I don’t have the most agreeable dog. She chooses who she likes and the people and animals that make the grade could probably be counted on one paw, um, I mean, hand. She doesn’t suffer idiots, phonies or overly exuberant people. Much like her owner.
I recently took a bit of flak from a dear friend of mine for my dog parental skills which may have led to my pooch’s lack of acceptance of the human race.
It was brought to my attention (rubbed in my face) that Maddy and I had a bit of a co-dependent relationship and that it was most likely my fault that she was less accepting (ill adjusted) of the outside world and very unlike a “normal” dog.
I gave the idea some thought. And then I started fuming.
Before I accept any criticism about how she was raised and her less than normal dog personality, let me share a few little known facts.
This little dog came into my life as a 10 week old gift to my daughter on her 16th birthday. Two years later, when my one and only left for college, all that was left at home was Maddy, me and Figgaro, the cat. Truth be told, Maddy wasn’t all too fond of me. Frankly, the feeling was mutual. In the 2 years that she lived with us she gave me little regard, belonging exclusively to my daughter. It was clear she liked it that way. It was in the grieving and loss of her mom, (my kid), to college life that bonded us….eventually.
I’m the first to admit that if you are not a member of my family, Maddy will likely not have much to do with you. It won’t matter how many treats you bring her, she has a mind of her own and is quite comfortable with her decisions. I’ll also admit that she is my perpetual shadow, my company, and my best friend. She would describe herself as my protector, my defender, my comfort and my ally. Both assessments would be correct.
This little dog was at my side when my 27 year marriage crumbled. My daughter bore witness to the pain, the betrayal and the tears. But it was Maddy that bore the brunt of the many sleepless nights of sadness and sobbing into the warm neck of this little scruffy dog. Maddy muffled my pain, licked my tears and brought me her bones to cheer me up. That was the beginning.
Newly divorced and living in an empty nest, I found myself alone in a big house, and searching for a purpose while trying to build yet another career. I was befuddled and floundering. Maddy made certain that I never ended the day without doggie hugs, kisses and the inevitable goofy dog antics that would always make me laugh. She was with me when I had to relearn how to live my life, sleep alone, and manage the solitude. She was with me when I sold the big house on the hill and traded it for a small condo in the city.
A few years later, this little 12 pound ball of puff saw me through the loss of my father. That was a terrible time for me. I isolated myself, grieved and stopped working for a few months. Maddy forced me out of the house (occasionally in my pajamas) three times a day to walk her, keeping me in touch with my neighbors and life in general. Once again, she tempered my tears, fears and anxiety. A burden I would think too large for such a tiny little dog, but one she bore with tremendous grace and giddy cheerfulness.
My wonderful daughter did what she was raised and meant to do, she forged a life of her own. I’m grateful that she has kept me a big part of it. She fell in love with a wonderful man who happened to live in Australia. A bit of a quandary seeing that she lived in Denver, Colorado. There were long trips in her future and a very real worry from this mom that she would eventually move a continent away. More tears. More fear. After a couple of years, her wonderful young man moved to her and a lasting love blossomed, not to mention a grateful mother relieved. My little dog helped to keep me grounded during that time of inexplicable dread.
Life served up another unwelcome surprise, as life does, and I found myself battling a major illness that eventually led to major surgery. Maddy was allowed in my hospital bed every day and, once again I found myself grateful for her company and comfort. We managed together to get me back on my feet (literally), all the while welcoming the kindness of our new friends and neighbors who helped to feed us and walk her.
For a few years after the divorce, my best friend was my ex-husband. That ended when he found himself a 31 year old Russian girlfriend and fell into a massive inheritance. It wasn’t long before I became old news. Hurtful times tempered by a sweet little dog.
Love found its way to me again. It would mandate that I move from the solace of my little home and return to California to embark on a new life. With my little dog in tow, I committed to this wonderful man and packed up our lives. I was excited, afraid, worried and confident. I have a sneaky feeling she was too.
Maddy will be 12 years old next month, and while we’ve endured our fair share of tribulations, we’ve also celebrated the best that life offers up. Fabulous new friends, a book deal, a writing and speaking career, traveling together, the welcoming of a son-in-law and his amazing family into our lives and, of course, our new love, my wonderful man, Steven. Our life together is pretty awesome.
Before anyone ridicules my dog for being abnormally dependent on me, they should know that there were many times that I was abnormally dependent on her. And while she is only 12 pounds, I know she would not hesitate for a moment to fight a lion for me. Loyalty and devotion like that is pretty hard to find.
She is my friend, in the truest sense of the word and I will stand by her as she has stood by me; relentlessly.
If you have some judgments about my dysfunctional dog, you best keep it to yourself. So she doesn’t walk up to every stranger and lick their hand. She failed doggie obedience school, will only allow people she approves of to pet her, and if you move in too close, too fast, she will deliver a snarl. So what? It’s her choice and I defend it.
I hope that you, too, are lucky enough to have a friend that will stand by you through life’s trials and tribulations with unwavering love and loyalty.
If you have, it’s a pretty safe bet that your friend is a dog. Consider it your job to be worthy of such adulation.
I try to live up to it every day.