The love of a dog (you heal me and I heal you)

“He was able to walk today without any assistance.” I clapped my hand over my mouth and shut my eyes, feeling the prick of tears. Yesterday you couldn’t; I didn’t know if you would ever be able to do that again. Those who say you are just a dog have obviously never loved a creature quite like you.

We weathered through a week of hell as you lost the ability to move your legs, curled up by my side on the floor, carrying you to appointment after appointment as we searched for the cause. It was one week of terrifying questions and focused observations; you comforting me as much as I was comforting you. And then our miracle man solved the mystery; wheeling you in for emergency surgery while we waited. It would be six hours before his exhausted voice would tell us you were okay, though it would be days before we would learn if you stood a chance for a full recovery.

Ever since you were small you made a game of testing my patience- pushing every single button your little paws could reach and then, unsatisfied, chomping on the remote for good measure until every last nerve was frayed and exposed. You, my dearest little love, were always meant to be my test. And my heart never stood a chance. You were mine and I was yours. Has there ever been a more beautiful tale to tell?

Like a sword pounding against a rock, I always felt helpless and blunted by you. You tested me in a way that I was unaccustomed to, in a way that I was wholly unprepared for. What I didn’t know was that you were my whetstone, sharpening me, strengthening me for the road we were destined to walk together. You turned me into a sword strong enough to fight both of our demons. We protect each other like Sam and Frodo; gentle and fierce.

It seems we were often at odds, you and I; fire and ice learning to balance the other. It was a dance we knew so well as we pushed and pulled at one another. We were constantly teaching the other; you reminding me that the world is meant to be lived in and explored, me coaxing you to understand that gentleness is always the best approach when facing others. I would protect you from the wayward squeakers as you liberated them from their plushy prison. You would protect me from the dangerous intruder you caught peeking through the living room window (to this day you have not realized that it is your own reflection).

Our battle of wills brought us together, though the road had been a bumpy one. I am not sure when we stopped antagonizing one another and became allies that could rival the best stories. It seems it happened slowly and then all at once. You were mine and I was yours. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it, every single sacrifice was worth it to have you in my life.

You see, what you don’t realize is that you have always been my talisman- my happily ever after in a world that I dont understand. You don’t care that I’m weird, extremely awkward and constantly anxious. You never once doubted in my abilities, though I often doubted myself. You simply loved me, finding joy in those tiny moments we spent together. You are my patronus, keeping the darkness at bay. You are my adventure, my reminder, my friend. You are my rock, my touchstone.

So right now, my dear little love, let me be yours. Let me help you the way you always helped me. Let me be the one to guard the door and keep the monsters in their closet. Trust that I will protect you during this difficult journey we are beginning- even from yourself at times. You will be okay, my darling. You are so strong and resilient. You have always tested me, but I have always tested you too. Now we are in this together, fighting on the same side as you slowly heal. Its going to be okay, my little one. After all, this is not the first monster we have faced. We made one another stronger for moments just like this.

A Toast for our Critter Companions

I am on  of those people who gushes with excitement at the thought of going to a kitten coffee house (yes, it really is just a coffee shop full of kitties you can pet as you enjoy your favorite beverage); I grin like a Cheshire Cat when I come close to the dog park; and every time I make my way to the mall, I will inevitably drag any poor soul who happens to be accompanying me over to the pet store where I will pine and beg them to help me rescue all of the critters. I am simultaneously the type of person who balks at the thought of going to a party with acquaintances, I get tongue tied and awkward during regular conversations. I have not mastered social interactions with other human beings; and so, I find salvation in the paws of other species. Needless to say, I am an animal person. And as we just passed Nation Pet Day, it seemed fitting to raise my glass in celebration for my beloved little beauties. (Side note: apologies that this was not posted on the actual day- I had it all finished, but a technical glitch made the entire post mysteriously disappear without a trace right before I could hit publish. Today it magically reappeared; instead of questioning it, I will thank my lucky stars and send it off just a couple days late).
Animals bring out the best in us; at least they do for me. These compassionate creatures can enrich your life and teach you more about the world than you had realized. I’ve had a myriad of critters who’ve graced my existence with their own; from dogs, cats, ants, gerbils and guinea pigs, right down to hedgehogs, chinchillas and ferrets. And who can forget the attempted capture of snakes, wolly bears and millipedes? With these creatures have come joy, pain, and life lessons I cannot forget.

Sometimes it was a simple reminder found in the most mundane of activities, something so subtle you could easily miss it. The simple ant farm taught me to see the beauty in nature; from the designs that they built out of the earth itself right down to the teamwork they used to create the masterpiece of their home. The chinchilla reminded me how delicate the beautiful things in life can be, and how you must treat them with care as respect. She also taught me that the only way to truly live your life is to let go and get a little dirty on occasion.

From the snake and millipedes I learned that sometimes the best thing you can do is fight for yourself, in spite of the best intentions of those trying to ‘rescue’ you. Only you will know what is best. Fun fact: yellow-spotted millipedes are surprisingly common in the Pacific Northwest, and when they feel attacked they emit cyanide. The internet will try to tell you that it is a strong almond smell- do not believe those lies. It is horrible and does not wash away easily. 

My hedgehog was rescued from an abusive situation, so he had some trust issues. You always hope that all of the love you shower them with can smother the pain they have endured. But real life is not always like a story. Spike and I had good days and bad days; there were times he would run and play, trying to eat my hair as he scurried through the mazes I would make out of our pillows; and there were other days when the slightest movement from across the room would send him into a shivering and spitting ball of quills. From him I learned the importance of unconditional love and compassion, and how to read the signals others are sending. He also taught me that food is usually the best bridge between two creatures- nothing would change his mood quite like his favorite treat being gently placed beside him (in fact, this is a trick that still works on me).

