When I moved from Australia to the United States to be with my American husband, Justin, I knew the adjustment period would be difficult. Leaving my family and friends was hard. I knew I’d experience periods of loneliness, not being surrounded by those I love. But this was exacerbated by the fact that my husband is active-duty military. This means long periods of time away for things like training and deployments.
About four months after I’d moved, my husband’s first training period was upon us. “I’ll be away for about a month,” Justin told me. Great, I thought. Alone for a month. Justin left, and it didn’t take long for the loneliness to set in. Coming home every day to an empty house quickly became depressing. Trying to sleep in the middle of the bed so it felt less empty just wasn’t cutting it.
My best friend in Australia was a spunky Shih Tzu named Muffin, who stayed with my mom, and I knew that I eventually wanted a dog once I got settled. So, after a bit of thought, one evening I looked at a dog adoption website.
After browsing for a few minutes, one advertisement caught my attention. I clicked on the heading, and there he was. His big brown eyes looked longingly into the camera. In his mouth he held a toy, at least equal in size to him. He was described as being very affectionate, as well as loving to give kisses an snuggle. He sounded perfect for me. I called to make an appointment to see him the next morning.
I was nervous, that Tuesday in March, as I pulled my car into the driveway, but as soon as the woman opened her front door and this five-pound, black-and-tan bundle of joy came bounding across the lawn to greet me, I knew he was the one. I took him home and named him Pepe Pleasant, or Pepe for short.
We got to know each other while my husband was gone, and by the time he was due home, Pepe and I had become best friends. I was slightly worried at how Justin would react to the newest member of our family. We had agreed that we’d love to add a canine family member to our fold, but I wasn’t sure that a tiny Chihuahua was what my husband had in mind.
My fear, however, was unfounded. True to form, this tiny dog managed to win over my husband’s heart, just like he does with everyone he meets. From Pepe doing his best parrot impersonation by perching on Justin’s shoulder to the two of them sharing a pillow, those two have become fast friends.
In the past year and a half, Pepe has been right there beside me during the numerous times my husband has been gone, and we just got through our first nine-month deployment together. Pepe was there every day to greet me when I got home. He snuggled next to me on the couch each evening while we got our daily dose of reality TV (he loves watching Animal Planet). He burrowed under the covers in bed each night, keeping my feet warm and making the bed feel just a bit less empty.
He kept watch over me in the kitchen, making sure I didn’t burn my toast. He even made sure to leave me a little “surprise” around the house every now and then. Hey, if my husband’s not here to surprise me with flowers, then someone’s gotta do it, right? Except Pepe’s occasional surprises don’t smell quite as nice as the flowers do.
Every time I received a Skype call from Afghanistan, Pepe was just as excited as I was to see his best buddy. And I will never forget that moment when Justin finally returned home and walked through the front door. Justin and Pepe’s sheer elation at seeing each other again was heartwarming. It took Pepe a good 15 minutes to stop darting around the house like a madman — I don’t think he knew what to do with himself!
Pepe has even helped me make new human friends. His friendly, outgoing personality at the dog park just draws dogs and people to him. Every time I take him for a walk he manages to make new friends, from the 100-pound German Shepherd who lives down the street to the tabby cat who loves to watch us walk past from his viewing point on my neighbors’ fence, Pepe loves them all.
I don’t know if he realizes how important he is to me, and how he has helped me maintain my sanity over the last 18 months, but I make sure to tell him regularly. Moving from the other side of the world hasn’t been easy, but thanks to a five-pound Chihuahua named Pepe, life isn’t so lonely after all.