She Had Me at Hello

Jedediah Bila

By Jedediah Bila

Dedicated to the memory of Griffen Levin.

 She sat on my lap looking up at me for a few seconds, then let out a big yawn. She tilted her head, darted up my chest, and found a home on my left shoulder. She was so tiny – a mere 1.5 pounds of white fluff – and she seemed to be searching for a warm nook to crawl into. I covered her with a small fleece washcloth and rocked her to sleep.

That was the first time I saw Emma. And I guess you could say she had me at hello.

Her photo had instantly caught my eye two weeks prior. She was so expressive. I had seen hundreds of photos of puppies that month. So many of them were adorable, but something about Emma was different. I can’t explain it, but I had to see her in person. So, my best friend and I drove up to the Catskill Mountains to meet her.

I knew from the first moment she looked at me that she was mine. But just to make sure I was convinced, she let out a tiny bark of disapproval when her owner took her out of my arms. Let’s just say I was quick to sign on the dotted line.

I named Emma after a wide-eyed little girl I’d met in Manhattan one night. She wasn’t more than six and had complimented me on my American flag pin. “I’m Emma and I love America,” she had said. Someone in her family had done something right.

I had to wait four weeks to bring Emma home, as her owner wanted to keep all the pups with their mom until the twelve-week mark. The wait was torture, but it gave me time to puppy-proof my apartment and get ready for her arrival. I bought baby blankets, a puppy playpen, toys, food, dishes, and treats. I was a little nervous. I knew that caring for a dog would be a big responsibility. And it certainly has been. But it has also been one of the best and most rewarding experiences of my life.

Emma has made my house a home.

What’s she like? Well, she loves to play tug of war and is very much a tomboy (like her mom). She adores people and likes to explore New York City streets on quieter days and nights. If you’re a dog lover, she’ll sense it, jump all over you, and want to give you kisses. She’s not afraid of big dogs and often scares the heck out of a neighborhood Rottweiler as she charges over to sniff him. She’s been to New Hampshire and even attended Sarah Palin’s Rochester book signing in November of 2009. My best friend was kind enough to come along and babysit her while I conducted interviews for a column.

Emma loves to sleep, mostly because she’s wild about blankets. And she knows so many words. Outside, walk, chicken, grandma, look, blueberry, carrot, go, liver, hungry, bedtime, mommy, and cookie are just a few. She loves to watch television and barks at the TV when I’m on. How the heck does she know it’s me?

She is also an avid reader. Ahem. Her favorite book to nibble on is Michelle Malkin’s Culture of Corruption. (Sorry, Michelle!) One of the pages of David Limbaugh’s Crimes Against Liberty has been stained with sweet potato. It took me three days to get Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny away from her.

Oh, and she has quite a wardrobe. Mostly conservative, but there’s always room for jammies and hoodies. Every now and then she goes rogue.

The truth is that I can’t imagine life without her. And I’m sure that many with pets who have touched their hearts feel exactly the same way. When I have a bad day, hearing Emma’s excited squeaks as my key turns in the lock immediately brings a smile to my face. When I’m sad, she knows it and rushes to my side to try to make it better. When she goes out for a walk with my best friend and I surprise them at the park, she runs toward me at full speed with excitement. And when I sense that she’s not feeling well, my heart breaks and I wish that somehow God would make her talk and tell me what’s wrong.

Perhaps Mark Levin said it best when speaking of his dog Sprite in his touching book, Rescuing Sprite: “But the truth is, Sprite did more for us than we ever could have done for him.” I feel exactly the same way about Emma. She has taught me more about trust, loyalty, commitment, and honesty than I could ever have dreamt of teaching her.

Emma will be two in February, and she has already shown me that a dog’s wisdom is invaluable. It’s like they’re able to look right past the nonsense, clutch what’s really important, and put it before your eyes. They also have an incredible ability to assess someone’s character in an instant. They’ll show you by their actions who is worthy of trust. And they’ll leap to protect you from what they sense might cause you harm.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for bringing Emma into my life. I’m a better person because of her. And I know that no matter what happens in life, I’ll carry her in my heart every single day.

Life can get busy. Jobs and financial stresses can take a toll. Relationships aren’t easy. At the end of difficult days, never underestimate the power of your pets to teach you so many of life’s lessons.

Kiss them, hug them, thank them, and take a moment to discover what you might never have learned without them.

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