Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Fantastic Mr. Fitz

Last night, I was reading over the post I wrote about the loss of my dog, Newman...I felt compelled to post, not more on that loss, but on healing from it.

Time does heal. And the thing about time is that, more often than not, change accompanies it.
For my family and for me, change came in the form of a little black ball of fur we call "Fitz"
(or Honey Fitz, or FitzPatrick, FitzGibbons, Fitter, Fitty, or whatever you like...)


At first, I was adamantly opposed to the idea of getting another dog. I felt it would be like replacing that which could not be replaced. However, as the weeks passed, I found myself yearning. I missed having a dog in the house. My mom and I popped into pet stores occasionally, just to look, I always said. Usually, we would see a puppy we loved and play with it, and then go home.

My mom took more initiative and started searching for breeders on-line. We wanted a shih-tzu. A male. One that did not look like Newman. That was my search criteria. After a lot of research, e-mails, and phone calls, my mom convinced me to go with her to look at a litter of shih-tzu pups in Rhode Island. So, early on a Saturday, we drove the hour and a half, just to look.

Just looking turned into a three hour visit with each puppy in the litter, and inevitably, a down payment on an adorable little guy, all black, save for a white patch on his forehead and white on the tips of his paws.

The puppies were too young to leave their mama. So we left and proceeded to get the things the puppy would need. We also played the name game daily. Our puppy was Rondo, then Dexter, then Gizmo, Tucker, and finally, Fitz. I had it printed on an ID tag and secured it on the plaid collar I'd picked out, before we could change our minds again.

On December 22nd, 2011, we put the collar on his neck (which was smaller than my wrist) and brought him home. Undoubtedly, Fitz was adorable.  He was easy to love. So tiny and sweet. He needed us. He needed me. And since I wasn't working at the time, I put all of my energy, and turned all of my sadness and grief, into caring for this 7 week old puppy: feeding him, putting pee pads down and changing them religiously, wiping his face, paws (and his bum) with a warm washcloth, holding him...

(who wouldn't melt looking at that face?)

Everyone loved Fitz at first sight. My dad. My mom...well, of course, my mom. She gifted our puppy with the biggest welcome home basket ever, as well as lots of Christmas presents, including clothes...And I always swore I'd never be one of those people who dresses their dog. So much for that.

Fitz's first Christmas (2010)

Even my sister, who admits to not  being a dog lover, went a little gaga for the family's little puppy.

Emily + Fitz taking a nap

My sister naps a lot, but Fitz was noticeably lethargic, even for a puppy. He also hadn't been eating much. I'd been mushing his food up with rice and mixing it with chicken broth. And more often than not, he'd usually just drink the broth and ignore the food.

So, a week after Christmas, we took Fitz for his very first check-up, where we were told that he'd probably been given to us a little too early and that he probably wasn't even eight weeks yet! The vet weighed him on two different scales, and he was still only 1 lb. 3 oz.

Now, I went into nurturing and protective mama-mode completely. We changed his diet and luckily he started liking his food and gaining weight. I toted the little guy with me, afraid to let him out of my sight
(especially after a scare when, while trying to crate train him, he got his mouth stuck on one of the bars for a horrifying minute and a half while my mom held him and my dad lifted the crate, while poor little Fitz yelped and cried helplessly.)

We gave up on crate training for the time being and Fitz started sleeping in my bedroom, in the soft-sided carrier we'd brought him home in. It was fun, having Fitz with me all the time. He became my little tag-along buddy and he started doing everything with me. He watched me cook, He looked over my writing...

...He practiced his chewing on my Hunger Games books. And on everything else in my room.

Fitz started getting bigger, a bit bolder, and started gaining some independence. 

Although he still wouldn't come down the stairs on his own. Come to think of it, he still doesn't.

It wasn't long before I started to feel--for lack of a better word--resentful, of Fitz.

Maybe it was not working. Maybe it was the guilt I felt over "replacing" my Newman, that had been cropping up more and more. Maybe it was the fact that Fitz was becoming a lot less needy and a lot more naughty...waking me up at all hours of the night, wanting to sleep with me, or peeing on my yoga mat, or eating flowers, destroying shoes, developing a nipping/biting issue...All very normal things for a puppy to do, but having gone back to work and commuting over two hours a day were starting to wear on me and my patience with the puppy was wearing thin.

As much as I didn't want to admit it, there was a part of me that saw Fitz as an impostor, something trying to take my Newman's place. It was a gnawing, nasty feeling that I didn't like, but couldn't shake.

Fitz was trying to get into my bed. I allowed it while he was still tiny enough to want to stay right next to my pillow, but when he started to meander to the foot of the bed, to Newman's place, I stopped the bed thing altogether.

My breaking point was when, at his second puppy training class, Fitz bit me (and drew blood) in front of the trainer and the rest of the class. I handed him to my mom and cried while some nice PetSmart employee found me a first aid kit. I could've been crying because the bite hurt. But in all reality, I was crying because I missed Newman. And in that moment, I hated his replacement.

I know my rationale didn't make much sense, and perhaps hate is a strong word, but it was strong feeling, an insistence that:

"This is not MY dog"

...This crazy, barking, whining, biting, cell phone eating creature was not MY dog.

And I was right. Fitz wasn't my dog because he wasn't Newman. He isn't Newman. And he never will be. And that's okay. I know that Fitz will probably never occupy Newman's place on my bed, and certainly, he'll never take Newman's place in my heart. But, I'm happy to say, he's wiggled his way into my heart and found a place that's comfortable for both of us.

Over the past few months, we've formed a cautious friendship that's turned into something like love. At first, I'd say (with trepidation) to my mom "I really like Fitz..."


Now, I think it's safe to say that, even though I see him as more of a family dog, I love the little guy.
I love coming home to his kisses and his wagging tail. I love taking him for walks and the *faces* he makes. I love his excitement over a toy that squeaks and how much he loves fetching his tennis ball. I love how he actually gets me excited about throwing his tennis ball.

I love playing with him in the back yard...

And scratching his belly...

(He loves that too)

And visiting Newman...

I'll never have another Newman. I wouldn't want to. I have a kooky little puppy I'm kinda crazy about.

We're friends.

Yeah. That's my Fitz!

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