I met Sweetness less than a month after my husband and I put down our beautiful white pit bull, Luna. Luna was a force who fought cancer for months before falling asleep for the last time in February. Sweetness was also a fighter, a 13-week old camel-colored pit bull puppy rescued from an alleged dog-fighting ring last December. I had been covering the story for weeks. Twice I had conducted brief, chaotic interviews with Sweetness' owner, who Animal Control officers were investigating for allegedly breeding and fighting dogs. Twice, surrounded by news cameras and protesters, he flatly denied abusing Sweetness or any of the roughly 50 pit bulls he owned. But a Pierce County judge ruled that he could not keep the dogs.
It was after the judge's ruling that I finally got to meet Sweetness at the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County, her new home. I had seen only one horrifying picture of her before we met, snapped by an Animal Control officer on the day her owner's home was raided. In the photograph, at just five weeks old, she is emaciated, her ribs protruding.
The small, sleepy, pink-bellied puppy who greeted me at the humane society seemed like an entirely different dog. When I scooped her up, she curled into a crescent and practically dozed in my arms. I have been admittedly sensitive around dogs since losing Luna, but Sweetness lived up to her name. I wondered how long she was underfed in her short life. I wanted so badly to bring her home.
Every dog owner has a different way of grieving when their pup passes. We chose not to save Luna's ashes after she was cremated, but I commissioned an artist to paint a small portrait of her. Some people choose to quickly bring a new dog into the family. Others wait years. As much as I wanted Sweetness, I also wanted to honor Luna's memory for as long as possible without replacing her. She deserved that. My husband and I deserved to take the time to fully feel our loss.
I held Sweetness in my live shot, enjoying the feel of her fur, soft as suede. When I gave her back, my heart broke a little. I was torn, wanting to help her, unsure if it was the right time. A few day later, the communications manager of the Humane Society reached out to ask if I was interested in taking Sweetness. I told her my husband and I had decided it wasn't the right time. What she wrote back stuck with me: "Thanks to your coverage, we've gotten a ton of interest, especially in the puppies. Even though it's not through adoption, in a very special way, you've helped change Sweetness' life and her siblings' lives for the better."
I had forgotten that there is more than one way to help, that it could be possible to grieve Luna and help Sweetness at the same time. It reminds me of saying I've heard all my life: Sometimes you have to take the bitter with the sweet(ness).