how changing my mind opened my heart.

One month ago, I told most of my friends, colleagues and close relatives (and anyone interested in listening) that I was not at all interested in getting another dog. Not even close to interested. Our beautiful dog Emma died last spring after years of painful decline, and my heartbreak and grief slowly manifested into an appreciation for the freedom that not being a dog owner allowed.

Without a dog, I could ride my bike home from work without rushing or worrying. I took my time, noticing things that didn’t enter my sensory experience when I was hurriedly making my way to check in on our geriatric girl. Without a dog, our small condo no longer needed extra space for dog food, snacks, toys, or a dog bed (though we did have some of these due to our continual dog sitting stints and our visiting neighbor dogs). Without a dog, I only needed to drag the vacuum out once a week at the most, and I could wear black clothing and fleece without needing to pretend that I was wearing mohair.

I was in awe at the new-found peace that existed in our pet-less home space as I spread out on the floor to soak up the entire sun spot on my own or ate popcorn without having two (or more) begging eyes glued to my bowl. I loved the spaciousness that not walking a dog afforded me, and for a few months I worked hard to use my time wisely, filling side tables with books that I planned to read and breaking into impromptu yoga sessions (just because now I could do such things without distraction).

Without a dog, though, my partner moped around dropping hints at her longing for another canine companion. Without a dog, what did we have to talk about or take pictures of? Without a dog, where was the meaning in our lives?

Perhaps I’m being melodramatic. But there is truth in the fact that we are inherently animal people. Our identity as a couple has been as pet owners for the entirety of our relationship. Not having a pet to focus on shifted the way we responded to one another in the silent emptiness of our home- in both good and challenging ways…

So, just less than a month ago, we bit at a friend’s anonymous link notifying us of the need for a home for an 8 year old beagle/ cattle dog mix. Within minutes of seeing this little dog’s picture and description, I had the application filled out and emailed to Vashon Island Pet Protectors. An hour later, we had set a time for the weekend to meet her.


Fast forward to today: here I am typing happily away with a little dog snoring at my feet. The couch is covered in wiry dog hair, there are animal shaped toys strewn around the floor along with a gnarly looking bone, and there’s a leash hanging near the back door with a small plastic bag tied to the looped handle. We are officially the happy companions to “Junebug”, a little dog with a loud bark and a huge ability to make us smile. She’s by no means “perfect”, and she has some issues that I could live without. But I’d rather not live without her.  Largely, I’m thankful for Junebug’s imperfections. They mean she’s unique. They remind me that she can love me despite my own issues. We can be perfectly imperfect together.

Mostly, I’m thankful for the ways Junebug reminds me to wake up to the world around me; the sounds and smells that fill the park near our house, the significance of structure, and the importance of making time for play. It took this little dog to remind me to wake up just in time for spring blossoms. And it took this little dog to remind me that I can love bigger and stronger than I gave myself credit for.

               –  Mary Oliver

I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,

yet paused
for the honeysuckle
or the rose,
her dark head

and her wet nose
the face
of every one

with its petals
of silk,
with its fragrance

into the air
where the bees,
their bodies
heavy with pollen,

and easily
she adored
every blossom,

not in the serious,
careful way
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom-

the way we praise or don’t praise-
the way we love
or don’t love-
but the way

we long to be-
that happy
in the heaven of earth-

9 thoughts on “how changing my mind opened my heart.

  1. Junebug is so very cute. I already saw her on FB and loved her then, but am so glad to hear more about her. I identified with absolutely everything you wrote.

    • Thanks, Mary! She really has opened my heart in amazing ways. How can one little animal allow for so much love? It’s miraculous 🙂

  2. I just can’t believe how much she looks like Frannie & Emma in a combo puppy. Thanks for all your beautiful writing sweety pie……

    • Isn’t it canny? And yet she has her own unique little issues…our little reminder that there’s no such thing as perfect- and aren’t we grateful for that?!?

  3. all dogs go to heaven – thaks for your wonderful blog/writing/ et al. also we do love mary oliver!

  4. love the junebug! and yes, how huge our capacity is to love! and with all those imperfections….yeah! I can feel your joy 🙂

  5. Welcome Junebug :). Earl and Bezial say “Hi” and again I am reminded of why we share our space with animals…it might be neater, tidier, quieter and altogether less chaotic without them BUT with them our lives seem more solid and meaningful and who would drag us out of bed and into the world early in the morning if we didn’t have dogs? 🙂

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