It is quiet in this apartment but for the fridge buzzing in the kitchen and the little dog, gently snoozing next to me.
I am dogsitting for a few days while Pippin’s owners are on a mountain biking trip. We went for a short run together this morning (my first run in nearly five months, truly a testament to the power of Dog) which I never would have done if Pip didn’t need the exercise to clear his genetically-wired-to-herd-things-all-day brain. The fall air was crisp and clear and my lungs burned like all hell, but I spent most of our time together looking up—at leaves changing, at the wispy clouds in the mostly-clear blue sky, at the debris caught in the gutters of the houses we ran by…these things I never would’ve noticed if I weren’t trying so hard to distract myself from the physical torment.
I don’t love running, but I forget how good it feels to be done. At various points in my life, I’ve been in shape enough that I’m grouchy if I don’t get my run in for the day, or have actually managed to get into a rhythm and find the somewhat pleasant homeostasis in running longish distances (that is, between 5-10 miles). I ran my first ever half marathon this year before succumbing, again, to the lure of nicotine. I’ve been struggling with this for nearly four years since I dated a dirtbag who liked to smoke and was grabbed by the seemingly seductive hand-rolled cigarette. (Let me clarify, he was not a dirtbag because he smoked. He was a dirtbag because he was a dirtbag.)
Needless to say, this has made jumping back into physical fitness relatively daunting—but after my run, the thought of nicotine was borderline repulsive to me. It was just out of the question. I wanted a smoothie and kale, to keep the good thing going. I think I need a dog like Pippin in my life.
Every now and then I muse on those bumperstickers advocating for rescuing animals from animal shelters, asking “Who saved who?” And that really is the crux of it. Pip can be very anxious and neurotic, but I find myself in total compassion for his state. He is a rescue, and lord only knows what he went through before landing in the capable and loving hands of his current owners. I find myself asking why I can treat his neuroses with such gentleness and determination, while my own special blend of mental strife is a constant source of angst and misdirection. If it exists in me to treat this little creature with guidance and love confronting his demons, why can’t I face my own with tenderness and resolve? He doesn’t know it, but this little dude inspires the hell out of me. Plus he’s cute as all get out.
When I lived in Portland, whenever I had a bad day, I would go to the humane society just to look at all the dogs. It was a good perspective shift, a reminder of how lucky I truly am in circumstance by birth, and that good energy and instant unconditional love do exist in the universe. It was always very hard to leave without a friend, but what can I say, I’m a believer in planned parenthood. When it’s not the time, it’s not the time.
But I am approaching a stage in my life where I’m ending my time as a student and preparing to enter the workforce. Like, getting a “real job” with a “real boyfriend” and looking for a “real house”. The time of Dog is nigh. And while I adore my boyfriend’s golden retriever, I think I am best suited to some strange rescue, maybe one who’s afraid of certain sounds or textures or people or dogs, who needs a strict schedule, exercise, and a safe place to hide when stressed out. These are essentially qualities we would share. And if I can provide an ounce of understanding and hold space for an animal’s recovery, maybe I can recover myself.
I’m not sure when it all started (if I had to guess, it would be in January of 2014) but I have been quite lost for some time now—not knowing what I want to study, what I want in a relationship, how to draw boundaries with loved ones, what social circle I want to exist in, what I truly enjoy versus what I wish I enjoyed, what career I may want to someday have, and most of all, how to love myself. Recently, this has manifested as an obsession with connection with others and demonstrating love for everyone I come into contact with. It’s almost like I’m trying to prove to myself that, if I can create relationship where none was before, I can discover how to love Me with full commitment. I’m not sure how or if that makes sense at all, but it seems on some level to be true.
As this little dog snores next to me, I am watching his lips move with breath and his paws twitch in dreamland, and am simply amazed at his power—without even trying—to get me to encounter myself, in whatever messy form I may be in.
I haven’t picked my presidential candidate for 2020 and I don’t know where I’ll end up working someday, but I do know that tomorrow, Pip and I are going for a run in the park. We’ll snuggle as I do homework, chase the green ball, and play Find The Cheese. And maybe, for now, all those big questions don’t matter. Maybe, for now, it is just about going outside on a nice fall day and enjoying the feeling of running for the sake of running.