“Your call has been forwarded to an automated voice message system”
“Tom, please try again, PLEASE,” I plead, resembling a three-year-old begging for a candy bar in the checkout line at Publix. “They’ll answer eventually, if we just keep calling.”
“Ashlee, they might be gone. I’m doing all I can do. Just be patient.”
Be patient? Patience is something I have never been blessed with. I knew I had to catch Tom in a moment of weakness and that moment of weakness was RIGHT NOW.
The previous day, Tom had agreed that we could get a dog. I mean that HE would get a dog. You see, my parents had strictly forbidden me from getting any type of animal until I was financially independent. Made sense, I knew that, but I needed a dog.
My first year of college had been miserable, to say the least. I was forced to be at a college that I didn’t want to be at. I was extremely shy, and I hadn’t made any friends because, let’s face it, being at Westfield for 12 years, I didn’t need to make friends for twelve years. Classes were hard and I was struck with a bout of homesickness that would never go away. Plus, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life and I was already being pressured into picking a major. I found myself alone on Friday nights instead of parading around the town with my friends. I was so sad. I cried all the time and I couldn’t understand why. I thought college was supposed to be the “best four years of my life.” Or whatever.
At least that’s how I justified my belief that I needed a dog.
A few minutes pass before I begin harping on Tom again. “Call one more time, Tom.”
I stare out of the truck window while he picks up the phone and mumbles something about how the people, if they ever answer, are going to think we are nuts.
To my surprise, he starts talking to someone on the other end.
Fast forward an hour, and we’re on our way to the bustling city known as Chauncey, Georgia. We didn’t really tell anyone our plans, we just left. The farm had two Jack Russell puppies left, a solid white and a tri-color and the tri-color pup was ours.
When we reached the farm, I tried to move slowly and act cool and calm. I didn’t want them to think we were over-eager. Because it’s not like the 37 missed calls they had from us didn’t clue them in.
Tom talked to the owners of the farm and they led us to where they kept the puppies. They had all sorts of dogs running around and huge hubcaps filled with dog food served as their bowls. Tom bent down to pick up the tri-color pup. And he promptly ran up under the patio table and looked at us with those two huge brown eyes, as if mocking our inability to reach him.
“Uhh, Tom, maybe we should get the other one,” I said as I shielded my face from the shower of kisses I was receiving from the white, chubby puppy.
But Tom was persistent, and I knew not to push my luck. We paid for our little rat and began the drive home. I wanted to name him “Scuttle” but Tom demanded that “Aphid” was a better fit, and plus, he was ”Tom’s dog.”
Aphid lived with Tom for a few months, with me visiting every chance I got. Plus, my parents needed a while to comprehend my little scheme. They were livid at first, but within a few months, Aphid somehow began calling my mom “Mimi.” I noticed that they would come get him out of bed before I got up in the mornings. When I would begin prepping his food, Mom would say, “oh, I’ve already fed him.” When we would visit on the weekends, there would be new toys for him to play with. When they would mail me packages, they would always include treats for Aphid. And soon they stopped mailing me packages completely and began only mailing Aphid packages.
You get the point. My family is totally, 100%, completely, entirely smitten with Aphid.
And slowly, I noticed a difference in myself. I felt happy again. I began to not hate college, but actually really enjoy it. I transferred to the University of Georgia and began having a social life again. Classes were hard, but I enjoyed the challenge. I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I began to plan adventures instead of running home for the weekend. I noticed that talking to new people didn’t intimidate me anymore and that I actually really liked to meet new people. I found my passion and pursued it with every inch of myself. Life wasn’t perfect, but I knew I felt happy again and that was enough.
Right after college, I was offered a job in a town four hours from home where I didn’t know a soul. And as nervous as I was, I took it, because I knew I wanted it and I knew I could do it. Even though I didn’t know anyone, I knew I had Aphid, and that was, again, enough for me. It ended up being the best experience of my life so far.
Not much has changed in these four years. If you happen to bend down to pick him up and he knows it, he’s going to go scurrying under the nearest piece of furniture. Which usually happens to be the kitchen table since he’s always in there begging for scraps.
Tom says he couldn’t be more like me if he tried. Hard to handle, independent, and ornery. But, like Tom, Aphid has his moments of weakness.
There’s a time in the early mornings, always about an hour before my alarm goes off. He’ll slowly stand up and sleepily waddle up to the top of the bed. Then he’ll lie down in the space between my body and my outstretched arm, and rest his head in the curve between my shoulder and neck. And we’ll stay like that the rest of the morning, until I’ve pushed the ‘snooze’ button as many times as I can absolutely manage without being late for work.
It’s in those moments that I know he was made just for me. It’s in those moments that I can physically feel what love feels like, like my heart is swelling to twice its size.
I know there are some people who believe that dogs are just pets and that something so small could never have such a huge impact on a life. And that’s okay if that’s what you believe. But I thank God every day that Aphid was picked just for me, because he did change my life in so many positive ways.
Happy 4th Birthday to my sweet prince.