I got my first dog late in life. It was a good choice. -----------------------------------
I never had a dog growing up, and I never really wanted one. To be honest, I never even gave it that much thought. I've never had anything against dogs. I just had little exposure to them. Still in the “no thanks” camp, I listened respectfully to the family pitch about a decade ago. I was in my forties, the twins were in grade school, and the idea came mostly from my wife, who did grow up with dogs. My concern was that as the freelancer (I was work-from-home before it was trendy and all the rage.) I would be taking on 90% of the care of the dog.
One afternoon, very much by chance, I met the puppy who would come to be known as Finn (short for Finnegan). I was killing time and wandered into a pet store. I know you're not supposed to get dogs there. I know. Making a purchase was not on my radar, so when this puppy and I bonded in this immediate and remarkable way, I was taken a bit by surprise. No, I didn't buy him that day. Before getting him, my wife and I went to shelters and the humane society, but all they had were chihuahuas and pit bulls. Besides, I knew if I were going to agree to becoming a dog owner, the new family member would have to be that little guy I'd already met. The one who gave me the look that said:
This place sucks. Get me outta here.
And he was right. The place did suck. It seemed like a pretty terrible environment, and not long after we took Finn home, they were sued and shut down. So we did, in fact, rescue him. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Several years in with Finn, I can say my 90% estimate proved to be a little conservative, but that’s not at all a complaint. Finn is without a doubt one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Not on par with my marriage and children, of course, but he’s up there. Our bond is really something, and it’s always on. I mean always.
My wife usually gets up before I do, meaning most days my first interaction upon waking is with Finn. The alarm on my phone is a Beethoven piano sonata, and when he hears it, he knows the day is about to start. He communicates with me just fine. I know what all his looks are telling me. His morning, post-alarm one says:
Hey! We good to go? I know you have your bathroom time (whatever that's about). I'll wait here. Ready when you are.
To say Finn and I have our routine would be an understatement. He sits by me while I work, and despite reassurances that I'll be right back, he'll get up from lounging to follow me wherever I go. We have two chairs out front, and he happily takes the one opposite me whenever I sit with an evening cocktail. I talk to him all the time in full sentences he can't possibly understand (a habit my family finds odd), and every tummy rub ends with the same look.
Why'd you stop?
"Well, I can’t just rub your tummy in perpetuity. I have other responsibilities in life."
Our connection has become a happy constant in the equation of my life. The clear preference for both of us is to be together. If I do have to leave the house, he watches me out the window with a look of profound sadness and confusion.
Is that it? Is it over?
They say dogs can learn over a hundred words and phrases. One that Finn knows for sure is the quiet mantra whenever I return home. He excitedly jumps on me, and I pick him up, feeling the tension leave his body as I say close to his ear: "I always come back."
We have a large front yard, so Finn’s hyper-ballistic freakouts when a delivery person comes last a few minutes. The eruption starts with the arrival of the truck. He knows FedEx and UPS trucks vs. all others. The clink of the metal pedestrian gates puts the household at Defcon 3. The scene spirals from there.
I’m the only one in the family who tries to calm him down (vs. shut him up), but I’m well past wondering about that. I tell him “It’s okay. Everything’s okay.” After seven years and countless deliveries, he’s still not buying it.
What exactly about this situation is “o-kay?” A STRANGER is approaching the FRONT DOOR with a BOX?!?! Do YOU know what’s in that box? Because I don’t! Although I suspect it’s the WEAPONS he’s going to use to MURDER all of you! Oh, wait. Whaddya know? My terrifying presence has him TURNING AROUND and WALKING AWAY! You’re welcome!!
What’s that? . . . How should I know why he left the weapons?!?!
When friends post goodbye tributes on Facebook, those heartbreaking stories of having to put their dog down, I immediately tear up. I didn't know any of these dogs, and in many cases I barely know the people anymore. None of that matters. I feel terrible for those families because I now know something I spent my whole life not knowing. I also dread that day coming for me.
[This would be the paragraph about what it will mean to me, how devastated I will be, when Finn leaves this world. But I’m not writing that. I can’t even think about that.]
Finn is a friend like no other, a furry, quirky extension of myself, even when we're apart. He even has my easygoing personality (as long as we're not getting a package). Taking care of him doesn't mean I take less care of myself, but I do spend less time dwelling on any negative, personal issues. A similar thing happened, much more strongly of course, while raising my twins. Focusing on them, putting them first, alleviated my sometimes anxiety-filled introspection.
I’ve battled depression my entire adult life, although if I got to choose the term for me, it wouldn’t be “battle.” At least mine doesn’t feel like a battle. I deal with depression the same way I deal with my very mild, undiagnosed dyslexia. I know it’s there. When it surfaces, I do my best to work through it rather than ignore or try to avoid it.
I’m aware everyone is different, and I would never belittle the experiences of the many, many people who are indeed battling depression. I consider myself very lucky that whatever is in me has always proven manageable. Even if I could articulate how I manage it, I wouldn’t here because it would sound like tips or advice, and I’m hardly qualified to dispense that.
Has Finn made things easier in that regard? Absolutely. In ways I never could have imagined. As I write this, he's sitting on the ottoman next to my chair staring up at me. His look is harder to read than usual, but I think I got it.
You don't really think people are going to read all the way to the end of a post about ME, do you?
THANKS FOR READING!
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