A One-Dog Woman

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Now that our house is going back to the way it was before Sandy, I think all three of us are happier and more appreciative of what we have, as a little family.

Do I sound really pathetic or weird in saying that my dog, my cat and I are my ‘family’? I should say “household,” I guess. I don’t know. All I know is the three of us have a certain harmony that’s fun, mellow and easy. Simon’s the sweetest cat, and I love that he wants me to pet him pretty much all the time now. When he was younger, he was mostly aloof with me. But he’s definitely growing more affectionate all the time, and I like that he will often trot behind me when I get home, meowing and telling me about his day… or whatever it is he’s saying. He’s usually not saying “feed me” because he nibbles his food throughout the day. Nope, instead, he is saying “pet me” and I think that’s so damn endearing.

And Hurley. Wow… not having him around for a few days really did make things feel weird as hell. His energy and presence is so much a part of my house that when it’s not there, it’s really noticeable. On Friday night, I missed him so much I got all teared up for a little while. When you have a dog that you’re connected to, it’s something really cool. I love that Hurley looks right in my eyes and I look into his, and we honestly do seem to understand one another. I didn’t feel that same connection at all with Sandy. Her eyes were cute, but there wasn’t a complex and devoted personality behind them. She had her own complexities, yes, but they didn’t really want to sync up with mine, if that makes any sense. This whole experience has reminded me that I am completely monogamous when it comes to dogs: I am a one-dog-woman. I always have been, and I bet it’s always going to be that way.

Even when I lived with three dogs, there was still always the one dog that was MY DOG. The one who could just sit and look into my eyes for a long time and ‘get’ me. Malcolm was the last dog before Hurley to do this. Who would have ever guessed a five-pound creature could really be all the dog I needed? But he was. Sure, the guys I was with had wanted other dogs, or had a dog of their own prior to meeting me, but in the end all I really needed was Malcolm. (I had Katie that one time, but I think I got her as security. I was scared about living alone back then, and her bark, appearance and sometimes-unpredictable behavior really was a good deterrent, I’m sure… but she wasn’t Malcolm. She was the security division. He was the companion.)

And of course, before Malcolm, there was Sam. Up until I bonded with Hurley, I didn’t think it would be possible to have a deeper bond with a dog than I did with Sam. He was just Always Mine. Everything that dog did was, in some way, related to me. He would wait for me to come home at night before he could really go to sleep. He’d lie by the door I went out, and do loud, emo sighs from time to time, according to my family. If I was swimming in the pool, he’d pace alongside and keep mostly-even with me, making sure I wasn’t drowning, I guess. When I would mow the front yard, he would stand on his hind legs and watch me from the window… always managing to keep me in sight. If I went to the side of the house, he’d run to that window. If I brought the lawn mower around back to the shed, I’d see him in the dining room window, watching me. When I got home from school, college and/or work everyday, he would talk to me, saying all this weird “arrr, arrr, arrr, oooooh” stuff that was absolutely hilarious and adorable.

When he was old, he no longer really needed a leash if we went to the woods. We had a favorite park, and even a favorite trail. To this day, I think heaven for me would be wandering through those woods on a summer day, everything green and buzzing around me, and Sam trotting next to me. When I stopped to just stand or sit down and take it all in, almost meditating, he would sit automatically and I swear to God, it seemed like he was doing the same thing.

One time we went to another park, where I brought a blanket, a good book and some water for both of us. Sam just laid there next to me, napping a little and not moving from my side even if another dog walked past. I even dozed off that day… and I know he stayed right there with me the whole time.

I wrote poems about him, and in one I said, “You sit next to me like a long hug.” To me, that sums it up. I felt like I was so loved, so connected to another creature, that it’s hard to imagine feeling it again.

But as I’ve said before, Hurley is becoming a lot like Sam in some ways. The way he did in our training classes was amazing, and we were able to accomplish so much just because we could communicate so much with just our eyes or a few gestures. Most of his tricks he knows by hand gestures. In the morning, he climbs up on my bed and gives me tons of kisses until I start laughing, which I have to say is an AWESOME way to wake up. I just hug him and tell him what an amazing dog he is, just savoring the sweet affectionate nature of this little creature. I can’t believe he’s mine, sometimes. Hurley is definitely one of Those Dogs… the dog that everyone seems to want to stop and pet, the dog that’s reliably good in almost any situation, the dog that makes the other dogs look crazy and uncivilized. And he is HAPPY. Perpetually happy.

That was why it was so painful to see what Sandy was doing to him. He wasn’t happy. For the first time, really, in all the time I’ve had him, he was depressed. Even his eyes looked duller. When my sister offered to have him come to her house, it was such a blessing. He did immediately cheer up once he was over there with her and her husband. He loves them, and being around them was no problem for my sweet little dude. In fact, it was a vacation.

And so, with all of this in mind, and based on my own history, I really do know now what kind of dog owner I am. Without a doubt. I only want Hurley.

Simon? Yeah, he’s a lovely little bonus. I often think of him as first being Hurley’s cat, because he really is devoted to Hurley. But he’s also My Cat, too. I never knew I could love a cat so much. He’s another wonderful pet. He’s well-behaved and confident; sweet and intelligent. I like that he rarely does a bad thing twice. And I like that he wants to be near me. So, I have learned I’m a One Dog (and a One Cat) Woman. They’re apples and strawberries… I love them both.

PUKE, right? 🙂

What a sappy post. Whatever… it’s what I felt like writing, I guess! I thought I was going to talk about my weekend, about all the things I accomplished. This was more satisfying, though.

Appreciate what you have, that’s the big message in my head today. The life we each have, right now, is beautiful. Don’t forget to take a minute to really see it. (Some days it’s harder since ugly stuff can get in the way, but don’t worry… the beautiful life we’re all blessed with is still there, and nothing can take it away.)

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3 responses »

  1. This post makes me so incredibly happy for you. 🙂 I”m glad the “family” is back together and all wounds have healed.

  2. I love this! Nice that everything is back how it should be and your family is complete. It is amazing to me how pets can complete us. I have my moments when I want to bring home more kitties because I am a huge animal lover and want to rescue them all. I have even gone so far as to bring home one or two. but it quickly becomes apparent that Portia and Nerissa are the only cats for us. We have a dynamic, us powerful Foursome that B and I call ourselves, that I have never had with cats before. They are original, one-of-a-kind pets and they are all ours.

    And I wouldn’t change that for a second. 🙂

  3. 🙂 Part of the reason we no longer visit DH’s family- all of us together- is because, in his very words “None of them accept or appreciate Our Little Family”. I didn’t realize he felt this way until he said so, but he considers the two of us and our dogs (and the other pets, too) Our Little Family, and it hurts him that his dad, brothers, etc… just don’t get it. We’re a package deal. We go where the dogs are welcome, or we don’t go. We’re very pleased with, and proud of, Our Little Family, and there is no shame in feeling that way about yourself and your own pets!

    I love that you think of Simon as “telling you about his day”, and I think you would really enjoy any and all of Jon Katz’s books. He’s written volumes on his musings about his dogs, and the man-dog relationship in general.

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