According to my quote book, the best piece of advice I ever received came from a fridge magnet. It goes:
Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.
Now, I’m an animal lover. I’ve not had a lot of pets in my lifetime, but there has been a bit of variety in terms of species. And while I loved my bird, cat, and lizards, my softest spot will always be for dogs.
I am a very fortunate person. Not only did my soulmate exist, I found her, and I got to spend over a decade in her company. And I’m pretty sure the feeling was reciprocated.
It was my mother who pointed it out to me. She was visiting, and we were spending the evening in, sitting in the living room having a glass of wine and a chat. Mullin was ignoring me, all cuddled up to my mother, but every time I’d leave the room – usually to go to the kitchen for a drink or snack refill – I’d hear her tags jingle, and my mother talking to her in a reassuring tone. It always went along the lines of, “It’s okay. Don’t worry. She’s not gone far. She’ll be back soon.” After one of my returns to the living room, Mom commented on how focused Mullin was on me, and that the instant I stepped out of her line of sight, her head came up and she stared intently at the doorway I’d just left by until I came back.
Mom always found the relationship fascinating. When she moved into a retirement residence and started taking painting classes, she made each of my brothers and I a gift. She chose the images with great care, making sure they were personally significant. She said she never considered anything for me other than this:
One of the nicest compliments I ever received was from my friend Wendy, who once told me that if reincarnation exists, she hopes to come back as a pet as well-cared-for as one of mine.
It’s true that I’ve adored all my pets, and I take my responsibility as a pet-owner seriously. Which is why I’ve always felt terrible that, when my ex-husband and I split, I had to leave Mullin behind. I was incredibly fortunate that a year later, I’d moved into a situation where I could have a dog, Ron recognized how much I missed Mullin and encouraged me to ask my ex if she could come live with us, and my ex and his new wife generously agreed.
Within an hour of my bringing her home, Mullin had explored her new digs, and was sleeping next to me on the sofa. Ron, clearly bemused by how relaxed she was, grinned and said, “I wish Mullin would calm down.” Those who knew us have said it was because she was with me, and all was right with her world.
But our year apart did take its toll. Mullin developed separation anxiety – any time she saw me packing a suitcase, she’d start to shiver uncontrollably. It was so bad that if I had to go away, I wouldn’t pack until after I’d dropped her off with whomever was caring for her while I was gone.
That’s why, when she left me forever – damn year twelve years ago, yet even after all this time I’m crying as I type this because I miss her so much – I realized that I’ll probably never have another dog. Because the reality is that I love to travel, my trips are only getting longer as I get older, and leaving my dog behind for weeks or more at a time isn’t being the person they think I am.
To see previous posts in my Quote series, click here.