The Time I Took in a Bulgarian Street Dog

[There are some big things happening in Bulgaria right now, namely the prime minister’s resignation amid country-wide protests. I’m still trying to fill in all the gaps before I post about that, so as not to invalidate my political science degree. Instead, I give you a post about what is easily the most spontaneous thing I’m ever done. I took in a street dog. From the street. With fleas, and with no planning whatsoever. I’ve had this written since I took him in and shortly thereafter found him a new home in December, so it’s almost too old to merit posting, were it not for the heart-melting picture of him getting a bath in the sink.]

Dear Oliver,

It’s not often in my life that I’ve cried over the loss of a man. But with you, there wasn’t anything that could stop the tears. Giving you up, even though I knew it was the right thing, felt like giving away a little piece of my own heart, a piece that I never even knew was there before I had you.


The first time I saw you, you were hobbling down the street with a broken leg and giving off little yelps, hoping that someone would pick you up and give you a home. I could barely move as I watched you limp from person to person; you came to me and stood quivering between my boots, and I knew I couldn’t leave you all alone that night. Before I knew it, I was conspiring with the school security guard to hide you in the cleaning ladies’ closet until school was over. Then I scooped you up in a cardboard box, and off we went, sneaking out the back way to avoid being seen by the principal. You kept poking your head out, probably wondering where I could be taking you, hoping it was someplace warm. The whole way home I wondered what in the world I was doing, and why I hadn’t analyzed it and made some sort of graph first, but I was too happy to care, carrying such a handsome puppy back to my apartment.


We got home and my sink turned brown with all the dirt I washed out of your fur. All I had to feed you was some yogurt I borrowed from a neighbor and some sausage from the freezer. You were so weak you couldn’t even hold your head up. So you just snuggled your nose between my elbow and side and fell asleep in my lap as I picked out a small army of fleas from your fur. We sat like that next to the radiator for two hours, and I couldn’t believe you were mine to take care of. In the days to come, I would come to love the way that you tried to wind your whole body around my ankles in a hug, and the way that you clutched your forearms around mine when I carried you outside, and the way that you would fall asleep in my arms for a mid-morning nap.

At first I wasn’t sure what to call you. I had had the name Oliver picked out in case I ever had a dog, but I wasn’t sure if it suited you. But after I absent-mindedly started singing “Food, Glorious Food” while feeding you once, I knew it was right. The Bulgarians called you “Ollie” as you sniffed their shoes and followed them through the park. Though you had been alone on the street only a few days earlier, you were now enchanting to everyone who came across you.Of course, I soon realized that my fifth-floor apartment was a less than ideal home for you. You were going stir-crazy being cooped up in here while I went to work, and my furniture and fingers were suffering from your teething phase. So I started looking for a new, permanent home for you. You were surprisingly difficult to give away, since most Bulgarians are looking for a big, burly guard dog rather than a scampering puppy. And on those days when you curled up in my lap, hiccupping as you drifted off, it seemed like we could last that way forever, if only you would sleep through housetraining.

DSC04091 DSC04089Oliver1Oliver2

Now you are in your new home with a yard, and I hope the transition wasn’t too difficult for you. The past week without you has been strange. Everything is back to normal, but sometimes I still expect you to come bounding over to greet me when I open the door. I still think of you when I pull my socks on in the morning and a toe sticks through a hole you chewed, or when I find a shred of paper or fabric on the floor that bears your unmistakable teeth marks. There is a little muddy paw print on the floor that I just can’t bear to wipe up. In a decade or so when my kids beg me for a puppy, I’ll pull out pictures of you and make them listen to the story of how I found you. I’ll tell them that you probably have grandpuppies by now. When they wear me down and we go to the shelter “just to look,” I will half expect to find you again and fit that little piece back into my heart.

Love, Aubrey


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