My dog and I have a weird relationship. I’m going to be really honest here. If you’re one of those people who treats your dog like a child who spent 9 months growing in your womb, you may want to stop reading here.
A little background. The dog I have now was given to me when I was 17. It was a couple of months after my first dog died. New dog (Sophie) is the same breed as old dog (Addy). They look very similar. Addy was a gift for my 9th birthday. Sometime around New Years when I was 17 I found her lying on the street in front of our house, dead. She had been hit by a driver who apparently sped off instead of reading her ID tag and letting us know what happened. I’m not going to go into a whole big thing here, but Addy was my best friend for a while. She slept with me every night. When I moved to South Carolina and had literally zero human friends I would talk to her and cry myself to sleep. That all sounds much sadder and more dramatic than it was. Moving to a new state at 15 is hard, but it’s not tragic or anything. I only said all of that to give you some perspective. Addy and I were close. I wasn’t ready to replace Addy when Sophie came along. That’s no one’s fault but my own. I let my parents think I wanted a replacement and I was even excited when they came home with Sophie. I just wasn’t ready to build that kind of a relationship again. Plus I was a year and a half away from leaving for college and I wouldn’t be taking her with me.
Sophie’s 8, going on 9 now. She spent a year and a half getting to know me, 4 years living with my parents, and now 3 years living with me again. She’s weird. She’s kind of like a bratty toddler who always needs a haircut. Sometimes she frustrates me… a lot. There are days when I watch her do things and try to figure out what, in God’s name, is motivating her. I never can. One time last year I did something that doesn’t make me proud. In a moment of sheer frustration I googled the life expectancy of Sophie’s breed. Yep. I’m being serious. I looked up how much longer I’d have to deal with be blessed by the presence of Sophie. Her life span is 18 to 20 years. I have a dog that lives close to twice as long as some other breeds. When I looked it up I was mad at Sophie, then I was horrified at the number, then I was disgusted with myself. In that order… and lingering for an especially long time on the last part.
I only admit this now because I know it’s horrible and ridiculous, and also because I know how much my feelings about this tiny dog have changed since then. I don’t know why but knowing that number hasn’t made me think “oh man, 10 more years” — it’s changed my perspective to “only 10 more years?” I’ve started having what I’d call parental moments. Sometimes I’ll see her sleeping and just stare at her for several minutes because she looks like the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of playing with her when I get an overwhelming need to hug her and tell her I love her. I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m nuts. I don’t think I’m actually crazy, I think I’m just about 8.5 years late on falling in love with my dog.
Right now she’s standing over a food bowl next to me chomping Pedigree Little Bites (even her dog food’s name is cute) louder than any 10 pound creature should be able to. In a moment she’s going to let out a disgusting, manly burp. After that she’ll turn around and jump up in my lap. I know that’s what’s going to happen, because it’s her routine. I don’t know what motivates her. I don’t know why she can’t chew with her mouth closed like a civilized human (…wait…). I don’t know why she has to turn around in a complete circle right before she jumps anywhere. I don’t understand why she does most of what she does, but I do know that she’s already given me years of love that I’m just starting to return. I have a whole lot to make up for over the next decade and now 10 more years just doesn’t seem long enough.
This is me holding Sophie after a hike.