“Delilah”- Florence and the Machine

11350525_10101338012155023_4851479474970538704_nIt’s the five year anniversary of getting Boomer. Of going to that house and watching that vibrant face fly out the door and into the yard. Five years since I was filled with fear and dread and trepidation- completely unsure if I was ready for this responsibility.

He was so skinny, he was 35 lbs. under weight and had been in a crate for 18 hours a day for close to 6 weeks. We knew he wasn’t staying there. $300 later he was in the car. I gave him a new name.

He gave me a new life.

I was in the middle of a really bad bout of depression. It comes in waves, like storms in hurricane season, it is unexpected and unwelcome and I’m sucked under and into the fray before I even realize it’s too late. It can be short lived or months long. At the time, I’d had a fight, one where I was more at fault than the other party. It cost me a friendship that I will never recover.  I had chosen to graduate and not complete a double degree. I moved home for the summer and found work.

And I had a dog all of a sudden. One that acted as if I was the axis point of his universe.

It took about 4 months for me to climb out of the hole. It’s was one of the longest and worst bouts in memory. But I had a furry face in my bed every morning, so excited to be awake. He loves food, and tennis balls, and other dogs. He fears large hands, dark haired women, and shouting. He tucks his head next to mine when I’m sleeping and wiggles his body close for warmth. And I have never, ever, seen a dog get as excited about a walk as he does.

He was the catalyst for my weight loss journey. Long walks, led to running. I still hate it- but I’m not the soft and pudgy college senior anymore. I’m healthy and in shape and I have a boxer to credit for that. Just as I am to credit for the fact he’s a little closer to portly right now than he should be.

He has stood by my side, there to comfort when I go through break ups or new nerves. He’s the paw on my leg when I get dressed in the morning, or the solid weight crawling into my lap when things eat at me to the point of pain.

He stood in the way of an attack. Brave and terrified. He was thrown to the wall. But I caught him. And I made sure he stayed safe. We protect each other.

He’s not sure about any man in my life except my dad. Dad gets unconditional adoration. Everyone else gets a growl and an eyebrow. I wonder if he’s learned that caution from me or if I have learned it from him. But he is also quick to love, relaxing in seconds. I’m working on that. I don’t always have that ease in social situations. I’m not as open as I used to be, I’m good at keeping everything at a careful distance and in a compartmentalized box. “To be dealt with later” is a motto. A survival mechanism.

Thanks to that little furball, his chocolate colored eyes, and adorable nature… I’m learning how to cope, fight the triggers that would send me reeling back into the storm, I can pull myself out in a day or two now. Sometimes a week. But I’m better at seeing it come, at tipping but not falling. I don’t sleep as much as I should, at home or at my parents, I still get plagued by nightmares.  3 a.m. is a hour filled with wide eyes and staring at the ceiling.  And Boomer has a habit of getting off of his bed and onto mine to cuddle until I pass out. That’s where he remains.

I’ve had five years so far. Five years of unconditional love. Of paws on my lap and heads on my shoulder. Of whole body wiggles when I say the word “walk.” Of army crawling onto the bed to lay with his head on my chest when I didn’t think I’d make it and of hopping up and down and pulling me to go faster. I’ve made other friendships, I’ve survived a lot more than I ever planned. I’ve started over, and over, and over again.

I’ve learned the meaning of responsibility, when I roll out of bed after a night out at 7 a.m. to let him and his sister out and to feed them, when the pounding in my head is just too loud. I’ve also learned that they get it- and will spend the day in bed with me if I’m sick. I appreciate the outdoors more. To take in that ecstatic joy at flowers, and plants and sidewalks and people. To watch babies stick their hands in Boomer’s mouth and watch him lay in the grass with the sheer wonder at humans that size.

I don’t know how many more years I have with him. I know I’ll cherish every one.

If you’re looking for a dog to change your life? Find a rescue. Go to http://www.barkva.org if you are in the Richmond area, go to your local rescue or animal shelter. Be prepared to be scared and frustrated and stressed out. Be prepared for a 5 a.m. throw up wake up call on your carpet and a mad sprint down the street if bunnies are involved. Be prepared for bath time to be a trial, but that freshly-washed-dog might be one of the best smells after puppy breath and fresh baked cookies. Be prepared to fall hopelessly in love with an animal. To worry you’re not home enough. To sneak peanut butter into anything and buy dog food that’s more expensive than yours. Be prepared to have them block you from strangers and other dogs. To stare at you with total adoration. To come to you for comfort when they are scared or excited. To love you more than you have ever thought possible.

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