Today is March 28th. I turned 31 three days ago, celebrating on the Washington Coast with my girlfriend and our two dogs. If you had told me this time last year that I would have given into Lola’s constant badgering for a second dog, I would have surely laughed in your face.
Lola and I started dating two years and three months ago. She came with a dog- a one Arthur Leonard aka Arnold Palmer aka Arnie Parmie aka Parmie aka Parmageddon, Parmadillo, Parmadeus so on and so for ad nauseam. And well, to put it lightly, I am/was not a dog person. I am not really an animal person. I was raised by a woman who never gave into my childhood pleading for a kitten, and soon I came to see the value of fur-free couches and the absence of that *unique* littler box smell. I firmly believe that the potential love I could have cultivated as a child for furry friends was replaced by a strong love of cleanliness, unencumbered travel plans, and undisturbed nights of sleep. In my mind, at the age of 30, I was waaaaay past the point of no return. I cared for Arthur Leonard because I love Lola, but I didn’t really get it.
But also when I stared dating Lola, I was a vastly different person. I was stuck in a cycle of personal denial, over identification with people who didn’t respect my boundaries, and stuck in relationships that felt emotionally abusive and sustained by my enabling and controlling nature= exact replicas of family of origin dynamics. Super FUN.
The first few months of dating were spent mostly boning around in bed, which was actually super FUN. But shortly there after messy feelings started (blah blah blah) and before you knew it, we were “emotionally involved.” So I did what any emotionally stunted aries does- I put up tons of walls! I did my best to hold back my feelings (even though I was falling more deeply in love than I ever had before- causing me to question if I had ever actually really fallen love before- waahhhh?!?#$%^&) while blurting bratty things out to her like “Don’t try and wife me like all the other butches do.” I did my best to become more fully “myself”- the protected self I had been cultivating since early adolescence (probably since riiiight after the good people of Planned Parenthood terminated my unwanted pregnancy). Extra judgmental, extra sassy, extra anxious, extra removed.
BUT two things were occurring simultaneous to this protection mode spiraling. 1- I was finally starting to get tired of never allowing myself to feel actual emotion and 2- I was dating an actual saint. Lola stuck it out and lovingly (albeit sometimes frustratedly) held up The Mirror. She held up The Mirror when I pushed her away, she questioned me when I was obviously engaging in behavior that was detrimental to me, and she took very little of my crap. The result was a lot of confusion and crying on my part, and tons of attempts to jump ship.
I came out of that period of time- and in many ways am still in the throws of this development- as a softer more emotional version of myself. I’m still a sassy bitch, but I allow myself to feel way more and judge others and myself way less. We joke that Lola spent this time tenderizing me (like a piece of meat).
Anyway a few months ago a friend of mine had two puppies up for a adoption- two of the cutest little pups that would melt anyone’s cold dark heart- especially my newly tenderized meat heart. One was a tiny white fuzzy chihuahua and the other was a tiny black chiweenie. And I got it in my head that even though I had never had a dog before it would be a good idea for me to adopt these two puppies. I started romanticizing the idea and would day dream about having two puppies in my life. I really have no idea exactly how I made the leap from feeling lukewarm about most animals to all of a sudden being open to the idea of adopting two dogs in one fell swoop, but I have a feeling it had something to do with becoming a kinder gentler person. Maybe.
Even though they had names Lola and I were so enamored that we gave them our own pet names- Mouse and Moose.
But these two dogs were out of state and still in a limbo-holding period. And one day during that wait we drove by the Oregon Humane Society and Lola chanted “puppy sweep, puppy sweep, puppy sweep!” And so we pulled over, parked the car, and after a three hour wait finally got to meet some dogs.
The first guy we met was named Pixel cause he weighed 8 pounds. He was not into Arthur Leonard, which is weird cause AL is the biggest dog charmer. The second pup we met was named Bogart, cause I have no idea why. He also was so scared of AL he wouldn’t move from behind the employee, Tyler’s, legs. Tyler felt bad that we had been waiting so long that he offered to show us another dog- we wracked our brains for another one we thought was cute- “Jax?” I suggested- we had been there all afternoon and had made so many rounds by the kennels I couldn’t remember which dogs had given us their numbers. But Jax was already visiting with other people.
“What about that miniature poodle, Carlito?” Lola suggested. “The dog that was being carried out by that old dude for his ‘walk’? In that dumb red jacket?” I asked. “Yeah that one.” “Ok…sure.” But while Tyler was out retrieving Carlito I thought about how busted and old that dog looked.
Within 20 minutes of meeting Carlito, however, all three of us (Al included) were in love.
Carlito was 2 years old and had been picked up in Fresno the week before, and in his before pictures in the adoption papers he looks like a mop that had been living in a barn with other dogs, un-groomed for years and probably living off of Big Mac wrappers. (This is the story of 20 dogs picked to live in a barn, and what happens when they stop being polite and start being REAL.)
He had a 24 hour hold on him so the next day after work I went back to the shelter alone and waited anxiously as though I was about to go on a first date. What the hell was I doing?! I am not a dog person— but I knew I had made the right choice when he was brought out, being carried again, and I was informed by the adoption agent that he was afraid of his leash and had puked on his way out to me. Excellent.
I took him home, washed his pee-smelling red jacket, and renamed him Bruiser.
(We didn’t end up adopting Mouse and Moose cause duh, 5 dogs is insane even though I know Lola would love that.)
That was 5 months ago, and in these past 5 months I have come to love this creature more than I knew was possible. Literally, when we nap together I hold him and cry a little thinking about how much I love him and how one day he might die (but probably never, right?)
What this little fuzz ball has helped me realize is that the more love I put out into the world (by loving him as much as I do) the more love comes back to me. Nothing feels quite like how it feels to have him cuddle up next to me and then rest his dumb little head on my leg and GAZE UP AT ME. With his soulful human eyes.
When he smells something good that he wants to taste he stretches his neck out and sticks his nose up, gently sniffing the air.
At the dog park he puffs up his little chest and walks right up to big dogs ready to play, but shows his stupid little teeth to small dogs that bother him. As if, little dude!
When its time for his before-bed walk he is usually so tired that I have to stand him up, and sometimes his legs don’t work and he falls right back down on the couch cause he is a lazy ass poodle.
And he has become a total pro at walking on a leash.