We were leaving Santa Fe. It was a warm, spring day and we had spent the day at an art fair, then we had lunch at a little dive. I even remember what I ordered. Migas made with blue corn chips. I didn't like them.
For years, I'd been asking for a dog. My husband was a cat person, and I married into three cats. We had been married for ten years, and I was ready to finally get a dog. But, we were renters. And we already had three cats. We weren't super financially secure. There were a million reasons not to get a dog.
After lunch, we got back on the highway to head home. My husband and I had been sniping at each other a bit, and the mood in the CR-V was tense. Not hostile. Not angry. Just...tense. He drove past a beat up truck on the side of the service road with a handmade cardboard sign that said simply PUPPIES in large, scrawly, black letters. My heart soared, but I didn't ask if we could stop. Without looking at me, without saying a word, my my husband turned around.
We parked off to the side of the service road and approached the dirty man who was sitting in the beat-up truck. His plates were expired.
He was trying to get rid of two puppies--Bilbo and Frodo. They were fuzzy and sweet and the puppy breath almost made me die of happiness. One of the pups, I don't remember which, was black. I picked him up and my heart swelled. Then it soared. Then it broke in a million pieces. My heart spoke directly to this dog. His heart spoke to mine. It was like our souls recognized each other. I set him down and picked up his tan brother. He was cute, with a little black robber's mask, but my heart didn't react the same to him. So I passed him off to our seven year old son and picked up the black puppy again. Again, my heart swelled-soared-shattered-spoke.
This dog was mine. I was his. There was no way around it. He called to me, and my husband, from the side of the road in the middle of the desert between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. I couldn't leave him. I couldn't.
Because we had been at an art festival, we had a little cash. We got in the CR-V to discuss what to do.
"I need him. My soul recognizes him. Please, Stirling." My voice was on the verge of cracking. He nodded and pulled out his wallet to see how much cash he had. I pulled out my remaining cash.
I called our landlord. "Please, please let us get this dog. He's a shepherd-lab mix, and he needs a home. Please." The landlord agreed.
Stirling and I pooled our cash. It wasn't enough. It wasn't enough by almost half. But there was no bank anywhere near. I knew if we drove away, we'd never come back for the dog of my heart. We approached the man with the two fluffy puppies.
"This is it. We don't have any more money. If you just can't do it, we understand, but this is all we have."
The man dropped his cigarette and stubbed it under his boot. "Which one do you want?"
Stirling looked at me, and without hesitation, I picked up the black one. I scratched the tan one and thanked him for letting his brother go. I thanked the man for negotiating with us.
I rode in the back seat, little Bilbo or Frodo in my lap, and my heart settled into a happy rhythm. By the time we got to the pet store in Albuquerque, the dog had a new name: Harvey. Harvey the Wonder Mutt...dog of my heart.
Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of his death, and my heart still calls for him. It always will. I miss Harvey every single day.