If my last post was any indication, I’ve been feeling a bit down and a bit distracted lately. As I mentioned, there have been some pretty strong bouts of homesickness. A great portion of this is due to my coming to the decision that I will not be bringing down the love of my life, AKA my sunshine, AKA the best dog in all the land, AKA Lilo, to St. Kitts.
(I mean if you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to look into the eyes of an angel, this picture should solve that.)
It was a bit of a back and forth for a while. My heart and my brain were in a pretty intense, weeks’ long battle. My heart just wanted my dog with me. It was what I wanted. But my brain, as per usual, knew better. Without getting too far into it, it is in Lilo’s best interest to stay in New York. It would be unfair to her and selfish of me to bring her to this island, away from everything she knows, and require her to fly (which she hates with every bone in her tiny body) at least six times a year. This decision caused a lot of lost sleep, but I know it’s best for her (even if it’s not necessarily what I want).
So before I had made my decision, when I was still 75% sure I was going to be bringing my pawtner-in-crime down to St. Kitts with me, an album was posted to the RUSVM Student Facebook group from C.A.R.E Nevis about the dogs that would be making an appearance at that weekend’s Adoption Day at school. Always down for the soul-lifting that scrolling through pictures of puppies brings, I clicked on the post and began perusing through the pictures. My finger stopped clicking and my heart skipped a beat when I got to this picture:
(Source, C.A.R.E Nevis)
Those eyes. Those giant paws. I felt a little tug in my heart. The very same tug that I felt over 5 years ago while scrolling through pages of Chihuahua breeders and saw:
(I think I have a thing for Dobby-ear’d dogs)
I was already planning on going to the Adoption Day because there are few things in this world that will make you feel as relaxed as being in a room full of puppies running around and playing and falling asleep on your lap. Despite popular opinion, veterinary students and veterinary professionals don’t actually get to play with puppies and kittens all day. Especially not healthy, have-absolutely-nothing-wrong-with-them puppies. And I thought it would be an added bonus to see the beautiful little puppy with the green eyes. Not that anything would come of it, I was sure.
Fast-forward to that Saturday. I stepped into the puppy playroom and the very first puppy to charge over was “Esmerelda”, the little green eyed puppy. My first reaction was: “She’s so small!” She is long and low to the ground, some sort of “Nevisian Dachshund”. From her picture, I assumed she’d be so much bigger. She bounded over, said hello, and then tore off to play with the other puppies.
I was immediately smitten. She was everything I could ever want in a puppy. Social with both other dogs and people. Feisty, and able to hold her own with the bigger and more aggressive pups without escalating into aggressive behavior herself. And, most impressively, she was not treating the tiny Chihuahua-mix puppies like toys (as some of the larger puppies were attempting). She would be a perfect companion for Lilo, if I decided to bring her down after all.
But I had my concerns. Money, time conflicts, the potential stressors that come with welcoming a puppy into the home. So I talked to C.A.R.E Nevis’ owner and curator, Jane, about the cost of adoption and whether or not I could go home and sleep on it. She told me how other students had put dogs “on hold” before, and I said I would consider it, and get back to her.
Roughly 50 hours later I still couldn’t get those eyes out of my mind. So I shot a message to Jane asking to put then-Esmerelda on hold until I could visit her on Nevis and get to know Esmerelda without 20 other puppies running around. The date was set for a little under 2 weeks on July 29th.
Generally, when make big decisions such as this, I am instantly plagued by buyer’s remorse. I even felt it after accepting admittance to RUSVM. But this time, I didn’t feel it. Not for a moment. My only concern was breaking it to my parents. But this was one of the few times I was absolutely, positively sure of a decision. I cannot explain it, other than I had only ever felt the same when I made the decision to get Lilo.
Fast-forward to July 29th. My friends, Katie and Dominique, and I headed out early to catch a bus to Port to catch the ferry at 9:30. It was already an absolutely beautiful day, blue skies spotted with cotton-ball clouds. The 45 minute ride seemed to go by quickly, and very suddenly we were pulling into Nevis’ Charlestown Port.
