I flip the last light off, turn The Office on and climb into bed. He exhales and lies his heavy head on my shoulder. The room feels smaller with him this close to me. I quietly remind him of the night we met. He sighs as if to say, “Really? This story, again!?” It’s true, I have recalled it a lot over the last seven years.
I’ll never forget March 6, 2010. I pulled through the gates of my apartment complex and saw my neighbors gathered around, watching this uncoordinated boxer jump side-to-side. I walked over to the group and reached down to pet the dog, “Awww, who got a new pup?!” I said, as I quickly retracted my hand to avoid the slobber dripping from his jowls. They explained that the poor thing must be lost because he wandered into our complex with no collar.
As we stood there clueless on what to do next, my ex-boyfriend and I shared an understanding glance. He was in his first year of vet school and offered to bring the dog to check for a microchip. I had access to the art building print lab so I volunteered to make lost posters. And just like that, he was our problem.
I’m an animal lover, but I can’t say I was exactly thrilled to be stuck with the chore of finding these irresponsible owners. After all, this was the THIRD dog I had found in Baton Rouge, in less than six months! What I didn’t realize was that this moment was the beginning of one of the greatest loves I have ever experienced.
The next day, I was up early to run Race for the Cure. I remember telling my friend that I found a goofy boxer puppy. She asked if I was going to keep him. I quickly came up with the excuse that I wasn’t into owning a dog at this phase in my life, and that I was more of a small/medium dog kinda girl.
Once I got home from my race, I made Bruce* (disclaimer below) a pallet on the ground and I climbed into bed for a nap. About 2 minutes later, I felt a cold, wet object nudging my arm. I rolled over to find two big, bug eyes staring back at me. I avoided further eye contact and did my best to forget the look.
When I woke up, my arm was fast asleep. To my surprise, there was a brown blob occupying the space next to me (and also my arm). He was smiling, kicking his legs, and whimpering as he dreamt. It was that moment, I knew I was in trouble. This was no longer a LOST dog, this was MY dog. He had snuck onto the bed and into my heart and there was no doubt that he was HOME in my arms.
Fast forward seven years, I am grateful (every.single.day) that the efforts to find Hank’s owners failed. I know that may sound selfish…but this dog, whom I not only share my bed with, but my life, has been the best friend I could ever ask for! We have grown up together. During stages of anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, and breakups, he has been by my side. Moments I felt the world had turned on me, I looked down and saw those big, bug eyes staring back, time and time again.
Hank has taught me more about love and patience than a lot of humans. Despite my flaws, he has always greeted me as if I am what he’s been waiting for his entire life. It has never mattered that I was a hot mess or struggling to gain stability, he loves me unconditionally. The truth is, he was never my problem, only my solution.
*Bruce was his name for about eight hours. After I knew he was mine, I turned on a Hank Williams Jr. song and his ears perked up!
**Hug your pups!! And if you are thinking about getting a dog, please consider adopting from your local shelter or rescue.