For the love of Fiona...

Dear Fiona,

What in the world have you done to me? You came into my life on July 5, 2009, and have spent everyday since then changing it entirely. You have made me the crazy dog lady. Because of the way you wormed yourself into my heart, because of how I love you with every fiber of my being, I have developed a passionate love for all creatures similar to you, one that makes me do crazy things like adopt another one of you. A love that has made the Animal Planet my favorite channel, and anyone who is a dog rescuer my biggest hero.

You, with your curly tail and big, doe-like eyes, are the sole reason we adopted your sister, Arley (a tribute to Arley later). You're the reason I traipsed around in three feet of snow in the dead of winter so that you could play and have a good time---let's not think about my frostbite, not even for a second.

You are the murderer of many pairs of my favorite shoes, and the thief of my heart. Your destructive little teeth are the reason we still don't have a bookshelf in this house, because the only one we ever did have, you had your way with before we could put it together.

You're a lucky girl, Fiona, but I am far luckier. My love for you has opened my eyes to all the dogs in this world capable of creating that kind of love in other human beings, if only given the chance.

Did you know you're the reason I take the long way home? Please do not think it's because I'm not in a hurry to see you, I am! It's just that, if I take the long way home, it sends me through less than stellar neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are more likely to have strays running the streets, and if I can, I want to rescue them. Because of you. Because I see the way you look at me sometimes, like you know how lucky you are, but with a bit of wistfulness mixed in with that luck based on those of your species who are not quite so lucky. I see that look, and I want you to know that I know you are right, and I am doing the best I can.

I tell this to only you, but I've recently been known to spend hours perusing the streets for strays. I have found a few, but they run from me. I've still got some practice to do in that department. I chase them, I promise. I've chased them while wearing heels and a dress, I've chased them into bad neighborhoods, I've stopped traffic in the middle of MLK Boulevard to ensure their (temporary) safety. And I've recently discovered a new idea. I will carry dog food in my trunk to leave for the dogs who will not come to me.

If I am ever able to rescue one from the streets, I'm not entirely sure what I will do with it. Don't worry, it won't take your place. People like to tell me that they're sure I'll be the next animal hoarder, but they're wrong. I will find homes for your kind. Clean them up, post them on Craigslist, do home visits, whatever it takes.

There's a lot of bad news in the dog world lately, lots of fighting and hoarding and neglect and abandonment, but don't you worry. I promise you I will do the best you can. Because that's what you do for me. Everyday of your life. You give me chance after chance, wag after wag, puppy kiss after puppy kiss.

You have inspired me to do for them what you have done for me. I cannot save every dog, and I'm still having a hard time grappling with that. But I do know that I can start somewhere. I started somewhere. With you. That lanky little puppy behind bars, with kennel cough and the saddest, sweetest look in her eyes. You stole my heart that day, and ruthlessly refused to return it.

I keep hearing that once I have children, my pets won't mean as much to me anymore. If that's the case, then I don't think I want children, because I can't stand the thought of feeling any differently about you, Arley, or Archie. Some people were born to be parents, maybe I was just born to be a pet-parent. Either way, you aren't going anywhere. I know you, and I know you'll love anyone who comes into your world, as long as you can see how much I love them as well. I know that you will embrace our future children in much the same way that you embraced me. I know you will be gentle, and I know you will not be replaced. You will be older then, and wiser, and you will understand that you'll need to step aside for awhile. I know that you will trust me to love you and to always take care of you, and I will. So don't listen to those people, they're silly.

Thank you, my sweet little girl--- for loving me in spite of myself. For adoring me when I am all but deserving of being adored. For making me smile on days when I'd much rather cry. For understanding when I'm just not ready to play tug-o-war at 7am. For teaching me what it means to love unconditionally.

You rescued me that day, just as much (or maybe even more) as I rescued you. People think I'm crazy because I love my animals so much, and let them think. Because of you (and Arley, and Archie, who I will write to next), I have discovered a world for which I am truly passionate. And I love you for that. More than you know.

Love Always,