Jane’s husband, Patrick, drove us to the C.A.R.E. facility. From their home, they’ve created a shelter with lots of open space for the dogs in their care. Dogs that can be kept together are, which is a great way to ensure proper socialization, especially in puppies. C.A.R.E does their very best for each and every animal in their care. If you’re interested in adopting a dog, consider a Nevisian Coconut Retriever! C.A.R.E has a “Flight Club”, where dogs can be accompanied to the United States, Canada, and Britain to be delivered to their new owners. And at the moment, they have 47 dogs that need their forever homes! If adopting a dog isn’t in your plan, consider donating to the organization. Jane and Patrick are trying to build The CARE Nevis Pet Centre, which will feature a Specialist Pet Clinic, a Rescue Shelter, a Dog Park, an Education Centre, and a Café, and every little bit helps!
Then-Esmerelda ran right over to me when she spotted me, which quieted any of the doubts that had managed to sneak by my confidence. She was just as wonderful as I had remembered; playful and interactive and full of kisses.
After a few minutes of playtime and getting set up with a beach bag full of puppy supplies, we headed to the beach with then-Esmerelda, along with two other puppies, Kalua and Bagheera. We situated ourselves under thatched umbrellas, and headed down to the water’s edge.
Having never been in the ocean before, then-Esmerelda took a bounding leap in and started swimming! Instantly realizing she had made a mistake, she swam back and into my arms, and was a little more cautious of the water for the rest of the day. Her paws are like catcher’s mitts and fully webbed, so despite her short legs she is an excellent swimmer. I’m hoping with time she’ll learn to love it and hit the water with all of the enthusiasm as her very first leap.
The day turned out to be HOT. Making trips to and fro our chairs to the water made the bottom of my feet feel like how your tongue feels after eating something too hot too fast. So we spent the next four hours lounging in the shade or darting across the sand and into the water. In the shade we worked on “Sit” and “Off” (particularly while I was eating lunch—best conch fritters I ever had), and she picked those up in about 20 minutes. I think I’m going to have a lot of fun training her.
The only time we had any issues was when two of the local dogs strolled over. It was the first time I heard her growl and bark. She stopped immediately when she “met” the smaller female, but did not want the larger, intact, male anywhere near her (even though he was a big sweetheart). Once Jane arrived to pick us up, though, she knew those dogs and said it was OK for the two to meet. As soon as they were nose-to-nose on the ground, my girl was fine and settled right down.
It was an awesome day, and I was even more in love than ever. Everything I could ask for in a puppy and more. However, the entire day I was struggling with a new name. As lovely as “Esmerelda” is, and even though it does describe her beautiful eyes, it’s a bit too much of a mouthful. And I’ve had bad experiences with “Esme”s in the past, so I certainly wasn’t going to shorten her name to that.
I had a couple of names in mind, but no matter how I said it over in my head, or tried to call her by it, it didn’t stick. It wasn’t until Katie, Dominique, and I were on the ferry back that I settled on the name. I had narrowed the name down to two choices, but out of the blue I said: “I really want to name a dog Starlord.” As in, after my favorite superhero, Peter Quill AKA Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy. I have thought about naming a pet Starlord for several months, but unless there are extenuating circumstances, I don’t plan on ever getting a boy dog. Just not my thing. And I don’t plan on getting another cat (I have two in New York) anytime soon because I don’t know where I’m going to wind up after vet school, and if I wind up back home, I cannot bring another male cat into that house. Destruction will surely follow.
For a moment I considered the female lead of Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora, because of her green eyes. But there is no way this pup is a Gamora. She is too much of a goofball. Star Lord the character is smart and sensitive and goofy. My new pup is smart and sweet and goofy (and Chris Pratt has green eyes too). Technically, it also keeps with my theme of Disney names, since Marvel is now owned by Disney.
So, she’s Star Lord. Guardian of the Galax–well, Guardian of My Apartment. Guardian of My Sanity. Reason to get up in the morning, reason to maintain a good schedule, reason to take a break from studying every once in a while.
Right now, she’s staying in Nevis because I couldn’t manage to find a private foster her on St. Kitts. I pick her up next week right after finals, and then she’ll be staying at my friends’ house with a couple of other puppies until I return to the island and my apartment at the end of the month.
Welcome to the family, Star Lord, I love you already.