I almost killed my puppy today.
We were on our front stoop, nearly home free, having survived a labyrinth of alleys strewn with the dirty dregs of New Year’s Eve done right and the Mummers Parade done Philly. I was multi-tasking, chatting up Chelsea on my cell phone while I unclipped Franny’s leash and felt in my pocket for keys. I was sharing my thoughts on this season of the Bachelor and groping blindly for the smooth touch of metal when I realized I had missed a crucial step, flipped some switch in my brain that usually prevents me from totally fucking up, revealed my complete and utter inability to multi-task and be a responsible adult and handle Mondays and care for another living thing.
I unclipped her leash before we were on the other side of the door.
We both looked at each other like, hm, this is new and different. But I apparently am dumber than both a fifth grader (seriously, I suck at that show) and a three-month-old goldendoodle, because she caught on to what was happening way faster than I did. And took it as her cue to leave.
That’s an understatement actually: she bolted down the steps, and I ran down the street like a madwoman, at first not fully understanding what was happening, and then, as the reality began to set in – she’s running in the middle of the street, she’s careening toward Spruce, she’s totally interested in playing in traffic – the adrenaline really started pumping in my ears. I screamed her name. I shrieked. She ran faster.
I rounded her up at an intersection, a half block from our building, thanks to a gay guy on a cell phone who benevolently blocked her path into the oncoming cars, streaming toward Broad from the east. I was shaking, clutching her, couldn’t stop professing my love for the gayborhood. I took her home.
I climbed the three floors to our apartment with a heaviness, the blood in my ears turning to a buzz. I didn’t care when she nipped at my pants, or secured a single Cole Haan patent leather flat in her teeth the instant we entered the door to apartment 4. I didn’t yell at her or cradle her or say anything at all – though I think a ‘sorry,’ was probably due – I just picked her up and plopped her in her (secure, safe) playpen and stood over, watching her until she collapsed into her sleeping silhouette and put her head on the tile. And then I watched some more.
I should probably tell you that before I even (unconsciously) decided to imperil my dog’s life, life had been a little tense around here. Not-so-good things are swirling behind the scenes, and a lot of it feels just as ugly and terrifying and pumping-in-your-ears insane as what happened after our ill-fated evening walk. The stuff that’s flying at me isn’t necessarily the really really tough life-scarring stuff, but it’s pieces of it, pebbles broken from boulders I’ve been bracing for for years (or, worse yet in the case of this chronic worrier, never even thought to brace for at all) and I’m fielding them head-on, lapsing back into the semi-cold, calm and pragmatic person I always seem to become in these situations, for better or for worse. It’s how I deal.
So I’m looking over at the playpen and I’m watching her little furry chest rise and fall – sometimes fast with a flutter of hiccups or a kick of the paws at some dream-dog, and I’m remembering to breathe myself and getting up the nerve to pull up the Bachelor on my DVR (wrong on so many levels) and fixing myself the cliche early-January salad and making plans for winter weekends. I don’t know that everything can go back to the way it was – before tonight’s awful walk, before all that end-of-the-year news came in – but I know that from here on out, in 2011, I will try my hardest to make it ok and I will hold the people and furry things I love close. It might not be exactly the same at it was before, but hey, it’s a new year now, isn’t it?