No Comfort Like A Dog

Well, I finally did it.

I didn’t think it would happen for a very long time, but I recently decided I’d lived alone for long enough, and was tired of coming home to an empty house. I didn’t know if I was ready for that big step just yet, not sure if I was ready for that kind of commitment, but there are just times when you have to take that big leap of faith, and hope it all works out.

I got a dog.

I’ve had dogs all my life, and I’ve always been very thankful for that. My family was always fond of dogs and my father was a sort of “St. Francis” when it came to animals. He could approach any pet – even a stray – and it would sense something there and just walk right up to him. I always thought that was pretty cool. I’m a lot like my father, though I don’t have that particular ability.

My father was always busy doing something and was rarely home. I don’t have many memories of him just sitting around and relaxing. Having a dog helped him with that. He always seemed very happy whenever he was spending time with the dog, and that works for me as well. I don’t relax easily, and rarely just sit and do nothing. But once in a while I will just sit down on the floor and love the dog up, and the world seems absolutely perfect in those moments.

Dogs help us with a lot of things; processing emotion being one of them. And perhaps it’s one of the most important abilities a dog has, to simply accept and comfort those that care for it. When I was a junior in high school and my mother unexpectedly died, it left a big hole in my life. My father and I were not close then, so being home without my mother there was difficult. Our family dog offered comfort and solace that
my father, deep in his grief, could not.

In my 20s, when I was in the middle of building my career, I was abruptly told one day to gather my things and leave. I didn’t see it coming whatsoever and it was quite a shock. My family was young and I felt like I had let them down in huge way. My world seemed like it was crashing around me. Stunned, I went home and collapsed on the floor and sobbed uncontrollably with the dog in my arms for what felt like hours.

Many years later, finding myself separated after more than 20 years of marriage, friends and family were suddenly scarce. I spent an entire summer alone in a big, empty house, struggling to make sense of it all. I spent countless nights lying on the floor crying while hugging the dog, trying to figure out where things went wrong.

And now, a magnet on my fridge proclaims “When all else fails, hug the dog.” Funny how dogs can be such good therapy by just being there. They are such good listeners.

Dogs are also good at reminding you of things you might forget about, like having a little fun once in awhile. Being an enthusiastic and driven person, I have a tendency to obsess about a project and getting it done within a certain amount of time. This can drive other people mad, or at least push them to the point of frustration.

People have the tendency to nag at that time, but dogs never do. They simply walk into the room, push their nose under your elbow, and look at you sweetly while happily wagging their tail. Who can decline such a ridiculously friendly invitation? We are told to try and live in the “now” but dogs are always in that place. How wonderful they know to come and rescue us from ourselves.

And who has more fun than a dog? The way they enjoy life is something we should all try to emulate. Exploring with abandon, greeting strangers without prejudice, getting all excited about simple, silly things, enjoying a good belly rub. We should all be so happy with so little.

Dogs are pretty important. They have a sense of humor and know how to use it. When I get home at the end of the day, the amazing happy dance we do together is so much better than just coming home and saying “Honey, I’m home!” to a mirror in the hallway.

There is much wiggling, wagging and heavy  leaning, as she knows that we are heading out for an adventure as soon as I can clip on her leash. I have to say, I can think of few things as wonderful as an unsolicited face lick or two from a very happy dog.

We don’t know each other that well just yet, but we are on our way. She is choosing favorite places to lay down in each room, while I sit nearby and take care of chores. I’m not in any one room for very long though, so sometimes she will just chill out and wait for me to park it. And each morning she lets me know when the mailman has offended us by trespassing on the porch to deposit the day’s mail.

It’s lovely. The house doesn’t seem so big and empty, and having someone to care for again is fulfilling and comforting. She’s a great roommate and doesn’t seem to mind me “hearsing and rehearsing” my lines for a show, or playing music after 11 pm, and loudly singing along.

And if I stay up until 2 a.m. reading Stephen King, there are no complaints. Sometimes I hear her softly snoring, even if the TV show I’m watching is a noisy one. I think it’s safe to say she’s pretty happy and relaxed here in her new home. I am very thankful that we found each other, and to have someone to say good night to from now on.

 

Originally published January 18, 2013.

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