Every morning, I wake up and spend anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes cuddling with my dog. We roll on the bed together, and I nibble on his face with my lips. And yes, I am one of those people who lets my dog kiss me on the mouth (but not in the mouth, because that’s disgusting and also he likes to eat cat poo). I feel blessed for every moment I get to spend with him, and apart from my boyfriend, my dog is really and truly my best friend. We hold conversations as we walk, and every night before we go to sleep, I make sure he knows how much he is loved.
Our relationship started out very, very rocky. He bit me in the face; I demanded my boyfriend get rid of him. My boyfriend would leave to go to work; the dog and I would get into epic battles in which he bit the shit out of my hands and I beat his dog ass. I was the titular evil step-mother, and he was my bratty step-child who wanted his dad all to himself. I’m not sure what changed or when- maybe it was when there was an active shooter in the neighborhood and I made him hide in the basement with me so we wouldn’t get shot. Maybe it was when I took him out for walks in the winter and noticed his paws going numb in the snow, and carried his overweight butt back to the house. Or maybe it was when, after a long, terrible day at work, he came running down the stairs to greet me with the same enthusiasm he typically saved for his dad. At some point, he clawed his way into my heart, and I began to realize a thing or two about love.
I’d grown up with animals- two dogs and two cats, one of whom I’d had since I was three years old. When I was 11, my mother claimed she’d developed allergies to my cats, and forced my dad to get rid of them. She later got rid of one of my dogs, and the other simply disappeared one day. It wasn’t until I was 26 years old that I found out what happened to my pets- the younger cat and one of the dogs were adopted. The older cat, the one I had since I was three years old, was too old to be adopted out and was put down. My dad, who’d been the one to reveal the fate of my pets to me, explained to me that if my mother hadn’t broken his spirit so badly, he would have gone back in for the older cat, and he cried all the way home from the shelter. Ironically, my mom, who I currently do not communicate with at all (for completely different reasons entirely) owns two cats today.
I was devastated to learn of my cat’s fate. What had these animals done to my mother that she felt the need to banish all of them? But then, I realized something- I had once asked my boyfriend to do the exact same thing to his dog, who I grew so close to that I cried when we had to leave him with his grandparents to go out of the country on vacation. It was a monstrous thing to ask of anyone, and I am ashamed that the thought ever crossed my mind. Maybe, though, it was a lesson I needed to learn the hard way: when you bring an animal into your home, they are with you for life. There is no returning them because they don’t act the way you want them to act, or because they’re not cute anymore, or because your kid doesn’t take care of them. You are an adult who has taken on the responsibility of caring for another life, and that responsibility is yours for the rest of the animal’s life.
So every opportunity I get, I tell my dog how much I love him. He’s spoiled rotten, and sometimes, he still acts like a complete brat. But we don’t fight anymore, because he is my child, I am his mother, and our bond is unbreakable.