morning, I’m happy and relieved that I have, at least this once, kept my word.


3 Responses to “Tori, the dog”

  1. barbara September 18, 2009 at 10:45 #

    tori is an awesome dog! 🙂


  1. OK, not so fun « Night Writings - March 9, 2010

    […] watching American Idol in the living room. Juliana, you need to go home. It’s getting late, Tori needs you. Be quiet, woman, you hit your head, you’re […]

  2. Saint Juls « Night Writings - April 16, 2010

    […] Families for International Students Do Tori and I count as a family? Will the student be a very attractive heterosexual male? Oh, they’re […]

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