I have been a dog day for exactly eight days. That’s less time than it takes to binge-watch the entire series of Star Trek: Next Generation (not that I’ve tried, of course), earn a single paycheck, or successfully vacuum my living room.
And yet, in this relatively short period of time, I have had my life turned upside-down by a four-legged creature who has no idea how to do anything other than depend on me completely. And, in at least equal measure, love the crap out of me.
This is a problem.
I have spent the vast majority of my adulthood honing independence. Treading lightly with affection. Keeping my insane vulnerabilities to myself. How dare this critter force me to revert back to my care-free, ignorant, bruise-free days! How dare she flaunt her comfort with dependence and love without preconditions! Doesn’t she know how long it’s taken me to get here? To climb so deeply inside myself the world can’t possibly know what’s going on? It’s been decades in the making.
The first day I brought her home, she sniffed around my apartment. Scared, naturally. I sat on the couch and gave her room to roam. But in just a few minutes, she hopped up and joined me, collapsed into a little cinnamon bun, laid her head in my lap, and instantly fell asleep. A few minutes later, she was snoring.
As I sat there, gently petting the top of her head and cradling her with my arm, I thought of another time on that very same couch. I was sitting next to a boy — a very cute one. We were making small talk and all I could think was: “How do I kiss him? Wait, do I kiss him? If I do, when do I kiss him?” I pivoted this way and that, trying to send signals that, should he make a move, I’d be receptive. If I had been paying more attention, I would have realized he was doing the same — a shift of the arm, a gentle brush of the knee, a turn in my direction. But I convinced myself these were just the normal movements of someone on a couch talking to another human being.
My internal dialogue grew louder and more scrambled as the conversation went on: “Maybe a kiss isn’t the right move. Maybe a snuggle or just a move closer? Gosh, I’m bad at this. Or maybe he doesn’t even like me. Do I smell? Maybe I have something in my teeth. Or I’m just boring him. God, I really wish he would just make a move. I’m better at reacting; I don’t want to risk doing something that would push him away.”
After an extend mental tussle, it happened. I don’t remember who initiated it, but we kissed. No more multi-level decision trees unfolding my head, and no more worry about offending someone. We finally kissed.
With an aggressive, honking snore, my new puppy started, pulling us both back to reality. She lifted her head for a second, looked at me, then pushed in closer. Before she laid her head down again to finish a colorful dream, she licked the edge of my hand: “Thank you.”
A whole adulthood spent hiding, scheming, questioning, tucking away. And here is this dog who cuddles without warrant and flaunts her ugliest, grossest attributes as if they were everyday news. Is it any wonder we humans want nothing more than to make dogs our best friends?