A Dog Can Truly Lift You
I was lying on the floor of our home office, holding Sam’s paw while he slept in his crate. I was sort of crying, sort of sleeping, and unbelievably comforted by a dog–a neurotic, enemy-to-all- paper-products, shy, and at the moment “warm-with-sleep” (my term for the warm and mooshy quality dogs harness during their deepest sleep) Beagle. I had just gotten home after a long afternoon at the hospital where my husband (then-fiancé) would be spending the night. When he left work at lunchtime earlier that day, he had been t-boned by an SUV and thrown across the median. Though seeing him in the emergency room completely beaten up bruised my heart, he was luckily going to walk away with only a fractured sternum and some stitches on his ear and head.
I remember feeling so alone on the drive home from the hospital, knowing that my protector was incapacitated, spending a groggy night in a hospital, 30 minutes away from home. I knew he would be okay, but I was dreading getting into an empty bed, in what I was imagining to be an empty house, and having to digest the last 10 hours by myself. But, I pulled into my parking spot and below the venetian blind that hung at our front door, I saw Sam’s eyes, and then his tail wagging, as he ran the length of our living room and kitchen, only to return to the door at the precise moment that I was coming inside. Dogs know almost everything. He knew Jason had never made it home at lunch to walk him. He was still a little guy at the time but in his frenetic state, he played the role of protector.
He sat by me in bed as I made the calls to insurance agents. When I went to go put him in his favorite cubby in the wee hours of the morning, instead of playing his usual game of hide and seek all over the house for 10 minutes before finally surrendering, he dutifully walked right into the room and got into his crate. He did his tight little circles, and then folded into his perfect snuggle position, licked his paws, and dozed off. I lay down next to him outside the crate, desperate for a hug and hoping that a quick cuddle with a dog would give me some sense of peace. I held his paw, something I had tried before unsuccessfully. I cried because I was exhausted, because I was still reeling from seeing Jason so battered, because I knew we were lucky that he survived, and because I knew Sam’s affection gave me every bit as much comfort as a hug from a good friend or a head rub from my mom. The feeling caught me off guard.
You can tell yourself in a moment of weakness that you have been fooled into believing that a pet’s love is enough when your heart needs holding. Or, you can decide to just believe that a pet can truly lift you. And, as in every healthy relationship, you can know that the feeling is mutual.