For the Love of Dog

A few things you should know about me:

I am the person you call when your heart is breaking or you're freaked out of your mind. I'm the person you call when you think your husband is cheating on you or when you think you might need to check yourself into a padded cell. I'm the person that will stay up with you through the night and hold your hand. I'll sit with you and cry with you. I'll tell you the truth. I'll laugh with you and travel with you and I'm always up for a good adventure with you.

But I am not the person that you call when you need a dog sitter.

Which is why my family walked on tip-toes around me as they smuggled in a very cute and very small dog for a weekend sleepover at our house. You're going to need a diagram for this family tree: the dog is the ex-dog of my husband's ex-wife and the kids adore him. The dog, Tiki, now lives with a sweet old lady named Betty. The kids miss Tiki and tell me Tiki stories all the time. They were offered the chance to dogsit for Betty on the weekend that the kids would be at our house. So, even though I'm not the kind of person that would dogsit for you (or Betty), I found myself in the care of a little white dog for the weekend. And, surprise surprise, this happened to be a weekend where the kids and the husband were mostly not at home.

Besides not being a person that you call for dog sitting, another thing you should know is that I historically haven't loved little dogs. They bark and jump a lot and I never really understood why people didn't just get a real dog in the first place. I had every intention of taking care of Tiki, but my feelings were more akin to toleration rather than those of a loving caretaker.

But Tiki had a different plan. He didn't bark. He didn't jump. He just sat by me. He fell asleep when I worked. He followed me when I left the room. He kept his eyes on what I was doing when I was in the kitchen. He was just a little ball of love and kindness. Plus he was really soft and to my astonishment I found my hand unconsciously petting him more than a few times. Weird.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love dogs. But I don't loooooove dogs. I want to be the kind of person who looooves them, but mostly I am the person that is in charge of feeding them, walking them, paying for the vet, picking up poop, etc. When I think of "dog" I see the whole package - the cuteness and the responsibility.

But then Tiki upended everything I thought I knew about myself. He just loved me and it was just easy. And I found myself just loving him and it was easy. He jumped up next to me on the couch and I didn't put him back on the ground. I let him sleep on the bed. (Who am I?) I brought him with me in the car. I liked his company.

My family, with worried looks on their faces, watched me from afar. Like I had some disease that they might catch. She's gone off the deep end for sure, I heard them whisper.

Tiki spent three glorious days at our house and when he left I felt a shocking sense of loss. How could such a tiny little thing leave such a gaping hole in my heart? The next day I felt the same. And the day after that. I kept thinking about him and wishing he lived with us full time. Six days later, I was still grief stricken. To the point that I could cry if I thought about him.

To the point that I may or may not have driven myself to Betty's house and actually knocked on her door, at which point I may or may not have explained the complicated family tree showing my relatively distant relationship to her dog. At which point, I may or may not have entered her house and professed my utter and complete Tiki-love to her in hopes that she might just want to give me her dog. At which point, I may or may not have gone back to my car and cried. Unable to bring myself to steal a dog from a sweet old lady.

Another week went by. And then another. I couldn't get him out of my head. I stopped trying to make sense of it and chose to embrace it. Instead of trying to morph myself back into who I thought I was, I embraced the stranger showing up as me and I decided to do a radical thing and just give myself what I wanted.

This was not an easy thing. I had a full fourteen-day-psychological-war on my hands as part of my mind fought for all the reasons I shouldn't have what I want. Why I wasn't good enough. Why I didn't deserve it. Why it was stupid and silly and unnecessary. Why I would regret it.

And my heart patiently waited and listened and kept saying: I still want a dog.

You're wrong. You're unworthy. You don't like little dogs. You don't need more responsibility in your life.

And my heart patiently waited and listened and kept saying: I still want a dog.

Fourteen days into it, I realized that this is the war that I have been waging my entire life. The war against what I really want. The war against what's easy. Always giving way to the difficult, the challenging, the struggle. Never surrendering to the ease and grace until it's beaten into me.

This time though, I saw (after only fourteen days... better than 17 years, right?) what I was doing and decided to surrender to the sweetness. Surrender to just give myself permission to want what I wanted. And to surrender with the ease and the grace. Surrender to the ridiculous idea of having something for no good reason. And decided to allow myself the decadence of superfluous love and joy.

Which takes me to the part where I drove eight hours, utterly exhausted after I finished leading a four-day retreat. Every minute thinking I was crazed-out-of-my-mind straitjacket-style. Every minute laughing at myself yet being open and curious as to what life might look like if I just allowed myself the privilege of being unreasonable.

Which takes me to the part where I got my little dog.

Which takes me to the part where I got to learn that the sweetness. The honey. The superfluous joy.

And that it's not unreasonable. And it's not ridiculous.

In fact, it's the stuff that life is made of.


*Photo: Out getting ice cream with the family with our new puppy, Honey Bee.