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My wife caught me surfing the internet, checking out sites I wasn't supposed to be. "We're not ready yet," she declared.
"I know," I said in rebuttal. "I was just looking to see how full the animal shelters are." But unfortunately, it had only been a few weeks since our dog June passed away, and the house was way too quiet.
"Uh-huh," she replied with suspicion. "And why does your search bar read 'border collie, blue heeler?'"
"It's therapeutic for me, looking at pups that resemble June when she was a puppy. Look at this little girl," I said, switching screens. Melissa gave me a scornful look. "I'm just looking; it doesn't hurt to look."
"And we were 'just looking' when we found June." Melissa cautioned, "You're swimming in dangerous waters, Mr. Palen. You'd best stay away from those sites!" I agreed and closed my tablet. We went to bed, where Melissa quickly fell asleep. I slithered out from under the covers and went to the dining room table to open my computer.
A couple of days later, I walked into the dining room. Melissa was on her computer with her back toward me and didn't hear me come into the room. "Ah-ha," I blurted out, breaking the silence. My wife nearly jumped out of her skin. "So, I'm not supposed to look, but it's okay if you do?"
"My computer popped up with a suggested site for me. You know how these smart devices are always spying on us; they must have listened to our conversations."
"Uh-huh," I replied with suspicion. "And why does it say, 'matched your search criteria?"
"Look at this puppy," Melissa said, pulling up another screen.
"That dog is in Mississippi," I protested.
"Well, you were looking at one in Washington, eighteen hundred miles from here," Melissa pointed out. "This puppy is right on the border of Mississippi and Louisiana; that's a lot closer than Washington." All I could do was shake my head. (But I must say, in those three photos, the puppy was quite attractive.)
The next day, Melissa called me to the dining room. "The three photos the shelter posted didn't really give a good look at the dog. But look at these," she said, turning her screen my way. "I sent a message, and they sent me these." So, I guess I wasn't surprised that Melissa had messaged them. "Tasha told me about the lady who surrendered the puppy."
"Tasha?" I questioned? "You're already on a first-name basis with the people at the shelter?"
"Well, I had to call to ask a few questions," Melissa stammered. "Besides, I'm just looking.” Then added, “Her name is Diva."
I wanted to mimic my wife, "And we were 'just looking' when we found June. You're swimming in dangerous waters, Mrs. Palen. You'd best stay off those sites!" But instead, it came out, "We would have to change her name." There's nothing wrong with the name Diva - it just wouldn't be our choice. We looked at the photos together. She was a charming puppy.
We both had more questions about the dog. I suggested, "We could call them now on speakerphone." Melissa noted that the shelter was already closed, so we agreed to call in the morning.
The following day, Tasha answered the questions she could. We wanted to know more about the sire and the dam, but Tasha, understandably, didn't know the answers. Finally, Melissa gave her permission to forward our contact information to the person who surrendered the puppy. Then, we told Tasha we would think it over and call her back.
When we hung up, Melissa seemed like she was trying to talk herself out of this idea. "I don't know; maybe it's too soon," she said. I suggested it wouldn't hurt to go just to look. "But, it's fourteen hundred miles; that's twenty hours of driving each way," she said.
I countered, "Well, that's closer to Bellingham, Washington. Besides, we're due for a road trip anyway." Melissa pointed out that we had a lot to do at home.
I was trying to support my wife, but it wasn't easy. "Look, I have to sing at church Sunday and have a commitment Sunday night, but we could leave Monday morning to go get her." Melissa gave me a puzzled but stern look. "I meant, go LOOK at her. We could leave to go look at the puppy on Monday."
We called the shelter to ask if they would hold the puppy, giving us a few more days to think it over. "The only way we can do that is with a pre-adoption on file," Tasha explained. "If you change your mind and decide not to come or get here, and you're not completely sure, we'll refund your adoption fee; no questions asked."
We gave them our information, then hung up the phone. I looked at my wife and said, "We just got a dog; you know that, right?"
Melissa was adamant; we were going just to look, which caused me to query, "Have you already got her new name?"
Melissa admitted, "I've thought of a few names, but I will not tell you until we've decided if we're going to take her." Over the next couple of days, we spent a lot of time reviewing photos of Diva. Finally, I persuaded my wife to tell me the name. Melissa looked me square in the eyes, "Nova Mae."
I didn't laugh, but I firmly said, "No."
Melissa explained, "Nova means new."
"I know what it means," I said. "Like Nova Scotia; New Scotland."
"The Hopi Indian name Nova, means, chases butterflies," Melissa added, with a twinkle in her eye.
"No." I was firm, then justified, "If you're trying to tell her no, which puppies hear a lot during training, she'll be confused: No. Nova. No. Nova. It'll sound the same to her. Besides, Nova is the name of a car, not a person."
Melissa fired right back, "I'll have you know I had a great uncle named Nova. It's a family name!" Oops. I'd forgotten about that.
"Well, we'll have time to think about the name," I said, but I wouldn't change my mind.
Monday got too busy, and we weren't able to leave. But Tuesday, we drove ten hours, stopping in Hannibal, Missouri, for the night. Along the way, I suggested, "What if we named her Louise since she is coming from Louisiana?"
"She's in Mississippi," Melissa said, adding, "I like Nova Mae."
Wednesday was a real booger, weather-wise. We traveled through eleven hours of continuous heavy rain, lightning, severe thunderstorms, and extreme winds until we reached Laurel, Mississippi, about an hour short of our destination. "What if we named her Stormy after the weather we drove through to get her?"
