Tag Archives: personal

Life With Little Dog

Tonight I’m without my little dog, and I hardly know what to do.

In the almost 10 years that I’ve had Baylor, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been away from him when it hasn’t been a drive-by-push-out situation at Nana’s house* on my way out of town or because I had a long day planned and figured he’d be happier barking at shadows in her backyard than watching the nefarious activity on 3rd Avenue from my city apartment windows.

*”Thanks-for-watching-him-gotta-go-love-you-DON’T-FEED-HIM-PEOPLE-FOOD-bye!”

This morning was a drive-by-push-out situation, not at Nana’s, but at his awesome doggie daycare where they know and welcome every dog*, with the intention of this dog mama having a fabulous evening out in San Francisco, but this dog mama’s lingering cold changed those plans and so here I sit, not at Beach Blanket Babylon as planned but quietly, delightfully doing something for myself…by myself.

*The facility is run a little like a military base: No in and out privileges, no fussing over the dogs, no peeing on the outside bushes (the dogs, not the humans) and all the staff alert each other to each dog’s arrival by Walkie-Talkie: “INCOMING! MIS-ter Baylor!”

Even alone, 10 years’ worth of ingrained reactionary habits as a dog mama cause me to tense or jump at the slightest thing: a dog barking across the way would normally incite Baylor’s wrath of territorial fury and a display of comically intense posturing in the form of warning growls and sharp barks*. The crinkling of a bag would bring him trotting into the kitchen, hoping for treats**, and the jangle of my keys being hung on the hook would induce a hopeful prick of the ears – a walk, perhaps a blissful walk? Only to turn, with a theatrical sigh, back to gnawing his boring bone instead.

*My very favorite: when he barks so hard his front paws jump off the ground, just a little.
**Thanks, Nana.

I’ve been feeling nostalgic about this dog lately: this pain in the ass, growly, stubborn, hilarious, character of a dog who has frustrated me more than I thought possible and made me happier than I could have known since the day I got him and he howled all the way home in his little soft-sided carrier before making fast friends with his new stuffed elephant and settling into my life and heart.

He’s been the reason I’ve taken two walks every day for 10 years, in sunshine and rain, in inconvenient places (like the middle of the city) and beautiful ones (like mountain trails). Walks that I took when I absolutely did not want to or that started off as a good idea and ended up a disaster when I found my hands overly full with grocery bags or the like and the dog overly tired and had to beg, plead and cajole him to make it, panting and exhausted, just a few more steps so we could both fall into our little apartment at the end of our “adventure” and rest – at which point, inevitably, the dog would get a second wind and I would find myself laughing at his tenacity, throwing his little squeaky toy over and over again, to his never-ending delight.

Little Dog is probably a more experienced metro bus rider than most urban Seattleites: he rode the bus with me in the city, trotting happily to the bus tunnel and hopping right on when the 255 or 311 stopped, just like everyone else (much to the amusement of many regular passengers).

He’s explored all kinds of terrain, from dusty desert trails to mucky mountain ones and every beach we can find on the California coast. He’ll be the pokiest little walker of all time on any weekday morning, but given a fresh route to explore, he’ll blaze a trail like a canine Lewis or Clark.

He is the fierce and feared predator of every squirrel in existence (though he’s never caught one, and his “discerning” palette would probably reject a gamey rodent in favor of a plain old rawhide any day).

He’s the king of his domain and will spend hours upon hours sitting expectantly in a patch of sun, lunging at shadows and twitching his tail just a little, happily, in the meantime, and when he’s through, will slowly melt into a blissful doggie sleep, where I can tell his dreams are full of green fields and squirrels and freedom.

Like most major purchases in my life, I failed to thoroughly vet him before buying him sort of on a whim* from a woman whose story didn’t quite add up** and whose move – the reason she ostensibly couldn’t take care of him anymore – I probably funded, so all things considered, I’ve been lucky he didn’t come with diabetes or hip displaysia or something else I could have in no way afforded at the time. His lateral suture surgery last year to correct a torn ACL was a doozy financially, as was the foxtail in his paw from a failed camping trip the year before, but when I see him running down the beach, chasing seagulls with tongue flapping and wild abandon, I know every cent was worth it for his joy – and mine.

*Justified by the fact that surely I was SAVING him from a less fortunate life, right?
**In retrospect.

Baylor has probably been a hindrance socially – it’s not prudent to be out all the time when you have a little being who depends on you. His behavior with small children is a major source of anxiety for me, and he’s never quite gotten over the occasional marking (or blatant rebellion, I’m never entirely sure). But he’s my furry sidekick, my little worrywart crawling into my lap when I cry, my daily delight when he comes in from a walk every.single.day and wriggles happily on his back on the living room rug. He has a million nicknames but everyone knows him as Little Dog and his many adventures could fill a book and have filled my memories over the past 10 years with joy and frustration, and love, always love, for my dog who’s as much a part of me as the color of my eyes.

