There’s always nervousness when Mia returns. I never know what kind of kid I’ll get back. As she’s gotten older, it’s better. When she was little, she’d return from her dad’s house full of hatred. I remember once sitting her in a chair while she kicked, screamed, and told me she wanted to kill me.
This time was a little different.
I don’t know what to do about her sadness in missing her dad. I let her call him, and she bravely chokes back tears. I run out and get her her favorite dinner, let her eat all the ice cream she wants, and even gave her a few “Mental Health Days” to stay home and mope on the couch and watch TV.
That first night, I let her sleep out on the couch while I worked from my spot on the floor, the baby nursing in my lap, drifting off to sleep, and my lap top balancing on the foot stool. Mia was on the couch behind me, crying into her pillow while I stroked her back.
Bodhi, the shelter dog we adopted a few months ago, had been fast asleep on my bed, but wandered into the living room. She jumped up, and squirmed herself into a spot next to Mia, and put her head next to hers on the pillow. Mia hugged her, and the crying stopped. Bodhi waited until she fell asleep before returning to her spot on my bed.
She did it the next night. And the next. Until finally Mia was back to her normal self, getting ready for bed on her own, reading in her room, and listening to the latest Taylor Swift album promptly at nine.
Bodhi and I met with our trainer today for our second session. She’s now to the point where she looks to check in on me when we walk, and wags her tail like a fan when she sees other dogs. I can also leave her home for about 15-30 minutes. For our next meeting, we hope to get her playing with dogs who will respect her space and back off when she needs them to.
I’ve watched this shelter dog blossom in the last few months as her anxieties lessen and her smile grows. She’s given the baby a buddy to play with while I work during the day, and fulfills a need in Mia that I can’t even hope to touch. No matter how much I ask the court to tell her dad to show up, be a good parent, and follow through, I can only offer so much comfort. Somehow the dog knows. She knows.