It’s graduation season. The season of posing for pictures. So, like, this absolutely made me wet my pants today. WET. MY. PANTS. I’m going to change them now.
Because it’s Monday. Because it’s dancing. Because it’s dogs. Riley: take notice!
A good friend lost her dog this weekend.
It was time.
Although, I don’t think it probably ever feelsl like time.
Syd was a yellow lab, with the sweetest personality it felt like she could give you diabetes. I love my dog, Riley, but the truth is, he’s not a dog’s dog, and he’s not really a people dog, he’s become, over the years, just a “me and my husband” dog. I don’t mind this (although it was fun when he was little and he loved everybody, and everything), but my friend’s dog wasn’t like this. Sydney was a true blue people dog. She was the kind of dog that made you think you were the freaking queen of England.
She had that, like, dog thing that labs and golden’s seem to have, which is that they really can’t get enough of you petting and giving them affection. They’re kind of in it with you. I happen to love that in a dog (actually in people, too). This summer, I was babysitting Syd for the day, and I remember going out and coming home, and when I walked in she stood with great effort to say hello with a tail wag. It was like she thought that was her job, and even though it was painful, she was that committed to her dogness and manners. It broke my heart a little. And made me want to scoop her up and hold onto her forever.
My friend lives in California and was here for the summer. I could tell this would be the last time I would see Syd, and that gesture, of getting up, even though it was hard for her, touched me in the deepest place. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way her eyes looked that hot summer day, collecting herself that way, just to give me a meet and greet.
I’m a dog person through and through. I wasn’t always, and I feel lucky I found my tribe, because it’s made my heart so much bigger. That’s the thing about dogs, they can reach places in you that nobody else might ever touch. They can expand your emotional capacity in ways that might never see the light, otherwise.
Dogs are all love. That’s all they are. Just love.
Here’s to Sydney (and her owner, an extraordinary dog mommy). She was the best girl.
It happens everyday. First thing. Riley gets up and I let him out the back on a leash for his morning pee (I walk him later). When he comes in, he has a determined look in his eyes, and he begins a low growl that grows into a mini howl, and sometimes, when he wakes up really hungry, even into a bark.
For my part, since I can talk in words, I say, “You want a treat? Is that what you want? Should we get a treat?” (As if it were ever in question that we would get a treat.)
We walk to the cabinet, I open it and ask him to sit, which he does obediently, and then I give him a Greenie, at which point, he turns around and runs out of the room to privately dine on it in the hallway or den.
This is ritual. And for some reason this bit of communication between me and my dog, is often the best part of my day. I think it is the true feeling of speaking to one another, and I guess the utter excitement that I can see this treat is for Riley. He is so in the moment. And I guess maybe I am too. In the moment with my dog and a teeth-cleaning bone. I am grateful for it every single damn day.
I didn’t used to be a dog person.
I never liked barking, or stupid dog tricks, or people who talked about pooches like they were real live people. I never thought pictures of dogs were cute, or funny, or stories about dogs were cute or funny, or the dogs themselves were cute or funny. I didn’t understand the concept of a dog being like a child, or a companion, or a best friend. I didn’t get people who went on exotic vacations and missed their dogs, or people at work, who wanted to know what their dog was doing, I wasn’t moved by sappy dog food commercials, or cute patterned leashes, or the full range of fashion items available for puppies.
I didn’t get it. None of it. Not one thing.
And then I met Riley.
And everything changed. In fact, I seriously will say that my whole life changed. For the better. Because I became a dog person. I will come out and say this silly thing, which is that I love Riley in the same way I love my kids. I would do almost anything, hell, I’m going to go ahead and say ANYTHING for him. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, Riley is the best person I know.
Today is his seventh birthday. He’ll get a big, fat bone that will make him super happy. And in turn, that will make me super happy. Because damn, I love that guy. So much. More than you’re thinking. And more than I can even believe.
I SERIOUSLY can’t believe how freaking adorable this is. A dog. A baby. We have lift off. I’m watching it again.
I used to not love dogs. There, I’ve said it. I’m horrified and sad that I lost all those years not having a relationship with the furry guys I now think of as the best people I know, but, well, there it is.
I didn’t exactly hate them. I just wasn’t interested in them. My dad brought a dog home and I wasn’t really prepared for him and he was too big and strong for me to walk, and so he wound up on a long leash in our yard, which wasn’t nearly the kind of exercise he needed. He was sweet, but we didn’t do training classes or pay the kind of attention we pay dogs now, so he one day, straining to get out and run free, squeezed past me out the front door and directly into the street, where he was instantly killed by a car and I was instantly scarred for life. My dad brought home two more dogs, the fate of the next one was exactly the same. The scar grew deeper. The third dog didn’t meet the fate of a car, but I was not able to open myself up to him, for fear he might be gone. So, as I grew up, dogs meant one thing and only one thing to me: pain.
My kids nagged for a long time for a dog. I was at least intelligent enough not to get one until I was ready to take care of one by myself. Because everybody knows even the kid who fervently, passionately wants a puppy, will not take care of one. The hunt for Riley was about six months long with lots of twists and turns. It ended with a casual email about a puppy five minutes from my house, who was flown here from a breeder in Minneapolis, and who was supposed to be hypo-allergenic and was not and now needed a home. It was love at first sight. He was ours within days.
All of this is to say that yesterday when Riley began yelping, and making that “pain” sound that dogs make, I scooped that boy up and carried him to Angell Memorial, with total and complete terror in my heart. I sat in the waiting room sobbing, because I could see he was hurting, and there was no obvious reason for it. I was stumped. He hadn’t seemed to eat anything. He was just spontaneously in pain. My mind went on a vivid excursion of disease and death. And all I could image was a life without one of the best parts of every single one of my days.
The doctor could find nothing. Finally, we settled on the idea that he may have subluxed his knee and that it popped back in. He’d done this once several years ago. He hopped in the car and came home and promptly fell into a deep sleep, exhausted from his hosptial trip, the stress of having his anal glands expressed, and probably my intense psychic pain.
It’s hard for me to even understand how much my furry little guy means to me. He is the first one up with me in the morning. He practically throws a parade for me, when I even so much as return to the house after emptying the garbage, he is steadfast in his adoration, as he follows me around the park like a shadow. I know that he won’t be around forever, and that fact is as sobering as losing my closest un-furry people. But am I grateful this dog came into my world? Grateful isn’t a big enough word. Grateful doesn’t touch the feeling I have for Riley and how lucky I am that he causes allergies. But grateful will have to do.