When I was 11 years old, my parents made some terrible life choices, the least of which was losing their two children. After a ghastly tour of the child protective services system, my little brother was sent to live in a gorgeous McMansion under the loving care of wonderful foster parents. Me on the other hand, had the unfortunate luck of being dealt the Granny card. Don’t get me wrong; my Granny and I had been joined at the hip since my birth. We were close. Really close. The problem was, she had reached her ripe retirement age and had decided to downsize significantly into a travel trailer. A really small travel trailer. She called it the Onyx. I called it the Elbow Room. While my little brother was left to thrive in the stately mansion of foster care, my dear Granny instantly stepped up to the plate and eagerly abandoned her retirement plans in order to adopt me. Unfortunately she did not abandon the Elbow Room. And so I found myself and my few meager belongings beginning a new life in a 25 foot space.
Keep in mind, that up until my parents decided that drugs were an important life choice, I had a great life. I was the only child for ten years, up until my brother was born, and I had the best of everything. If I wanted it, I got it. Then our good friend meth came along, and I wound up on my Granny’s doorstep wearing nothing but flip flops and head lice. It was only natural that Granny wanted to fix me. Indulge me. Spoil me. I didn’t mind. I got sketchbooks, sneakers, braces, glasses, more sketchbooks, expensive colored pencils, numerous phones, and a parakeet named Felix, as well as a kitten named Oleander, or Ole for short.
At the end of seventh grade, Granny decided to use the Elbow Room for what it was designed for; traveling. The plan was simple. I would enroll in online school and we would explore the world. After my recent traumatic life changes, I was craving stability, but Granny had already sacrificed so much, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that big trees and lava beds held no interest for me. I dutifully learned the mechanics of hitching and unhitching and leveling a trailer. We were ready to go, when we suddenly decided we needed a dog as a traveling companion. At the Humane Society, we found her. A tan, bite-sized Chihuahua named Lily. She was sweet, loving, and best of all, old enough to be housebroken. We bonded instantly at the shelter and took her home to the Elbow Room. Unfortunately, darling Lily was not as agreeable about her adoption as I was. Once home, she went right for my Granny’s throat. And fingers. And ankles. We struggled to understand this sudden change in behavior, this lack of gratitude. Lily was lucky! She was going to spend the rest of her life, like me, exploring new worlds. Trouble was she wouldn’t let Granny into bed at night, or even into the front door. She must have really hated the idea of life on the road, because one day she shot out of the trailer and took off for parts unknown. I ran after her, but my faith in her was destroyed. She had abandoned me, just like my parents. Lily was returned to the shelter and we resumed our search for the perfect dog.
It was several months before we looked for another dog. Lily had traumatized us. We felt we had so much to offer and she had literally dogged us. We worked through our disappointment in therapy and gradually returned to our search. At one point, we considered a giant dog. But thought better of it when we realized he’d be sharing the same 25 feet with us. We looked at many dogs. Ugly ones, young ones, toothless ones, hairless ones, even one with three legs. My Granny was ready to give up when I found him. The perfect dog. A Chihuahua/Min Pin mix by the name of Jack. He was friendly, agreeable, and best of all, he had only one eye just like my Granny’s cat Brie! My Granny was reluctant to get another Chihuahua, but after some nagging, I convinced her to go into that little meeting room with the one eyed wonder. The rest is history. Not only did Jack allow my Granny to come to bed, he happily embraced our gypsy lifestyle. Last summer, he saw the lava beds, the big trees, and even Crater Lake.
While Jack and I are still writing this chapter of our lives, I realize that we have both learned a good life lesson. No it’s not something corny like “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade”, or even “Look for the silver lining”. It’s more like playing cards; you have to learn to play with the hand you are dealt with. Sometimes it’s disappointing parents or a nasty dog. Other times it’s the chance to start over in a 25 foot space on wheels with a one eyed dog named Jack.