July 26, 2016

On Dogs, Dating and Heartbreak


Because they have always been an integral part of my life, dogs have always inhabited the spaces around, in between, and in the absence of relationships. My decision to foster fail with Boca was in no small part because my long term relationship ended shortly after she arrived from her tropical island, and I couldn't bear another goodbye. In those days she spent a lot of time laying directly on my chest - a balm to my heartache - something she rarely does anymore. Make of that what you will...

After one devastating split, I spent my Christmas vacation home from college listening to goth music and painting morose paintings until the wee hours of the morning, at last collapsing in a tearful heap on my old twin bed with the family dogs: Basset hound Pansy and German Shepherd Ripley. My mom was exasperated with my bad attitude, my tender young heart's dramatic postulations, but those two dogs simply snored through my emotional swings, pressing close without judgment when I finally stilled.

I adopted my first dog in the midst of a break-up...a break-up from an unhealthy relationship that I would not have had the strength for without that beautiful being. I was embarking on a new life and in her I had a protector and confidante. Lasya taught me so much about what it means to be independent, joyful and free. Years and another dog later when I got divorced, there was no question who was taking the dogs, needy elkhound Freya and stalwart sentinel Lasya. I've lived alone for over a decade now, but it's never felt lonely with two pairs of captivating canines sharing my domicile, a house that wouldn't be a home without them.

These past two years I've been single in the most singular sense of the word. I've needed the time to heal, to determine where I've landed after more than fifteen years in a series of long relationships. I am not who I was at 20, 25, or 30...but what has remained constant are dogs. The two most important love languages for me are physical touch and quality time. It's no surprise that a life with dogs, who are perpetually waiting just to be near us, fulfills much of that need for connection. I seldom feel melancholy solitude when I have my dogs to care for, walk with and talk with. Their presence is a comfort without expectation, a cherished certainty.

Still...as much as I'd usually rather hang out with Ruby and Boca, humans crave human companionship. We are all drawn to our own kind. I've started dating again, which in itself is a fascinating experience, one that is surprising me. For someone that suffers from social anxiety, I've been astonished by how much I'm enjoying meeting new people. I cannot discount the effect that joining the pet store protest group and subsequent rescue organization that formed have had, as well as the way my virtual network of other pet bloggers and the experience of BlogPaws have bolstered my confidence and communication skills. Pets really are an introvert's armor.

In determining compatibility, my dogs are a big priority, even if not directly so. While I'm drawn to fellow animal lovers, having a reactive dog means that a partner with dogs isn't necessarily an easy fit. Ruby can't do normal, social dog things and even Boca wasn't keen on sharing her home with another dog. Although I rarely refer to myself as a dog mom, it can at times feel like I'm navigating the world like a single parent.

Scheduling can be tricky, since Ruby and Boca are home alone all day during the week, I don't feel comfortable leaving them in the evenings, at least not on a regular basis and not without some serious quality time, in the form of Frisbee, generous walks or training sessions. Understanding of my devotion to my dogs is absolutely imperative. One guy said in a message prior to even meeting "you need to figure something out with your dogs because it's going to seriously affect your dating life." You can probably guess what I "figured out" in regard to him! My dogs come first and if that's a problem we are done talking. I'm proud of my dedication to my dogs - an extension of my loyalty to whomever I love - and anyone that wants to be a part of my world will appreciate that.

From family pets to Ruby and Boca, dogs have been at my side through romance and heartbreak. They teach us so much about living fully, appreciating the present, accepting imperfection, loving unconditionally and reciprocal communication. They brighten my darkest days with their antics and affection, and bring deeper joy to single domestic life. Whether or not I find romantic love again, because of The Ginger Sisters and all the dogs that came before, I am rich in life and love and rescued over and over.

18 comments:

  1. Thank you for opening up and sharing your story! You are not alone and your pups will always be a shield to protect your heart.

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  2. Thank you, Lara. I love this blog; it's the story of so many of us. My life has been knit together by the dogs that stayed when people came and went. I've had this quote on my wall for as long as I can remember,

    "Her life was ok. Sometimes she wished she were sleeping with the right man instead of with her dog, but she never felt she was sleeping with the wrong dog." - Change of Life by Judith Collas

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    1. That quote is fantastic - I might have to steal it for Wordless Wednesday! I love "knit together by the dogs that stayed when people came and went" just as much.

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  3. You are such a good writer, Lara. I can't believe the message that one guy sent you. HA!

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    1. Thanks so much, Lindsay! Yes, so rude and presumptive!

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  4. This was beautifully written. It was like having a conversation with a friend over coffee. As you became the girls forever love, I have no doubt yours is on his way....

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  5. Thank you for sharing your personal story! But your pups will always have your heart <3

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  6. This is so beautiful and transparent. Seriously, thank you for sharing. I know from experience that a dog can truly be a savior in a time of heartache. We're so blessed to have these souls in our lives. <3

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  7. I have a few people that I need to share this with, they are exactly in your spot. I also know someone who initially said no to a guy who has a cat, because her dog hates cats. However, it is working out for them. It is good to have an open mind and heart, but it isn't always easy. I hope you meet someone really awesome who loves your dogs and vice versa!

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  8. Oh boy! I totally understand! I am not sure I could even consider dating someone who currently had a dog because we'd absolutely have to live separately (or spend a lot of hours driving separate cars to Barley's training center with both dogs) as long as Barley was part of my life--but then the thought of dating someone who would be ok with living without a dog in his life is also appalling to me ;)

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    1. It's really a conundrum, isn't it? I'm pretty fond of living alone (and have my dad to consider since he lives with me part-time) so co-habitating is probably not on the table for me anyway...plus, that all seems like a long way off, if at all!

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  9. Thanks for this! I also have a reactive dog (reactive to people as well) and have been thinking about doing more dating but I'm worried about how it's going to work out. I suppose the right person is willing to be patient and accepting of such things.

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  10. such a touching post. This one line: Pets really are an introvert's armor. I loved that so much.

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  11. Thanks for sharing, although not a true introvert I am generally a loner who occasionally feels like being social. LoL
    You just need to find a fellow dog lover. :-)

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  12. "Pets are an introvert's armour." Amen. I am fortunate that my husband is an animal lover and hasn't blinked when I have adopted senior dog after senior dog (the reactive one with tons of issues) after senior cat (with increasing medical issues)- and then the kitten - the wild child. While I am responsible for most of their care, he does pitch in and totally understands my obsession with each one of them. He cuddles them as much as I do. ;) You'll find someone who "gets" you.

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  13. Love me, love my dog right? I'm in a LTR but if I had to date again, I'd probably bring Mr. N with me on most dates and if they couldn't deal, there's the door!

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  14. I completely get where you are coming from, and I am glad that you showed that guy the door (My assumption, as I know that's what I would do) I have to admit there have been numerous times over the last decade of my life (wow that makes me feel old) where I have thought "forget men, I am going to stick with animals"

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