Here we go again… Valentine’s Day. The magical day where we, who have not found our life partners, get to reflect on all the romantic decisions we made in the past year: the good, the bad and the horrifying. But, wait… I actually have a story to tell this year, and it’s a good one. Dare I even say, it’s a fairy tale?!? See, I learned something very important this year.
Miracles do happen, but we don’t get to pick the miracle
A year or so ago, I decided that I wanted to find a serious relationship again. That was a big step for me to begin with. I was a divorcee by the age of 31. So, I dated a few people and nothing worked out. It’s frustrating when you finally get to a place in recovery where you want something, and you really care, and then you can’t make it happen. I'm disappointed. What can I say? I’m human. Last fall I started to have that feeling of, “Is this as good as it gets?” It’s not that I don’t love my life. I do. But, I’m a grown woman who chose not to have children, and from time to time, I do feel a deep need to care for something.
Not having a relationship to focus on can cause despair
So, what did I do about it? I rescued a dog that had been saved from the meat trade, lived in a shelter in China his whole life, didn’t understand English, and had never been a pet. He wasn’t house trained; his 30 pounds pulls me down the street; and his sweaty paws leave prints everywhere. I’m obsessively neat and my apartment has all white furniture. What was I thinking?
Dog rescue was not my plan
I didn’t mean to rescue the dog. I was at the shelter “for a friend.” Seriously. But, I saw this dog, and for some reason, I couldn't leave him there. I had no plan for this, was not prepared, and did it rather impulsively. I just knew I needed to take this dog—Something in his eyes I guess.
No ill will towards the shelter because they gave me my new baby, but they said Bentley was 20 pounds, he’s 30. They said the separation anxiety could be calmed with a Kong, it could not. They said he’d make the anxious dog I already have, Teddy, calmer, he did not. Over Christmas break I found myself a prisoner in my own home with Bentley and Teddy, fearing they might kill each other. Worse, they triggered each others' anxiety.
Not the outcome I'd hoped for
If I left them alone for even a minute they howled and tried to tear down the door. I got noise complaints, I missed social gatherings to stay home with them. I seemed to spend 80% of my day walking dogs, who sometimes refused to even walk together. There were tearful calls to friends who comforted me by saying, “You can give him back.”
But…then there were those special moments...
...like the first time Bentley reached his paw out to touch me. He likes to put a paw against me sometimes. Those quiet morning moments when he awakened to find me, and his tail waged so hard it brought tears to my eyes. The first few walks where I could see him come alive. The first time I took him hiking I swear he danced his way up the mountain. The first time he chased a squirrel or got to be off leash at the dog park. The way Bentley came to me and bowed his head in complete submission after I fed him probably his first real food meals.
I don’t totally know what I’m doing with the dogs, but then I rarely know what I’m doing anyway. I just do, and fix mistakes when I make them. Yesterday, James, my dog walker, told me to feed Bently first thing in the morning. I had been waiting to give him lunch after going to the dog park. I didn’t realize it was too late. Bentley's been hungry in the mornings.
Today, I woke up 30 minutes early to feed Bentley before James takes him at 7. Bentley and I had breakfast just as the sun was coming up. After he ate, we sat together for a few minutes and he threw his head into my lap and did that thing with his paw in an especially loving way. He was saying thank you.
Sometimes you just need to find a place for your love
Maybe Valentine's Day is not just about finding someone to love you, but rather having something or someone to whom you can give your love. Today, I believe in fairy tales because I’m in one. I saved Bentley and gave him a home and life beyond his wildest dreams. He probably didn't have a dream. I didn’t return him when it was rough, I hung in there and we’re finding our way. What he gives me in return is priceless.
The universe teaches us lessons in funny ways. I’ve been worrying so much about what I might be doing wrong, or if I’m lovable, and all those ridiculous anxieties we have when we’re frustrated by our romantic life. In taking a total mutt with sweaty footprints who’s eating me out of house and home I realized, he’s absolutely perfect. I’m willing to do pretty much anything to give him the life he deserves after the mistreatment he endured.
The moral is, someone is going to come along one day and feel the same way about me and there’s nothing I can do to make it happen quicker, or stop it. The only thing I have to do is love what I can in the meantime and keep the faith.
Same goes for you. Happy Valentine's Day :)