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After a day full of wild rumpus, Baylor decided to give up being the king of the wild things and returned home, where he found his supper waiting for him, and it was still hot.

As Roger Caras said,

dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.

I love this little dog, dirty paws and all, and I can’t imagine my life without him.

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The Art of Being Vulnerable

Being vulnerable is a bitch.

Oh wait, let me refine that. Vulnerability is a bitch, and the act of allowing oneself to be vulnerable is probably the single most challenging emotional process a human being must endure*. Because everything else – mommy issues, daddy issues, codependency, insecurity, blah blah blah – depend on a person allowing him- or herself to be vulnerable enough to get to the heart of the matter and uncover them. Being vulnerable is the beginning of the everything – and lack thereof can be the end.

*SHOULD endure. I mean you don’t HAVE to do it, but you’re doing yourself – and those who love you – a great disservice by building walls. Or maintaining them. Or whatever.

vul-ner-able [vuhl ner uh buh l] capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon

The very definition of “vulnerable” explains why it’s so hard to be just that. I mean, “susceptible to being wounded or hurt”? Forget it. I don’t want to be wounded or hurt. Especially not by a weapon, and as someone who has been prone on occasion* to a rapid-fire response with an acid tongue, I am well aware of how just how weapon-like and painful mere words can be.

*Maybe more than on occasion. Which I am working on.

You might ask, “Why do I need to be vulnerable?” Or you might say, “I AM vulnerable! I talk about my feelings!” And you’re really self-righteous in the work you think you’re doing, and you dismiss this post entirely, and stop reading. Because you feel really comfortable and safe in the space you’re in, and you don’t need anyone and no one needs you and you’re totally fine on your own*.

*You’re not.

Alternatively you might say, “I don’t WANT to be vulnerable!”* and keep reading anyway, because you’re curious.

*Sort of petulantly, because it takes work, and you’re not sure you’re really ready to work, but you kind of want to see what happens.

But what would happen if you were? What would it be like if you let someone in, and just showed them who you were* and decided that whatever they thought and however they reacted would just BE what it is – good, bad or otherwise – and just went for it anyway?

*Likely with both a touch of defiance and more than a little trepidation, as if to DARE someone to challenge or question what you’ve kept so carefully tucked away in the recesses of your heart for so long and have finally, selectively, chosen to share.

A sample list of Things That Might Happen follows:

1. You could be rejected. I mean, like straight up run away rejected, guy-gets-up-from-table-mid-bite-of-burger-claiming-E-coli-and-leaves rejected*. That could sort of suck.

*And I’m not suggesting that be “being vulnerable” you lay all your cards out on the table on the first date**.

**Which I have done. Like sort of inadvertently and unfortunately, but it’s true. Learn from my mistakes, kids, and save it for a while. No need to emotionally vomit all over prospective partners immediately.

2. You could be judged, with a look or a snort or a word. However mildly or harshly doesn’t matter – being judged doesn’t feel good, and it might make you gunshy to being vulnerable in the future*.

*That’s the thing about vulnerability, and why it’s a bitch: It’s not like you open your heart and emotions once and you’re done. You have to be willing to do it over…and over…and over…and then again, when you think you’ve given your all, because you are never done growing and giving.

3. You could have that feeling/emotion/situation/thought process reciprocated and validated. Someone might tell you they are oh-my-God-so-glad-you-told-me-so-I’m-not-the-only-one* grateful that they talked to you and appreciate you saying it first.

*This tends to be me, because I think it’s important to validate others AND I am always so grateful when someone else is willing to work on their shit, too.

4. You could be given a supportive ear. Not empathy, not sympathy, not pity, but just…an ear. Someone could simply say, “I hear you.” And that could be enough.

5. (And this is a big one…) You could be loved. Unconditionally loved. Heard, supported, validated, and loved. Someone could say, “I already know you. I knew you when we met. I was just waiting for you to tell me. And I’m glad you did.”

So yeah, some of the options are kinda bleak. But the thing is, when you run out the options, wouldn’t you rather try, and hope for the best, than stay within your little walls and assume the worst? Your walls are safe, but they are not kind. Your walls keep you carefully contained, but they do not allow you to grow. They protect your heart and mind from everyone outside of you, including those who would – and want to – love you.

Are those walls worth the maintenance required to keep everyone out – or would it be worth a little energy to let them in?

The Art of Being Vulnerable is this: It takes a little intention, a lot of emotion, and a huge amount of humility to accept whatever might come of it. The recipient of vulnerability who isn’t accepting either isn’t ready or isn’t right. Either of those is equally as acceptable as the other, and must be acknowledged as a part of this process.

But when it is right…the rewards are huge. When you meet someone who says they love you as you are, you are free to just be. Because someone will say it, and you’ll sink into that person as easily as anything you’ve ever experienced, and your fears will dissipate, and you will know the true meaning of acceptance, and love.

It won’t always be right, but it might be, and that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

At the end of the day, is there much more that we can offer other than our willingness be vulnerable?

I think not.