Last week, after several weeks of ‘pawing’ around the issue, I made the decision to adopt a 2-year-old American Bulldog named Buddy. He’s a rescue pup, and he’s been through numerous hellish ordeals in his relatively short life. I’m excited to have him, but at the same time – and, as my long period of indecision would indicate – I’m nervous, too.
I haven’t had a dog since I was 8-years-old, and that last experiment didn’t end well. I’m not a dog person and I still don’t consider myself one. For now, though, I’m a Buddy person. For whatever reason, he grabbed my attention. He’s cute, and he possesses a blend of sadness and excited energy that grabbed my heart. Despite my reservations, I took a chance on him. If he were able to articulate it, I imagine that having someone to love him is of the most satisfying experiences in a life that’s otherwise been highlighted by rejection, beatings, and a broken heart.
My first few days with Buddy were exciting and scary. At first, he was overly playful and humped me a lot; nervous energy, I suppose. (And I’ll take flattery in any form, thankyouverymuch). Getting affection from someone new probably had him a little excited and quite a bit unsettled, too.
The past day, though, has unfortunately been not-so-good. It started with diarrhea. On Sunday afternoon, he started vomiting. By 3:30 a.m. today, he’d thrown up six times, and again a seventh time when I took him for a walk in the early dark of the morning. He wouldn’t drink water, either.
It sucked to see him throwing up. It sucked to see his energy drop to the point that all he wanted to do was lay down on the floor at my side and have his tummy rubbed. This morning, I took him to the vet and learned that I may well get strapped with a $1,000+ vet bill to get him up to health again.
That sucks, too.
But this whole experience has given me pause, and it’s unveiled a strikingly similar parallel to another part of life; a subject that’s very important to this blog: Love.
Switch out Buddy from my story above and put yourself in his place. What’s happening?
In many ways, Buddy’s behaviors when first meeting me are like those that come out when meeting a new person. You’re excited but you’re probably reasonably skeptical, too. People, like rescue dogs, have their scars. Mental scars are the deepest kind, yet they’re also the hardest to see. I imagine – I know – that Buddy’s been hurt in more ways than I care to know. But I’m trying to love him anyway.
And as great a thing as that is to rescue a dog, I can’t assume that my love, in and of itself, is some kind of cure-all for this animal. The only way I’m going to prove to him that he’s safe is to keep loving him. Feeding him. Walking him. Playing with him. And those things need to happen every day.
Well, love is like that, too. As my sister once so brilliantly pointed out, love is not defined by singular moments, but by repeated actions over time.
He’s got a scar on the back of his head. I don’t know what it’s from and much as I’d like to try, I can’t take it away. I also can’t undo the emotional damage that’s been done to him. All I can do is prove to him, one day at a time that it will be better from now on.
And then, there’s his sickness. While I’m not the one who’s sick, it doesn’t mean that I’ve been free from its effects. In 24 hours, I’ve mopped my living room floor five times, and cleaned his cage and bowl – along with all of his vomit – just as many times. I drove him to the vet this morning and have now learned that he’ll be kept overnight to get X-rays that will determine if there’s something trapped in his intestines.
My instinct, though, isn’t to take on a ‘woah is me’ mentality, though it’s crossed my mind. Does it suck to lose that much sleep and clean up that much vomit? Yes. Will it hurt to drop all of that money to get him back to health? Yes.
But loving a dog – loving anyone – isn’t about the person giving the love. It’s about the person getting the love. I made a decision to care for him and no matter what happens next, it’s my obligation to follow through on that, one way or another. Love is certainly two-sided, but it should never be viewed as a two-way trade, lest we think its measurement will be kept in a score book.
Love is not about how much you can get. It’s about how much you can give.
Does writing those words make them easier to live by? No chance. Hell, I’m single for a reason.
But this whole thing has made it all ‘real’ to me. For whatever that may be worth.