I guess I can sort of appreciate the looks I get from strangers when they see me walking down the street with my dog. Sometimes it’s because I’m talking to her, commending her on the speedy (but really glacial) pace that she’s walking. Sometimes it’s because she’s in a baby carrier that I bought at Value Village (for children 6-9 months) that I wear strapped to my chest, as directed on the label.
I can appreciate the fact that people think I’m “one of those people.” The kind who stares lovingly at her pets in private, and asks honestly of herself, “What would I do without this creature?” The kind of person who would spend her last nickel on dog food, and do so with a smile on her face. The kind of person who throws birthday parties for her pets, and buys them gifts at Christmas, even when they’re Jewish. The kind of person who treats her four-legged companion as a person
People might think this of me, and they’d be right to. I am “that person” and I’m proud of it.
Although I know animals are not people, I do believe that they are deserving of the same love and respect that humans deserve. This is mostly because they give it in spades, and ask nothing in return.
Five years ago, my ex and I rescued a dog. At the time, we didn’t know it was a rescue. We drove a few hours out of the city to see an adult female that had been posted for “URGENT ADOPTION” on Craigslist. Via e-mail correspondence, we learned that the people giving her up were breeders – a nice family, with a nice home, and a big yard. But as far as dog breeders on the Internet go, this was most definitely a Catfish situation.
There was no family, you could hardly call the ruins of this doublewide a home, and the yard – the part that wasn’t supporting a massive structure within which hundreds of dogs whined and barked – was overgrown with weeds. When they brought her out to us, prolapsed uterus, sallow, droopy teats, rotting teeth, patchy fur and all, we didn’t think for more than a minute before handing the cash over and getting her off the property poste haste.
She had never been in a car. She was so nervous, she had a bowel movement in my lap. She shook, and struggled, but did not cry. We took a selfie. She looked like she was smiling. She was panting because she was terrified.
The vet told us that had we not gotten her to him she could very well have died, due to the infection caused by her prolapse, which was from repeated breeding (fact: French Bulldogs must be artificially inseminated and give birth via cesarean; our new dog was afforded none of these small luxuries).
With a few surgeries, antibiotics, patience, and yes, a shit-ton of money, we were gifted a new dog in just a few weeks time. Her rehabilitation was effortless. She bonded immediately with our other dog. She came to sleep in our bed and waited by the door when one of us left. She became everyone’s friend, and inarguably my baby. This was most definitely a successful rescue.
Five years later, she returned the favour.
I have had a hard go in the last year and a bit. Lots of moving, personal turmoil, exponentially more downs than ups. I spent a great deal of energy burning bridges professionally and personally, even within my bloodline. Whether or not it was true, it felt like everyone gave up on me – most likely because I gave up on myself. But do you know who didn’t give up on me? Wouldn’t give up on me? Never will? That little dog you see in the baby carrier who gets birthday parties, and Christmas gifts, and hears her Person asking quietly in the dark, “What would I do without this creature?”
When I’m difficult to be around because I’m moody or aggravated or just plain old bitchy, she can’t seem to get close enough. She likes to wake up early with me and smoke on the patio before sunrise, because I can’t sleep, and everyone else is still in bed. She’s insistent on tailing me when I’m tidying compulsively to calm my nerves, and is happy to make a mess if I need something to clean. She enjoys keeping my pillow warm when I get up for water, and my hands cold when she asks me hold ice cubes so she can lick them. She tap dances to my laughter, and tries hard to test my food before I eat it, just to see if it’s safe. She doesn’t like the sound of my crying, but she doesn’t seem to mind the taste of my tears.
I had the honour of saving her life, and then she did me the favour of saving mine.
So if you happen to see me on the street talking to my dog, or get invited to her birthday party, or catch me wrapping a gift for her come December, and choose to call me crazy for it, that’s your opinion. I don’t think I’m crazy. I just think I’m really, really lucky to have something this wonderful in my life, and the ability to be wonderful and silly because of her. She may not be human, but she’s the best example of humanity I’ve come across thus far. And that’s something I have no choice but to appreciate.