The Pet We Never Shared

I was given this useless dog bowl at my blessing shower. A blessing shower is a baby shower, but for a birth mother. It was a tradition with the adoption agency I was registered through. I suppose it was an effort to make us feel better about being ostracized from our families, losing our friends, jobs, bodies, religion.

Unlike a baby shower, people brought items that wouldn’t remind me of you, even though you were there, in the room, beneath a black tank top with sequins that rubbed my arms raw. You were kicking me as if to remind me this wasn’t traditional at all. As if I needed a reminder.

Here’s who was there with us: Evelyn, the other waitress at the café I worked at. Karen, my college roommate. Lenae, my writing professor. Chelsea, another pregnant girl working with the adoption agency, who showed up in her own waitress uniform. Your mom was there. She sewed me a quilt in blues, my favorite color, a color of calm and water. My mom was not there. I didn’t have her blessing in any of this: certainly not in getting knocked up, but also not in my plan to give you away.

I got some books probably, maybe candles and picture frames. I don’t remember. What I remember is this blue dog bowl. A big, ceramic bowl painted over with white dog bones. I received this bowl because my plan was to move halfway across the country right after you were born, to start a life of my own. I would get a dog. I would need a dog. Not just to protect me, but also to soothe me. I would rub my hands through his coat and he would lick my hand while music played in my empty apartment. I would get a retractable leash and take him on runs to lose the baby weight. I would get a chocolate lab, I decided.

There were only two apartments in Omaha, Nebraska that accepted dogs over fifty pounds. I reserved one. I was putting all hope of future wellbeing in that imaginary dog. I would transfer my emotions from you to him. I planned it would be that easy, that transactional.

When I got to Omaha from Seattle, I stayed on my friend Marie’s couch until my apartment was ready. My Saturn was packed to the gills in the parking lot with clothes and books and trinkets to remind me of the life I’d left behind. We looked in the classifieds for dogs. There weren’t any chocolate labs but there were beagle puppies. We went, just to look. Of course, I got one. I named him Tucker, a name I had picked when I was five months pregnant with you and told your parents they could choose your name. When I wanted desperately to name someone.

I left Tucker alone in my bare apartment while I worked lunches and dinners at the Olive Garden. I came home to ripped-up DVD cases and puddles of pee. Tucker cried all night. He was draining me with his needs, guilting me for not being there. I had adopted him away from his family and for what? To leave him crying alone in an empty apartment without so much as a couch to curl up on. We didn’t bond. He never nestled into the crook of my arm. We didn’t run together or walk anywhere. We were both looking for someone to soothe us. We both lay alone on the floor in the fetal position, curled into commas, shrinking into periods.

I gave away Tucker to a boy at the Olive Garden. Tucker was renamed Delta and became a frat dog who would lick beer out of red Solo cups, and have pot exhaled into his giant eyes by laughing stoners.

I am empty, like my furniture-less apartment. 2005 so far has been the year I graduated college and gave away my baby and then my dog. I’m spending the rest of it lying on the floor, reading poetry books after my restaurant shifts, scribbling my thoughts into a notebook. I see everything from the ground, without anything to elevate myself.  The blue dog bowl sits on the floor next to my refrigerator, unfilled.

Holly Pelesky is a lover of spreadsheets, giant sandwiches, and handwritten letters. She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska. She cobbles together gigs to get by, refusing to give up this writing life. She lives in Nebraska with her two sons.