If you are a person who loves dogs, you probably won’t understand what I’m about to say. And you will desperately try for all kinds of ways to convince me of things. But in the same way that you say people who do not love the dogs just can’t understand, I will tell you that people who love the dogs won’t get me.
The First Night
I sit still in my bed, 3:30am; I’m aware of the little furry body in the crate near the door. I can’t believe I’ve let this thing into my house, into my haven, my balanced home that functions for people. I scratch my leg, then my neck and thoughts of fleas overwhelm me so much that I have to get up. He’s an animal! In my house! The voice teases me loud while I try to reason with it, how American people get dogs. And I’m an American person. Why am not loving this dog?
Because he is a dog. And I am not a person who loves the dogs. I have no compartment for dog care, no experience for what to do with one. I have never had a dog and I’ve never, ever wanted one. There are no dog-loving pathways in my brain, no memories of dogs past, no times of longing for a dog friend. I feel un-qualified and nervous, like there are dog rules that I don’t know about yet. I also feel distinctly un-patriotic and wonder if people would protest in front of my house if only they knew.
Now before you call the Humane Society, my husband knows about the dogs. He has had the dogs and loves the dogs. And he lives here and I love him, so it works out. In fact, we’ve been married for nine years and there is a laugh I’ve never heard until now. It is the happy dog laugh. And it makes me love him even more. The man, not the dog. But maybe the dog a little.
In preparation for this puppy, I’ve read the Dog Whisperer, and everything he says makes sense. But what if I’m not a person who can do that? I’m not sure anyone realizes how anxious I feel in my bones, how afraid I am to do something wrong, how I both desperately want the dog to like me and also wish he would go away.
And it occurs to me at 4am how the Creator has things he wants to teach me about his creation. For a quick moment, I am thankful for the dog, for the things I am already learning about myself and my unwillingness to trust the process. I am prone to fear, to worry, to dread and the manipulation of outcomes. My first instinct is to resist change and then when it comes, to grieve and worry and sit in my fear.
I have never wanted to change my personality more than I want to in this moment. How I wish I were more laid-back, more open, more free. The last time I felt this type of uneasiness was when we brought babies home from the hospital. And that was something I prepared for, longed for, wanted and still, the anxiety and responsibility weighed heavy.
Yet here I am with a dog in my sunroom, my pretty sunroom made for people. He chews and he gallops and sleeps on my floor like he belongs here. He is an animal and he lives in my house. Houses are not for animals, they are for people, right? And then I remember how I love the people in my house, and how very much my people wanted a dog. And I remember the whispered, prayer of surrender: I’m willing, Lord. Bring the right one, Lord. I know he gives good gifts. I know he longs to provide, even in this. And so I trust even in the midst of my anxiety. I walk the dog, I feed the dog, I even laugh at the dog. It is work, this loving. It does not come natural for me. But really, no love is real without work.
The Second, Third, Fourth & Fifth Night
But all that I said before? That was before the puppy magic. I did not know about the puppy magic. I can’t guarantee I will like your dog. In fact, I probably won’t. But after that first night, something seemed to click, like this little dog has somehow brought an organic rhythm and connection to our family. So dog people? I kind of get it. And non-dog people? I promise I won’t write about this dog anymore. At least, not much. And Finn? Welcome home, buddy. You may have been abandoned by your last owners, but you will not be abandoned by us.