The latter notwithstanding, I love this little Maltipoo with fierce passion and I’ve come to learn some remarkable lessons through our friendship.
I became a dog owner quite by accident. It happened during Major Breakup 2010 and I learned a lesson: adopting a dog will not save your relationship (this is a lesser version of the “a baby will not save your relationship” lesson of which I’ve heard, but not tried myself).
We had adopted her one month before the breakup and she was a rescue dog from a puppy mill. She had just given birth to her last litter when we found her and she was a bit of an emotional mess: fearful, anxious, and shy. She shivered around people and cowered when I reached to pet her.
After the breakup, which was mutual but exquisitely painful, I ended up moving eight times over the next year. I lost my job. I lost 15 pounds from mind-bending anxiety. I dated a string of inappropriate men. I fell apart.
During that upheaval and hair-pulling, Phoebe was patient sidekick. Sometimes, we slept on couches. Other times, she stayed with me when I went comatose for days at a time. Frequently, she sat with me while I cried about the piles of shit everywhere in my life.
So there we were. Puppy Mill Phoebe and Breakup Leah, both raw and hurting, looking at each other with bewildered confusion, hoping this friendship would provide solace.
With time, her tan-and-brown coat grew out white. She quit cowering. She started her charming trait of hopping around like a bunny when she gets excited. She learned to trust.
And with time, I began to heal. I started eating again and got another job. I quit looking to the man-of-the-moment to “fix” me. I got a beautiful place to live.
The thing we learned together was to trust the process. Even during chaos—and especially when life hurts—I have to trust that the universe has my highest good in mind. I choose to settle into the chaos, let others love me, and love myself radically. I have to lean into it and know that I’m taken care of.
I watched my ten-pound Maltipoo do it and she grew in the sunshine of the spirit. I did it, and I wouldn’t trade that tumultuous time for any treasure. It was one of the most essential experiences of my life.
That little dog didn’t save my relationship, but she saved me. We saved each other.