In 2007, we met at Union Square Park in Manhattan. I saw him across three lanes of traffic, looking terrified, wearing an “Adopt Me” vest. From that moment, I knew he was my dog. It took a few visits, and much discussion (wearing down through constant badgering), to convince my wasband that this dog was a good idea. We lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and were away from 10-12 hours a day – but so was everyone else who had a dog in New York (one of my many sane arguments for adopting).
Jack was an 11-month old, 60 pound, pit-plott hound mix, who was born into a rescue shelter and, therefore, had almost no socialization and oodles of anxiety. Having been born blind in one-eye, he also had zero depth perception, but on bright side he had just learned to manage a leash on the day we met. How could he possibly be a difficult dog to raise? Luckily, under all of his problems, was a sweet spirit and eagerness to please.
Since that day, he’s lived with us in two states, six homes. Together we’ve driven thousands of miles on road trips – his every 30 minute vomiting stopped one day into a three day cross country from NY to TX, when I was five months pregnant. In ten years, we’ve experienced childbirth & raising, divorce, meeting hundreds of new people and dogs. He’s survived, with minimal lacerations, ridiculous accidents from tumbling down a 40-foot cliff to slamming into and falling up (he defies physics, just believe) limestone barriers at a full run. Together, we’ve run & hiked hundreds of miles and over the last three years he’s generally been my go-to companion.
I grew up around ranch animals. They were there, but not too close and if something went wrong, that was fate and another would take its place. I never experienced animals as companions and until very recently didn’t accept Jack was mine. I don’t know what I considered him, “just my dog” I suppose. Perhaps, it was wrapped up in the emotional walls I built against losing those that I love. If he remained “just my dog” it would hurt less when he ultimately died. But recently something clicked and I realize he’s deep in my heart, which has caused me to observe other people’s relationships with their animals in a different light.
I recently moved into an apartment that is full of dogs. I sit on my porch and watch folks walk with their dogs. When I walk Jack in the neighborhood, we stop and talk with folks. Jack brings me closer to my community simply by needing to be walked and interacting with other dogs. People share experiences with their dogs and through that a bond is created, a conduit for communication, and it’s that conduit that seems to key animals and their people together. We live side by side with these creatures who take in so much of our world that we will never understand. I am not sure what it all means, but I’ve started listening closer and through my dog I feel like I am learning to hear the world with a little more clarity. I don’t mean the ways of the made world, but the nuances, the pauses, the subtle interactions feel crisper. Jack slows me down and helps me be present. That’s a pretty amazing gift that only took 10 years to recognize.