"That would be a negative name," Melissa replied. "Nova means new; that's a positive name; one who chases butterflies is happy and carefree. I like Nova Mae."
Thursday, we enjoyed a casual morning. We planned to arrive at the shelter in Picayune, Mississippi, around noon. "What if we named her Miss Picayune? We could call her Miss Picky, or Pic for short?"
"No. That sounds like Miss Piggy," my wife said, I like Nova Mae.
"What if we named her Pearl since she's coming from Pearl River County," I suggested.
"No," Melissa said. "My best friend already has a dog named Pearl," then she queried, "Why don't you like the name, Nova Mae?"
I didn't have a legitimate or arguable reason. "Fine. If you want Nova Mae, we'll go with Nova Mae." Then to agitate my wife, I added, "But I'm going to call her Chevy, for short."
Melissa rolled her eyes, "No, you won't."
I softly rebelled, "I will if I want to," but I must have muttered a little too loudly.
"What did you say," Melissa asked?
"I said, the animal shelter is just ahead," while silently thinking, "Man, that woman has sharp hearing."
We turned into the parking lot at the Pearl River County SPCA. Inside, the lady asked if she could help us. Melissa spoke up, "We're here to pick up Diva." A couple of moments later, a lady with a big smile came through the door with an eleven-week-old border collie/blue heeler puppy. She was stunning – I mean to say the puppy was stunning. The pup so took me I couldn't even tell you what the lady looked like; I think it was a lady.
It felt like the old days of television when the father paced back and forth in the waiting room until a nurse came through the doors to hand him the new baby. “It’s a girl,” she would say. I was filling out some paperwork for the adoption, but I set the pen down as soon as I saw the puppy. My heart melted when the lady handed me the little bundle of joy, and she nestled right up to my chest.
I gave her a heartfelt hug and said, "Hello, beautiful; I've been anxious to meet you. How about a little kiss?" (I said this to the puppy, not the lady.) Melissa snuggled right in with us.
Tasha asked, "Would you like to spend some time with her in the viewing room." Then she gave me a couple of kisses. (The puppy, not Tasha or Melissa.)
I looked at my wife, and she looked at me. As far as we were concerned, those kisses, and that sweet puppy breath, sealed the deal. We thanked Tasha but declined her offer. We were ready to walk out the front door and take her home. "You have to finish initialing and signing the adoption form," Tasha reminded me, "and we have to weigh Diva before you can take her."
Melissa finished the paperwork while I followed Tasha to the scale, which was very close to the door to the kennel room. Thinking she was going back to her kennel, the puppy started to shake as we walked that way.
Lord knows the people at the shelter try to make these animals as comfortable as possible. Still, all the barking dogs have to be stressful on a little pup like this. I stroked her soft back. "Oh no, baby girl," I whispered, "you'll never have to go back there again." The pup seemed to understand and calmed down.
I set her on the scale, "Fifteen point five pounds," Tasha said.
Before we left Picayune, we got in touch with Belinda, the lady who took accepted Diva's pregnant mom as a stray. We asked if there was a pet wash where we could bathe the puppy. "You're more than welcome to come by our house. You can bathe her in our laundry room. I have towels and everything you'll need, and you'll be able to meet her mom, Daisy." That was a generous offer, too good to pass up.
Daisy greeted us in the driveway. The puppy ran right to mama, sniffing around her belly. Mama (recently spayed) grabbed the pup by the nape, pushing her head to the ground. "There will be none of that business, little girl," Daisy said disciplining her offspring. The two romped and played and had a good old time.
I bathed Diva in the sink. She was very gentle and cooperated well.
Belinda told us she and her husband took Daisy (a border collie) in as a stray who hung out in the neighborhood. They planned to have her spayed, then give her a permanent home. But, before the spay happened, Daisy gave birth to seven puppies under their shed. Surprise! Their plan was on temporary hold. Her father was a blue heeler that belonged to a neighbor down the country road and had been visiting their house and Daisy often.
We thought it was pretty cool for Belinda and her husband to find homes for the pups and keep the sweet mother. They rehomed all but two of the beautiful puppies, mostly with family members. Then took the two remaining pups to the shelter in hopes of finding good homes – and that's where Melissa found Diva online.
The pup picked up a large stick, too large for her to carry. She found a smaller stick in the yard and ran with it. I threw a tennis ball, and the pup went right after it. (Although we need to work on the 'bring it back to me' part.)
Diva had some similarities to June's appearance when June was a puppy. She showed several movements and characteristics that reminded me of June. But, of course, this didn't surprise us at all. The traits were common to most blue heelers and border collies.
Although these traits were charming to watch and rekindled some very fond memories, it was important to remember that Diva is not June. She will change in appearance as she grows and develops her own personality. She will become her own dog; we just need to decide on a name.
A yellow leaf fluttered in the breeze like a butterfly tumbling sporadically through the air just a few feet above the ground, catching Diva's attention. The new puppy chased the leaf, jumping in the air, trying to catch it - the new puppy.
Nova is Latin for new; the Hopi Indian name Nova, means, chases butterflies, and Melissa's birthday is in May. So, I smiled, "Nova Mae."
I gave the puppy a rub on the head and a pat on the rump. Her tail wagged like a fast paintbrush. "Come on, Chevy. Get in the car."
"What did you say," Melissa asked?
"Oh, I was just telling the puppy we need to get going," I replied while silently thinking, "Man, that woman has sharp hearing."
This Mississippi dog says, “Arf, arf, ya’ll.” In Minnesota she’ll learn to say, “Arf, arf, eh.” Let the next chapter begin.