I don’t write or tweet as much about Olive as I do about Delia. I have been thinking about her and my story of how she came into my life.
The Arrival of Olive
For much of our marriage, we had two pugs: Boo and Delia.
Boo was my ex-husband Ehren’s pug. He made the mistake of telling me that he bought Boo to win back an ex-girlfriend he had wanted to marry. This probably should have been a red flag, but I didn’t pick up on it at the time. I insisted that I wanted my own pug and we wound up with Delia.
For those who have never interacted me with me before in any meaningful way, I love Delia. Delia is my familiar. I go through a lot of pain when I have to leave her. Working at an office for a year was torture to me because I had to leave Delia every day.
I started to get worried about my attachment to Delia. Even though she wasn’t very old, I was perpetually terrified by the concept of her inevitable death. I was terrified that when she died I would be catatonic and be unable to leave my bed and care for myself. I decided I wanted another dog so that when she eventually died I would be forced to get out of bed to take care of the other pug and I would not be completely destroyed by it. (Yes, I know this is extreme and I have issues.)
I kept wanting to adopt pugs from the Humane Society, but my ex said we could not. Eventually the pugs would disappear from the site and he told me they found a good home and not to worry about them.
Then one of my friends made the profoundly stupid mistake of telling me that the Humane Society kills dogs after a week if they are not adopted. I found out later this wasn’t true, but I felt consumed with guilt. I started yelling at my ex that we had allowed all those poor pugs to be murdered because we didn’t adopt them. I told him there was probably a nice pug at the Humane Society right now that would die if we didn’t adopt it.
I went to the site and I found Olive.
Ehren was kind of tired of me demanding another pug, so he told me to go visit her and fill out the paper work.
I nervously walked through a hallway of cages that were mostly full of big pit bulls looking for Olive. She didn’t have a picture on the site, so I didn’t know what she would look like. I knew she was black and she was a mix, but not much else.
Finally I got to the end of the hallway and I saw this tiny ball of furry energy throwing herself at the door of the cage. I knew the second I saw her that she was destined to be mine. Then I saw that someone else had already filled out adoption papers and I got very sad. I was told to fill out papers for her anyway in case the other family didn’t work out.
I asked the people at the Humane Society if they knew Olive’s story, why she was at the pound. They told me that a couple had adopted her to try and save their relationship, but it didn’t work, so they dumped her at the pound. The lady told me that the girl in the relationship had wanted to keep her, but couldn’t find an apartment that let her keep pets.
This upset me a lot. I think of the dogs as family. The idea that anyone would either just dump a dog like an old shoe they didn’t want anymore or be forced to part with a member of the family really bothered me. I couldn’t imagine having to do that and it made me feel a lot of sadness for Olive.
The other family didn’t work out and we got to bring her home on St. Patrick’s Day 2013.
For a really long time, it was difficult to integrate Olive into our lives. We each had our own dog, so we didn’t really know whose dog Olive was. We both liked her, but we didn’t feel particularly attached to her. I felt very bad for bringing her into the house and not making her feel loved the way I loved Delia.
When my ex-husband and I filed for divorce this year, we had two things we needed to deal with: Who would keep the house and who would keep Olive.
Neither of us wanted the house.
We bought the house six years ago with the idea that this was a starter house. I would start working and Ehren would earn more money and after a few years we would sell it and buy something larger.
We fell on some hard times and this plan never materialized. Neither of us wanted to live in the suburbs. For a while, Ehren wanted to live in the middle of nowhere, but then when he started working downtown he wanted to live in a more urban area.
I never wanted to live in Wisconsin. One reason I majored in journalism was because I wanted to be able to move to a lot of different places and I thought I would be able to do that if I was a journalist. I never quite got it to work because I didn’t know how to find jobs in other places.
When I became a programmer, there was always the possibility of working for Apple and moving out to the Bay Area. I had a lot of difficulty finding an iOS job in Madison and I was very angry and being stuck here and not being able to explore jobs in Chicago or somewhere else because I was stuck with the house and with my husband whose job kept him here.
Neither of us wanted the house.
I kept the house because the mortgage is a loan from my parents. We separated in winter and we knew we couldn’t just sell the house. Someone would have to stay with it and possibly never leave. Because I wanted the divorce, I took on the burden of dealing with the house.
Then there was the problem of Olive.
Olive is very crazy and energetic. She can’t live in a condo. She needs a large space to run around in. Anything else is simply not fair.
We decided that whoever kept the house would also keep Olive, so I wound up with both.
The Forever Home
A few months after Ehren moved out, Olive jumped into my lap. She jumps into my lap a lot, but she acted different this time. She grew very still and she gently placed her head in my lap in a submissive gesture.
This really freaked me out. I could not figure out what was going on.
Then I remembered.
Her earliest memory was of being adopted by people who broke up. The guy moved out of the house, the girl couldn’t keep her, so she wound up at the pound.
Olive had been waiting for months for me to take her back to the pound. She never grew attached to either of us because she assumed this was not her real home or family. She didn’t want to be hurt when she went back to the pound. Earlier this year she realized that she was not going back to the pound. She realized that Delia was her sister and that we were going to be together always, no matter what. She let herself bond to us and we’re now a family.
I realized I was doing a similar thing with my house.
I never thought I would be here for very long. We thought we were going to sell the house and move in a few years. I thought I was going to move out when I left Ehren. I thought I was going to accept a job at Apple or in Chicago or something and that I would leave. I never thought of this as my home.
One reason I let things get to the state they were in was that I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t think I would stay here, so I didn’t get invested in making this house into my home.
Been spending a lot of time recently thinking about things.
I have been trying to escape from my life. I keep thinking I should be doing things that other people are doing. I keep thinking I should live in a city and go out drinking all the time and spending time with people my own age. I keep thinking I should join an online dating site. I keep looking at these idealized “Sex and the City” versions what I think my life is supposed to be.
I don’t like it.
I like being alone. I like spending my evenings cooking and drinking wine in the bath. I should probably drink less wine, but I like being by myself.
I like making things. I would like to get back to working on my electronics, but right now I am enjoying the time I am spending cooking.
I like my pugs. I like my little house even if it is in the middle of nowhere.
For better or for worse, this is the life I have chosen. I can’t escape it by moving somewhere else because I am not fixing the underlying issue of myself which is that I feel unfulfilled and stressed out. Going somewhere else and making superficial changes isn’t going to fill the void I have within my soul.
I am working to fix up my house because I let it get bad because I couldn’t think of it as my home. It was the temporary place I was using to hold all my stuff and where I was sleeping. I am now committed to staying here.
Olive and I have both found our forever home.