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.