For those of you who aren’t aware, ferrets are notorious thieves. Mine was no exception; he also had a bit of a sweet tooth. His favorite hauls were tootsie rolls and pop tarts. In theintjs following his passing I would occasionally find another little nook or cranny stuffed full of his sugary delights. Bandit was full of joy and life. He taught me the importance of dancing and singing for joy as he hopped and chirped around the living room, eying any unsupervised candy. He was persistent in his love and affection; poking and playing with the cat until she finally gave in. His joyful persistence finally broke through her grumpy exterior. They became the most unexpected of allies.

These days I have just two little critters- one cat and one dog. In fact, they are both curled up with me as I write this. Most days they try my patience, they push every single button and then come back around for a second time. They howl and bark when all I want to do is catch 5 extra minutes of sleep. They poke at each other and skid down the hallway to determine who is king of the castle. But at the end of the day, they are my partners in crime. They are my cuddle buddies when I am sad or sick. They give my kisses when all I want to do is cry. They are usually the first to hear my most recent work in progress. They remind me when I’ve been sitting in front of the computer too long, so I need to get up and go for a walk. They never let me forget the importance of play or tasty treats, or head scratches just because you care. When I’m bored they surprise me by dragging in their favorite toy to toss around (and occasionally the cat will drag in something dead and leave it on my lap as an unexpected gift). At the end of the day, they run to the door- as excited to see me as I am to see them. I learn something new from them every day- whether I want the lesson or not.


It is the worst cosmic joke that us humans are forced to outlive our beautiful creatures when they are far more deserving of that extra time. I heard once that it’s because they already know how to live with love and compassion, and so they don’t need as much time here on earth to get it right. Not like us. It seems fitting, really. The most poignant of lessons were not ones that had to be vocalized to me. They were ones my furry friends were able to show me.

So for all that they do- to us and for us- for all of the times that they make us want to pull out our hair while simultaneously dying from a cuteness overload- here’s to the pets that make this world a bit brighter, a tad happier, and a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

Things I Learned from my Dog

In honor of best friends day, I have a confession to make. You were bound to find out sooner or later, I would much rather be up front about it. I am one of ‘those’ pet people. There, it’s out! Wow, does it feel like a weight has been lifted or what? I will admit, I like putting Easter bunny ears or Santa hats on the dog when the correct season arrives. And there is a slight possibility that I have a picture of him sporting a human jersey for my favorite football team (I’ll leave the specific team anonymous for now- I think it’s best that I only throw one bombshell on you at a time). And really, he doesn’t seem to mind; after all, I do occasionally make him his very own cake (Okay- I’ve only done it once, and it was when he turned a year old- that doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to me, I think I’m quite tame for a pet person). Now the cat- he’s the smart one, he’s managed to escape all of my photo sessions simply because, well, he has discovered how to use his claws. That’s a battle I only fought once- I learned my lesson. The cat rules our roost. But really, I’m not that bad. I just love my critters. In my mind, pets are a part of the family. A large part of the family.

When we brought home the little ball of fur that has since morphed into a 75 lbs mass of muscle and sloppy kisses, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. I had expected that I would be teaching him; how to come, stay, roll over, don’t bark, eat the burglar, do not eat the mailman (no matter how tasty he looks). I never expected that I would be learning so many lessons from him. Here are just a few of them:

  • Always be excited to see your people. ALWAYS. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a rough day, or they didn’t change the toilet paper roll (or they moved the bone that you finally managed to hide in the perfect spot under the covers)- be excited to see them and you will brighten their day.
  • A walk will fix everything. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind. Link is always quick to give me a little yip when the sun is shining and I have spent too long working on my laptop. Sometimes all you need to push that reset button is a breath of fresh air and some sunshine.

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  • Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, because looks are often deceiving. Link is a German Shepherd- he is supposed to be tough and scary. But, as I’ve learned- sometimes it is the ‘toughest’ ones that actually have the biggest hearts. And sometimes those who give the appearace of being unusually serious are the biggest goofballs of all.
  • Respect the ‘little guy’: treat everyone equally, whether they are a Grate Dane or a little Chiuaua, treat them well. You’ll be much happier making friends than enemies.

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  • Just because someone barks at you, does not mean you have to bark back.
  • Down time is important. When you feel overwhelmed, sometimes the best thing you can do is find a quiet corner and chew on a bone
  • Be slow to anger and quick to forgive: It’s okay if the cat thinks its funny to bop your nose and run away when you want to nap. And if he gets you with his claws on accident, why not answer him with a big sloppy kiss instead of a nip. After all, he does let you chase him sometimes. He can’t be all bad.
  • Work time is for work, and play time is for play. You need both to feel happy and fulfilled.
  • When you are in a bad mood, sometimes all you need is a snack. And if a snack doesn’t work- a nap is usually the perfect trick.
  • When someone is sick or sad- cuddles are always the best medicine.
  • Never be embarrassed: who cares if you ran into the wall? You were busy staring at that suspicious squirrel on the fence.
  • It isn’t whether you win the game that counts, as long as you play. Missing the ball just means you get the added adventure of sniffing it out.
  • If it seems like the cat is doing something naughty- he is. Whine and alert the humans immediately.
  • Always be willing to make new friends, but be wary who you allow close to you (anything with shooting quills is usually a bad idea)
  • Always trust your intuition, it is usually right.
  • Be ambitious- why settle for a stick when you can take the whole log?

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  • Be curious about the world- there are so many new things to learn, taste, see, smell. You will never learn unless you try.
  • Be passionate- always. The world is an exciting place, if you are willing to embrace it.