I adopted the puppy on Inauguration Day. Well, I brought her home the Friday afterward, but I put in the application 3pm on January twentieth. I had been thinking about adopting or buying a dog for a while—my kids had been begging me for at least two years—but I had always put it off.
I already have two babies, the kids are too young to share responsibility, it’s not fair to bring a little life home when I’m not sure I can take of myself, I have enough poop in my life.
However, on Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day, I found myself doing errands, driving around in a fugue state —the same one I'd been in since the election results started to turn away from sanity. Telling my kids, my nine year old in particular (who had come crying to me two months earlier, scared Trump would become President and I assured him he absolutely wouldn’t) that Trump had won the election, was worse than when their dad and I told them we were getting divorced.
I was good at holding it together around them but not as effective when I was by myself. I couldn’t work myself out of my funk. I’d wake up in the middle of the night thinking and sometimes saying out loud, “Oh my fucking god. Trump is going to be President of the United States.”
. . .
You have to understand, I grew up in New York City in the 80’s. It was part of good parents’ job to instill in their kids a profound disgust of Donald J. Trump. And my parents did their job well. We all could see he was a buffoon. A Barbarian at the Gate: arrogant, mendacious, tasteless, mean, petty, self-obsessed and vengeful. Fraudulent. He was a joke. The New York elites wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. They might be racist and acquisitive themselves, but they did it quietly. Being showy was déclassé. He was a pariah and he knew it. He wanted their approval, but also hated these discreet assholes for thinking they were better than him. A sociopath always feels sorry for himself.
This is a long way of saying, most sane people New Yorkers couldn’t believe his national popularity. And we certainly couldn’t believe he bamboozled the Electoral College and won. Baffling to the point of vertigo.
These thoughts coupled with snowballing depression cluttered my mind as I drove north on La Cienega. That’s when I happened to see Spot Animal Rescue. I made the most dangerous U-turn of my driving life, parked illegally and rushed inside.
“Do you have any puppies for adoption right now??” I said with a little too much desperation in my voice.
They had just received a new litter. Five sisters, half chihuahua, half poodle. They looked like neither. They looked adorable. In fact, they looked perfect, as most puppies do. I fell in love with all of them.
It took an hour of playing with most of them—not a painful job—to figure out which puppy was was going to be mine: a sleek, black and white girl with white socks and a patch of white on her nose. She was funny, bright and playful, but calmed down immediately when I held her in my arms. This was the girl for me. I filled out an application immediately.
When I got in my car to go home, I felt a lightness and a sense of hope I didn’t have before I walked into that shelter. I had a reason something to look forward to. I had potentially good news and a video of sweetness to show to my kids (the shelter said I was the first application for her, so I felt fairly safe telling my kids without risking their disappointment). I had optimism for the first time in months. One hour with that puppy vanquished a good measure of my depression.
After a week of agony waiting for my application to be accepted, I finally got the call. It was like I’d booked a Coen Brothers’ movie. I was ecstatic. I picked her up and drove home with her on my lap. She cried for a bit and I had to drive with one hand because she was too scared to go in the carrier, but eventually she fell asleep, her tiny warm body a perfect weight on my lap.
brought her to my ex husband’s office. I had converted him to being a dog-lover and I knew he’d want to meet her. He almost started crying. “Oh hello, my new daughter!” he said. In fact, one girl in the office I hardly knew actually did cry when she saw my puppy. The puppy got passed around from person to person and feel asleep in some of their arms. I got three offers/demands to babysit her if I ever needed to leave town.
We named her Susie. My six year old wanted to name her Gidget, but I nixed that. My nine year old, who always plays things close to the vest, said unprompted as he was brushing his teeth, “Mom, I’m really happy you got me a puppy.” I teared up because this is a kid, who even if he’d had the best time in the world, would say “It was fine” if I asked him about his day.
He is so tender and affectionate with Susie and she allows him to express himself in a way a shy boy would normally feel uncomfortable. He talks to her in with nonsense love sentences like I do:
Oh, Susie, you’re a good girl, aren’t you. Let’s talk about your paws and your ears and your tail. They are very nice and very silly.
