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Friday, September 30, 2022

The Dangers of Internet Dating: A Love Story

It all started back in 2008. While cruising the internet, Mark came across her picture and was smitten. He didn't make a move for a few months, but checked to see if her picture was still posted once in a while. He couldn't get her off his mind.

Our hometown has a parade every May, and every May we walk downtown with our lawn chairs and dutifully line up to watch the floats and marching bands and cheer the firetrucks and hometown heroes as they pass by. That year as we waved at our favorites and cheered for the local veterans, Mark suddenly stood up and yelled "There she is! There's that girl I saw online!"

After the parade we packed up and met some friends for lunch. I could tell Mark was distracted, and it takes a lot to distract this man from a meal. "Is it her again?" I asked. He just nodded with a slight smile. I could tell I was in trouble. 

Walking out of the restaurant fate would be sealed: there she was, right across the street. "You should go say hi!" our no good, rotten friends urged Mark. "You should just see what she's like, you know you want to." He watched her shyly from across the street then we walked home. I thought I had dodged a bullet.

It didn't take long after arriving home that day before Mark was pacing around the house. "Let's go downtown again. I just want to meet her, that's all. I just want to meet her and maybe take a walk with her."

After eighteen years of marriage, I thought I knew when to indulge my husband and when to draw the line. Apparently, I was only fooling myself. "I'm not sure we're ready for this commitment but fine, we can go talk to her."

Against my better judgement, we talked to her, walked with her, then brought her home to live with us. That's when the excitement began.

She was completely wild. A terrible houseguest, she would spread her possessions around the house, spill food without cleaning it up and verbally attack us if we didn't do her bidding. Her bathroom habits were too horrible to describe and her people skills were just a step above those. It was almost as if she had never shared a house with roommates before.

Incredibly, Mark and I kept trying to make something of this relationship. It seemed wrong to cast her back out on the street with all the other homeless and after a few years things settled down a bit. It was still like living with the Tasmanian Devil, but we learned a few tricks to get her to act like a lady. She was a complete nut for peanut butter, so we kept that on hand at all times in case we needed a bribe. We bought her toys, took long walks with her, bought her fancy treats. We changed our lives to fit her schedule and everyone was happier for it.

With all the special attention you'd think she'd be grateful. Instead, she acted like an unwilling hostage. True, we wouldn't allow her to leave the house by herself, we didn't trust her to go out unescorted. She resented that and plotted her escapes carefully. Leave the door unlocked and expect to spend the rest of the afternoon searching the streets and alleys around the neighborhood. Open the gate to take out the garbage can and she'd bolt straight down the street in the blink of an eye. She was a keen listener, but only to alert her to our presence so she could run faster in the opposite direction. 

She did have her redeeming features. She loved to have visitors and ruthlessly reminded us she'd gladly go home with them if only we'd let her. She loved to run and play, and once tired out liked to spend time with us on the couch in the evenings. She was ever watchful and didn't hesitate to confront strangers that wandered into our yard.

What finally slowed her down was a horrific accident during one of her escapes. Hip dislocated, legs torn and bleeding, she finally allowed me to catch up to her and carry her home. I called Mark at work and he rushed home to take her to the ER. She spent a week in the hospital, refusing to eat or pee until we showed up to help her. She was grateful after all, but only on her own terms.

We roomed with her for fourteen years until this week. Arthritis from her old hip injury severely limiting her activities over the last year, she contracted a kidney infection she couldn't beat. We tried several rounds of antibiotics and pain medications to no avail. It came time for her to make a choice, and we helped her make it. She died a dignified death, an independent old lady finally ready to rest.

It's really quiet around here now. The toys are in the basket where they belong, the bed is empty, the floor is clean where the crumbs always gathered. A green leash is hanging unused on the back of the closet door, swinging out every time we open it to grab a coat. 

I was an unwilling partner in this threesome at first, but eventually I came to respect this other woman in my life. She had a mind of her own and was never unwilling to share her thoughts with us. She did as she pleased and occasionally let us know she appreciated our service. She was neither loyal or polite, but she was ours and we miss her terribly. I'm pretty sure she is now terrorizing another family somewhere out there, first luring them with her good looks then forcing them to bend to her will. 

Rest in peace Tiga. You taught me the benefits of deep breathing and puzzle toys with peanut butter and how to deal with unimaginable annoyance. You also showed me how to age gracefully with few complaints and how I should never, ever let anyone stand in the way of what I really want.

Tiga: May 2007(?) - September 2022

NOTE: If you are thinking of adopting an animal, please check with your local shelter first. They are a wonderful resource for not only finding the right animal to fit your lifestyle, but helping to make the transition from a wild stray to a loving companion for life.