Throughout my childhood, my dad used to bring home turtles when he went out with the land surveyors of his company. They dug the back woods and bayous of the Houston area and he always seemed to find adult turtles which he gave my siblings and I to play with. Back then we had no money to afford a legitimate turtle tank so my mother designated a turtle pot that we used to play with our tiny pets when they weren’t roaming our back yard. Eventually they’d escape through gate holes, die natural deaths (somehow accidentally provoked by 5 children under 10 years old), or just altogether disappear–fly back into the moon while we slept without even the shortest goodbye. But the memory of them–how we spent hours in pure, uncorrupted childhood joy around our turtle pots when we were so poor–is what made a turtle my first choice last year when I would get a pet. The Vai griots speak of animals and their healing power and by the end of 2013 and the many transitions that accompanied it, I decided it was time to give pet motherhood a chance.
Luckily I’m sane, so rather than a Brooklyn apartment full of turtles, I opted for a black lab. Black Labradors have been my dream pet for as long as I can remember. They are so smart, so loyal, so physically regal. Jude was a Labs4rescue pup from Lousiana. My adoption coordinator sent me countless pictures and videos of the available dogs in her kennel and after seeing him, I knew he was mine. My friend Ankur drove with me to Spring Valley to pick him up after a 3 day transport from the south. One by one, a few docile, vulnerable dogs were walked out of the truck. After seeing their fragile state, a knot formed in my stomach. Did I adopt a sick dog? Is he going to look like that trembling hairless one? While I waited patiently the coordinator came out and said he needed another leash because apparently Jude had destroyed his last one. What can I say? I know how to pick ’em. I gave him the new leash and collar and out came my rambunctious, hyper, terrified, jumping and howling, absolutely stunning dog. Jude was clearly unlike the rest–black with warm eyes and an indomitable spirit. The other new pet moms and dads stared at my struggle to control the frantic puppy and feigned smiles and well wishes my way. I tried talking to him to calm him down, petting him, giving him treats, but nothing worked. After about thirty minutes of walking around the parking lot to burn off some energy from his transport, I put him in a crate I squeezed into the back seat. There he just sat during our drive back to Brooklyn, eyes glaring as though he was one of my childhood turtles and knew it was not I who had adopted a rescue, but he.