Even though he’d pretend to die if he drank out of the same cup as his little brother, he picks up Susie’s poop, just like he promised he would. Amazing. I only wish he would be as sweet to the six year old as he is with Susie, but I know that puppies typically outrank younger siblings.
. . .
As I told friends and acquaintances that I’d decided to get a puppy as an antidote to Trump, I was surprised to find out that I was far from alone. Four different families at my sons’ school did as well and a couple of friends. One of my mom friends, Sherry Klein, told me, “The reason we wanted to get a dog was twofold: one of our dogs died and I liked the idea of growth and progress during a time when things seem grim and sad. It’s optimistic. It brings you joy. It’s a wonderful distraction. Literally picking up dog shit is a distraction from politics.” She became member of a new community. Sherry knew of ten different people who bought or adopted puppies, just like we did. She calls them “Resistance Pups, “ which I think should be another category of service dog.
Michaela Watkins—a wonderful actor you should know already—said after Trump won the election, she too tumbled into a depression. She and her husband, Fred, had a seventeen year old cat and had resisted getting a dog because they didn’t want “to destroy her golden years by moving a predator into the house.” However, after the Election, Michaela was so depressed she decided to stop looking at her phone, stop reading think-pieces on how to survive the Post-Trump Apocalypse and adopt a dog: “We needed someone who would depend on us for dear life. Cats are low-maintenance...Dogs require your full attention and they are non-stop love machines.”
They went to a shelter where they found Jeff, a beautiful, Terrier, Retriever with maybe some Pitbull mutt. The staff at the shelter told her adoptions had been up three hundred percent since the election.
“I felt an immediate change in my brain chemistry.” she said. “Like Jeff was repairing some of my neural pathways instead of me spiraling into the hopelessness I felt when I kept on thinking about Trump being President.” Walking Jeff and maintaining a set schedule to take care of their new dog gave Michaela and Fred the structure they also needed when they had been feeling emotionally unmoored.
Jeff forced them to go outside and get some fresh air. They both became healthier. ‘Dogs hold a giant mirror up to us. Loving and being loved is everything.” Taking care of Jeff surprisingly was a way of taking care of herself and Fred. She rescued Jeff and Jeff rescued her. We ended the interview with Michaela saying “Jeff just farted.”
. . .
I’ve had a hard time assimilating to Los Angeles. I find people to be remote and aloof, perhaps because traveling everywhere in cars and in immense traffic isolates people and prevents face-to-face interaction. However, ever since adopting Susie, a whole new world has opened up to me. She is much cuter and sweeter than I am and people want to say hi to her, so they actually engage with me. I chat the way I want to now. And I know most of the other dogs in the neighborhood. I don’t remember their owners’ names but I do remember theirs. Los Angeles has become exponentially friendlier in my eyes. Human beings could learn a lot from dogs. The openness and trust they show to everyone is how we should act toward each other as well. It’s infectious in the best possible way.
Susie is helping me more than I helped her. I feel like she adopted me. She is so pure and sweet, smart and good. And gorgeous. I sit with her and I feel every bone in my body relax. She forces me to smile and laugh, no matter how bad my day has been. Sometimes I want to say, “Why do you like me so much?? Honestly, I’m not that great!” But she doesn’t seem to notice my failings. The love is unconditional. I can’t think of another creature about whom one could say that. Dogs are natural antidepressants with no side effects except pee and poop and the occasional fart, an homage to Jeff. Totally manageable.
I went back to Spot Animal Rescue with my six-year old to buy more food for Susie. Some idiot had returned her sister because the puppy had been “too much work.” She looked like Susie—same size and markings, white socks included—but much fluffier, with mottled brown fur and a brown nose. My son said his older brother could have Susie “and I can have her sister!” After thinking for three days about how absurd it would be to have two—the time, the expense, the inconvenience, the ruined rugs, furniture and belongings—I decided to adopt the puppy who would become “Belinda Carlisle” too. Belle-Linda is pretty times two, first in French and then in Spanish. You can see from the following photos, that we’re all doing just fine, Donald Trump be damned.