The date was Dec. 22, 2009. I watched the conveyor belt spew out large freight cargo through rubber vertical blinds in the oversized baggage claim area. I hugged myself tightly, anticipating the moment the dog crates would finally appear. Up until now, all I’d seen were photos of Lizzie, the feisty one-eyed pug, and Reggie, the rambunctious, wide-eyed French bulldog/pug mix.
I was at work when I opened the email and first laid eyes on Lizzie and Reggie’s picture. Forgetting where I was, I squealed with delight. That outburst attracted quite a bit of attention, but I couldn’t help myself. They were two of the most adorable and photogenic dogs I had ever seen.
Any moment now, 11 months later, I’d be meeting Lizzie and Reggie in person for the first time. Little did I know these two dogs would not only change my life for the next 10 years, they would also save my life—more than once. When we lose someone we love, sometimes the one thing that keeps us from giving up is our love for someone else—someone who depends on us to be there for them. Lizzie and Reggie became my rock when I needed them most. They never let me down. In my darkest days, my love for them became the one reason I got out of bed every day. I owe them my life.
My 16-year-old rescue mutt, Toby, had me all to himself for eight years before Lizzie and Reggie came on the scene that Christmas. Now, there would be three. Before I left the condo to pick up Reggie and Lizzie from the airport, I’d tried to explain to Toby that his new brother and sister were coming to live with him. As I told Toby how much fun he’d have with his new friends, he just stared at me. Deep down, I felt so scared, not knowing how my senior dog would handle two new dogs in his territory after so many years as the only pet. My vet, Dr. Kaleka, had told me exactly what to do to successfully transition these two new animals into our household, but there were no guarantees. I was as ready as I was going to be, but was Toby ready?
My heart pounded like a loud drum in my chest. Was it just my nerves, or was it possible it was taking an hour for Lizzie and Reggie to arrive?
And then, finally, the first crate came down the chute. I saw Reggie’s dark, frightened face. Just like the first time I saw their photograph, I squealed with happiness as my boyfriend, Audie, rushed to grab Reggie’s crate off the belt. As soon as Reggie saw his daddy, he began barking and pawing at the wire door enclosing him inside. Within moments, the second crate appeared, and I saw Lizzie pacing side to side, trying to move around inside the crate, panting with that signature upturn of her tongue that I came to love. Lizzie didn’t bark, but she scratched at the wires separating her from her daddy, as emphatically as Reggie did.
I’d already fallen in love with their picture, and by the time we loaded their crates onto the oversized cart to wheel them out to the car, I fell in love all over again. I couldn’t wait to get home and release them from their cages so I could hold them for the first time.
Overnight, my family of two became a family of five. It was the Christmas gift of a lifetime.
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