When I was a kid, I was given a dog in the most wonderful way.

It was five days before Valentine’s Day and I was nine-years-old. We all five kids had always wanted a dog because, frankly, what kid doesn’t? We had asked for one for years but were told repeatedly that we couldn’t have one because my dad was allergic to dogs. This. Was a lie. We had a completely clean, shiny and new, white and off-white house and my parents were juggling five kids, all five of whom had lost one of their parents, tragically, at a young age. Now that I’m a parent, I DO NOT fault my parents for not wanting a dog on top of all that!

But, they did! One Friday night, I was completely jonesing to sit and watch the T.G.I.F (“Thank God It’s Funny!”) lineup on ABC. For those keeping track, this included Full House, Family Matters replacing Perfect Strangers, Mr. Belvedere and Just The Ten of Us. I was psyyyyyched! My sister was 11 and just at that age where she’d prefer to spend her Friday nights elsewhere. My parents strictly told us that we all had to stay home because they had very old and very good friends coming over with their new baby. We were under strict orders to stay home. Their friends arrived and came downstairs, thankfully, during a commercial break. They were holding an exquisite white puppy. Usually this would make more of an impact on me, but since I could never tear my eyes away from John Stamos long enough for any solid thoughts, I briefly decided, “Oh, they brought their baby AND their dog. Cool.”

In reality, there was no baby. These weren’t even good friends of my parents. They were Samoyed breeders. Samoyeds are friendlier, fluffier, all-white sled dogs. My mom asked me, “Do you know whose dog this is?” I turned away from Uncle Jesse, who had returned, and nodded. “Uh huh. Their dog.”

“No,” she said. I looked at her. She had tears in her eyes. “It’s our dog.”

The rest of that night, and the years that followed, are a tangled blur of white fur and intense love. It was really a sneak attack surprise. We (my dad) named her Chelsea for fear we’d all name her something stupid like Snowball. (We would have.) I loved her from the start. There was no real bonding to get to love time. There didn’t have to be. My age and the circumstances…cosmic timing…whatever. Sometimes it’s that easy.

Sometimes it’s not.

When I was older and away at college, they got a second puppy. Kaylee never shined the way Chelsea did. She was a really disobedient puppy and she went through an awkward growth period that would put most 7th grade girls to shame. It took me months, maybe even years, to bond with her but I eventually did. The love is the same in the long run, sometimes, but it takes longer to get there. I guess it also depends on where you’re coming from and what you’re coming to.

As you all know and I won’t go into it, we were fairly homeless before we found our Chapel Street condo in Northampton. We were living with various family (thank you to them!) while I got adjusted to strange pregnancy symptoms and the east coast. So we were going from no home to this beautiful, shiny, new, previously unoccupied, three story condo only a comfortable walking distance mile from downtown Noho. Bonding to get to love time? Nil. That first weekend there, the weather finally broke into 70 degrees in March and our long-lost furniture arrived from California and oh, we were so happy. For three years.

It was going from that happiness into another that proved to be challenging. We moved two days before the recent freak Halloween snowstorm, while I was six weeks pregnant. We went into the woods, away from the warmth of neighbors, and turned the clocks back into darkness. To say the bonding wasn’t instant is putting it mildly. I saw flashes of what could be. I never lost hope. I still know there’s a higher. It’s just taking longer to get there.

Last week, Cassidy went away to NYC for three days. I was alone, 14-15 weeks pregnant with a near two and a half-year-old. Apprehensive? Only a bit. I knew I’d come through for Scarlet and me. What I didn’t expect was the bonding with the new house to occur. I had never had a chance to be in control of our house. Cassidy had had that chance even before he moved in when he was cleaning and painting and assessing. This was my chance. I learned how to use the pellet stove, finally! I learned the kinks of the griddle on our stove and how the knob sticks and keeps the fan on for hours if not remedied. I lit the Christmas tree for no other reason than my own enjoyment. I stocked my own food. I did all the dishes.

Before you think I’m really worthless for not doing and discovering all of these things previously, just consider what early pregnancy might feel like, on top of moving. My goals in life weren’t lofty – keep food down, get sleep, lather, rinse, repeat. Now as my energy returns and I’m given the chances to find my own way again, the bonding is strengthening.

“Home.” Almost..getting there…maybe, nearly. I think?

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  1. Whoa! TGIF! I, too, watched that 2 hour chunk of TV religiously when I little. Steve Urkel? Balky?You totally just brought it back for me. Also, my childhood dog was named Chelsea, and we were total BFFs. She slept in my bed for years.I feel like we are still bonding with our house. I feel like our house is kind of prickly and hard to get to know. It needs lots and lots of love. Right now I am bonding with the other half of our 2 family as we prepare it for a new tenant. Having not seen this half too closely for years, we are trying to seriously bond with and nurture this place. With lots of sweat, and paint. And I'm trying to love and accept the place as a whole, and commit to doing more and more work on it…I initially though of it all as just an investment, but I like your idea of bonding…I think that kind of perspective will make me feel a lot kinder toward this place!

  2. I love how you compare bonding with your house to bonding with a pet! At first though, I thought this post was going to lead to you saying that you got a dog! Has Scarlet started asking for one yet?ALSO- Maeg also had a childhood dog named Chelsea??? So crazy! Correct me if I'm wrong, but Chelsea isn't a popular name for a dog is it? And Maeg, if you're reading this, I had no idea that you have a second half of your house that you rent out to tenants, would love to hear more about that and your house bonding on your blog!I've always been a renter, so don't really know what you guys are talking about but I love my apartment right now! Not as much as I love my cats though.

  3. Actually, it's more like my husband and I ask each other for a puppy all the time! We're both such dog lovers. Scarlet still seems resistant.And I agree that the Chelsea thing is strange. I learned it as a dog name but have since realized it's pretty much mostly a human name for the rest of the world!

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