This story is available here with the permission of Jessica Norris. The original version is published on Vocal. You can view more of her creative work on Vocal by clicking here.
I stroll through the neighborhood holding Zelda’s leash. My aunt holds Boone’s leash. The two dogs meander along, stopping to sniff every bush. They’re not in any hurry today. They know we’ll be leaving for the beach after this, so I think they are purposefully drawing it out.
Boone and Zelda.
They’re an unlikely pair. Boone (named after Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina) is a King Charles Cavalier spaniel. His breed is a bit snobby. Boone has the attitude of “Everything is my idea, and I’m not going to do anything I don’t want to do.” Zelda is a chihuahua and Jack Russell terrier mix. She’s a bit tougher than the typical chihuahua, but she still has big ears and gets scared easily. She’s the smart one of the pair, and I think deep down, Boone knows it. She was adopted from a humane society.
They’re best friends now. But this took time.
My mom’s side of the family loves dogs. There was always a dog at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They had a golden retriever named Plenty Good. (I’ve criticized that name a lot.) My family had a German shepherd and collie mix named Rascal. And my aunt also had a German shepherd mix named Stolie. Each of these dogs were a happy part of our families. But one by one they developed health complications and were put down. We went through an awkward dry spell between one and three years when no one had a dog. This all changed when my family decided to get another dog. This decision encouraged other family members to get another dog as well. We got a golden retriever named Sunshine. Shortly after we got Sunshine, Grandpa passed away. Grandma started to feel lonely at her house. Not that a dog can ever replace human companionship, but getting a dog seemed like a great way for the house to feel less lonely. While she had always had big dogs before, this time around, Grandma wanted a smaller dog. This is how Grandma found Zelda. Zelda was “three” when Grandma got her, but we later found out that a lot of humane societies won’t say a dog is older than three. We think Zelda is somewhere between 11 and 15 years old at this point, but who knows? Zelda was a great companion for Grandma. And actually, Zelda has been the sole reason I have changed my stance on the chihuahua breed. I used to think chihuahuas were the worst type of dog, but now I’ve decided that some of them are okay. After Grandma got Zelda, my aunt got Boone, completing a beautiful dog family trio. When we all came together for Christmas and Thanksgiving, Grandma’s house was full of dogs. It felt so right.
After Grandma’s battle with cancer and her passing, my aunt decided to have Zelda come live with her. Zelda had grown used to a certain way of life with Grandma. Grandma had lived in a split-level, but my aunt’s house required Zelda to conquer a new challenge: stairs. She had also grown used to having a yard and not being on a leash. My aunt’s neighborhood required Zelda to take walks on a leash to get her business done. It was quite the adjustment for little Z.
Meanwhile, Boone was less than thrilled about having to share his castle. He was used to having all of my aunt’s attention and free rein of the house. Now he had another dog demanding my aunt’s time and affection. A dog that he had not in any way asked for. I don’t think there was an exact day where they suddenly started to get along. Obviously, I wasn’t there for most of it, but I know my aunt had some challenging days. But in that same year, my family drove down to visit for Thanksgiving. Zelda looked great! She had lost a healthy amount of weight and was much more energetic than when I had last seen her. She seemed content in her new home but remained her affectionate self. She still loved to picked up and cuddled. Boone was still a full-time Diva, so that hadn’t changed. (He’s more like a cat in some ways. He wants affection on his terms. For example, he doesn’t like it if you try to pet him while he’s asleep.) But he had learned to share his house and had found that Zelda was actually a fun dog who loved to bark at the neighbors with him. Plus, she was great at alerting him to new threats to bark at, like UPS delivery workers and reminding him of the times when he really should be asking for more treats.
Dogs steal their way into our hearts individually. But a new type of endearment comes when dogs become friends. Boone and Zelda were a team now. A dog family whether they wanted to be or not. And they had learned to like it. I left after the Thanksgiving trip very happy about Zelda’s situation. And I was glad that Boone had managed to accommodate after all.
Today, they are still that team. It’s funny because they wouldn’t have chosen each other. They are so different. The diva and the orphan. But somehow, they make it work.