Two and a half years ago, I started looking for a dog
Single again, my girlfriend at the time and I had just broken up. It happened on my birthday over fancy pizza in Oakland. Some birthdays you remember, some you forget. I won’t forget this one.
I’m not sure what happened. She wanted to be in love. I loved her, but I wasn’t in love anymore. It was sad. I still love her.
Both my most recent ex girlfriends had dogs.
I’d dog sit occasionally, and loved having them around. There’s nothing quite like a dog greeting you at the door after you get home. It’s nice to always have someone to go on a walk with, and someone to cuddle with at night.
Also, I was lonely, single, and sad.
I went dog shopping
I started swinging by the local SPCA to see which dogs were up for adoption; I was window shopping. I didn’t know what I was looking for but I’d know it when I saw it.
The adoption specialist had me fill out an application, and then asked me why I was looking to adopt. I considered telling him I’d be a great way to pick up women.
Instead I replied honestly,
He replied with his eyes. They said, ‘I understand completely.’
I’d been looking for several months at this point, and started to feel a bit discouraged. People told me the right dog would find me, so I kept looking. I popped into the SPCA one night on my way home from the gym, just to see if there were any new dogs up for adoption.
That’s when I saw Roger
He was the wild one. Out of control was putting it lightly. He’d go between wrestling with a larger black lab, and snapping at the glass to get at the pitbull on the other side. He behaved like what I imagine a recently captured hyena would behave like.
The adoption specialist approached me and told me that Roger was a new transfer from California’s central valley. Dogs often got transferred to San Francisco because they had a better chance of getting adopted.
His file was blank except for 3 letters.
Rowdy, jumpy, mouthy.
No shit. A handful to say the least.
But there was something about him
I loved him from the moment I saw him.
I’d brought a friend along who gently counseled me that perhaps there were, how do you put it, less fucking insane dogs to be adopted. We looked at a few other dogs but they were lame ducks compared to Roger. Roger was ready to go, he’d handle everything I could throw at him, and then some.
The adoption specialist asked me if I was ready to finalize the adoption. Before I could say no, I said yes.
It’s been two years since I brought Roger home and I couldn’t be happier.
He’s still a handful, but he’s grown to be a loving, obedient, smart, and sweet dog. Everybody that meets him says he’s the best. I don’t think they’re lying but they could be, who knows.
I wouldn’t trade him for the world.
Here’s what I learned from my dog about love
1. Love takes work
More work than I was ready for. Adopting a dog was a huge adjustment to my lifestyle. So is falling in love.
Loving a dog, like loving a human, is work. You don’t get to a point where the work stops. There will always be work to do, but it will (almost*) always be worth it.
2. Love is a two way street
That’s how it works. If I don’t give him what he needs, he can’t give me what I need. If he’s not happy, I’m not happy. We take care of each other, and we care for each other.
3. Love doesn’t take a break
I can’t ignore my dog or his needs because I’m tired, angry, frustrated or sad. Sort of like you can’t ignore your lover or their needs because you’re tired, angry, frustrated, or sad.
He still needs love, attention, food, water, and exercise no matter how I’m feeling. So I put on my boots and my coat even when its 1130PM and -14 celsius outside, because I know he’ll be happy to go one more lap around the block. When he’s happy, I’m happy (and often cold and tired).
4. Love takes compromise
I have to consider his well being alongside my well being. It’s not me before him. It’s how can we both get what we need to be happy.
He can’t always get 1 hour at the dog park and I can’t always stay out as long as I want to. When I make plans, I consider how those plans might affect Roger. When Roger makes plans he just makes sure I’m always included. He’s better than me like that.
5. Love takes communication
When Roger doesn’t do what I want him to do, I have to remember that it’s because I haven’t communicated with him effectively, in words that he understands, what my needs are. It’s not his fault that I’m not communicating properly.
Also, I have to remember that English is not his first language.
6. Love is playful
Roger and I start everyday with a bit of coffee and 30 minutes of fetch. He reminds me to be more playful. So does Hafiz, the great Sufi poet. I read this poem every morning before Roger and I go play.
God wants to see
More love and playfulness in your eyes
For that is your greatest witness to Him.
7. Love takes forgiveness
For myself and for my dog. When Roger knocks my coffee over with his crazy tail, I forgive him. He doesn’t know any better.
When I get angry and yell at Roger, I forgive myself for not always being able to control my emotions, and for doing the best I can with what I have. I try to do better next time.
8. Unconditional love does exist
Look at the way a dog looks at you, you’ll see what I mean. Roger loves me unconditionally no matter what mood I’m in, or what I’ve done. In a world where we place conditions on everything, we could learn a lot from dogs.
9. Love needs a break every now and then
Bye bye Roger, have a great time, I’M GOING TO MEXICO. Oh sorry, you know, quarantine laws. I’d bring you if I could.
I savor the moments when I can sleep in without having to take Roger for a walk first thing in the morning. I enjoy not having to throw the ball for a minimum (and often much more) of 30 minutes twice a day.
Breaks are great for love. They give an opportunity to miss all the things we love about our pets, or our partners. Sometimes the best part about breaks is getting to see your loved one again.
Also, I’m told that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
PS. Chicks dig dogs
But so do dudes. Turns out that a lot of humans dig dogs.
Still haven’t met the love of my life because of Roger, but I also stopped looking. I have the companionship I was looking for. I’m happy curling up on the couch with my dog and reading a book. That’s my idea of a nice Friday night.
Walking around with Roger has allowed me to have countless lovely conversations with countless lovely strangers. I love that. Everyday, I say hi to people that I normally wouldn’t say hi to.
Everyday I continue to learn more about love. I learn how to be a good son, brother, friend, lover, and dog owner. It’s not always easy but there is no other option. I’ll always choose love.
*In the case of abusive or dysfunctional relationships, more work is likely not worth it or going to solve anything. Get out.