A friend of mine from Houston came to visit me in San Antonio. It was a much needed visit, as it was turning into a very emotionally blindsiding semester, one I will never understand. After lunch, I informed her of my desire to get another dog to continue our family. I soon realized that this dog would be the start of just a family of my own. My friend and I went to one animal facility, and I was adamant that the time was wrong. (It was meant to be a gift for someone later in the year.) I took her to another, where I was introduced to this beautiful black and white bull terrier, with a distinct white strip and story-telling scars on her back. I put my hand against the gate, as she pushed her entire body toward my hand. I think…I feel in love…
I was persuaded to walk her. As I sat on the grass, she just fell into my lap. I thought, “She was it! This has to be the dog, but…” I was still very hesitant. As we walked back into the kennel, she resisted. This damn dog didn’t want to go back in! She pulled me back, laying her body on the floor, not wanting to go back into her cage. I looked at my friend, “I have to take her…”
Unknowingly, she was scheduled to die two days later.
What she has taught me about family, and friendship, and love, and trust, and education, and technology, and forgiveness, and God and life, is more than I could have ever imagine. However, there was one week that I felt she helped me more than I have ever helped her.
I have good days, bad days, and really bad days. Those really bad days consist of laying in bed, and frankly, not moving unless my body called for it. Depression is a horribly debilitating mental illness that isn’t given enough empathy, rather an unfair and ignorant stigma. However, it is my dog who came up to my hand that week and licks it, in a way, telling me, “It’s gonna be ok. Now I want some food damnit!” And I feed her, and laid back down. Then, she licked my hand, telling me, “It’s gonna be ok. But if you don’t get the fuck up and take me out, I’m gonna piss and shit on the damn carpet!” So, I walked her, and laid back down. Then, she licked my hand, telling me, “It’s gonna be ok. Now play with me dad!” And I played with her. That week, I soon realized that she needed me, and I needed her. At that point, all we really had was each other. She gave me purpose when I didn’t see any.
A dog becomes apart of the family, getting their own place at the dinner table, and their own stocking at Christmas. They become your children. A dog is man’s best friend, always there when you need them, and frankly, when you don’t. But they sure do know everything, and are Italian-gangster loyal. If you give a dog your heart, they will give you theirs. And within time, a dog will trust you with their life.
A dog will learn what you teach them, with patience and time. They’ll tear up your phone because they want your undivided attention, actually wanting to just hang out with you. If you wrong your dog, they may piss on the floor. And you may not want them around for the day. But tomorrow, they’ll be licking your hand, asking for your attention, and you’ll kiss them like nothing ever happen. You’ll both just let it go. Finally, they can care less what you say – they don’t understand you! However, they will always notice what you do.
They’ll also become your prayer buddy…
“A dog has no use for fancy cars, or big homes, or designer clothes. A waterlogged stick would do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if your rich or poor, clever or dull, smart of dumb. Give them your heart, and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare, and pure, and special? How many people can make you feel…extraordinary?” – Marley and Me
My Nala was named from my favorite animated movie, The Lion King. But most importantly, she is named after a character who was strong, traveled across her land to find her trouble friend, just to make sure he was ok. She never let go, forcing and helping her friend to emerge from a dark place, and fought along side her friend for what was right. And in the end, it was love and family that endured.
As humans, we hate and hurt and betray and kill each other so much. And all a dog wants is for you to love them. Dogs will constantly teach you to be a better human being: loyal and trustworthy, caring and empathetic. For anyone that has a dog, anyone that is looking for one, or anyone that has never had the luxury of having one, there is one thing that a dog will teach you more than anything: unconditional love – human or animal – will endure anything if you just stick together. I saved her, but she really saved me. I may never be able to have kids, but I now have a girl of my own. It’s the start of a beautiful [daddy-daughter] relationship.
So in this New Year, with a blank slate, how can we make ourselves better? What can we change? How can we help others less fortunate? How can we be a better friend, or spouse, or parent? What can we fix that we have broken? How can we complete all these New Years resolutions? Frankly, all some of us have to do is look towards our dogs for guidance…
Happy New Year, and Have A Great and Safe Spring Semester!
“Be the change you wish to see in the world…”