Today I sat down to write and was assaulted by all the concerns that have been circulating in my head lately:
-The radical changes in my schedule in the past year, from a regular 9 to 5, to bar hours, back to the ungodly early morning fitness studio routine, now to a freelancing schedule that I have the responsibility of creating on my own, each day pieced together and overlapped like modge podge.
-That my schooling progress has proceeded one sporadic hour at a time for the past six months.
-The sudden absence of my best friend and roommate as she moves on to finish her education.
-Or the constant re-evaluation of what success really means.
-Or the amount of material I’ve been reading.
-Or the fact that I’ve started writing a book- more on that another time!
No wonder I haven’t been sleeping well…
When you feel this unanchored, it can be hard to find a source of consistency and solidarity. I have the solution! Dogs.
I’ve always been in tune with animals more than any other kind of spiritual practice out there. Alone, I can’t get out of my own head- but with an animal I feel so much more connected to that steady energy running through all us living creatures. Even as a little girl, I can recall feeling my heart swell as I brushed my horse. As I sat in the grass and watched the birds at sunset. It’s the type of companionship that unlocks something less… analytical within me. I start to turn off my brain and remember how to communicate with my heart.
But really, this is going to be more than just an appreciation post for my little Huckleberry Finn. He has become a pillar of my mental health. He is so much more than a companion- he’s an obligation. He’s a responsibility. And that’s an amazing thing.
I would say that in all honesty my experience with depression is situational and mild in comparison to what I’ve heard it can do to a person. But even when I’m having a day when I don’t feel capable of much, I still have to get out of bed and get moving because Huck needs to be taken out. He needs to be fed. And when he doesn’t just need physical care, he’s a little ball of emotions who needs affection and attention just like the rest of us. Okay, maybe in his case even more than the rest of us!
It’s a powerful thing, to be needed.
So powerful, it may have saved my life.
When Mom first died, it was the depths of winter. The rivers were frozen along the sides with thick ice flows, and the water was so steely blue, just looking at it awoke a kind of primal fear in you. One day I was driving home from town, and as I crossed one of the bridges it just seemed like it would be so simple to twitch the steering wheel a little to the right and not have to deal with how much my heart hurt anymore. But I had my Lewis in the car. He was the first dog I rescued and took home when I was in college. And not only did I never want to hurt him literally, but I realized in that moment that I never wanted to hurt him by leaving him alone. Ever.
That night the early hours of the morning rolled around once again, and as I sat up in bed, weeping, wondering how in the world I would ever survive how much I missed my mom, he let me hold him as tightly as I needed.
That’s as honest as I can get with you.
They need us, but we need them so much more. Or, at least, I do.
Huck was a gift from God.
I seriously believe that. As I drove to the animal shelter on a whim after work one day, I looked up through my windshield and I said out loud “God, I’m really scared about making a huge decision like this so if one of those dogs is meant for me, you make it so, so obvious okay? I need a sign, here.”
As I arrived at the shelter, the woman at the front desk waved me vaguely towards the back corner of the lobby. As I walked through the pens, my heart drooped. I saw only big dogs, and I knew that my small apartment wasn’t a good home for a large, energetic animal. I walked back to my car feeling dejected; but as I set down my belongings in the passenger seat, I decided to head back in. I had the entire afternoon free, and nothing better to do than give these pups some sorely needed affection and time out of their cages.
When I walked back in, I saw the other door- the door heading towards my little dude! He was in the first pen. I didn’t even get a chance to look at the other little guys. I opened the bottom half of the dutch door, stepped into the stall, and crouched down to say hello. He sat back on his haunches and placed both paws on my chest. I loved him, and I felt like maybe he was the one- but I was freaking out.
I was relieved to realize that my wallet was back in the car, where I had left it so I could have my hands free for walking and petting. It gave me a moment to catch my breath.
When I walked back up to his spot, I peered over the door and saw that he had his nose pressed against the crack underneath the door- like he was waiting for me to come back. Or at least that’s what it felt like! I called to him, and he sat up and grinned at me SO BIG. I got pictures of the moment, and I think we can agree it doesn’t disappoint.
Well, the rest is history!
Our pets are blessings, gifts from above, and literal life savers.