Wanting a Dog
Ever since I was a young girl, three things have consistently fed my soul: Being in nature; being creative; and being with dogs. Before I started to seriously focus on painting dogs about a dozen years ago, though, that part of me was gravely famished. I was living on a busy main street, using most of my creative energy figuring out ways to pay the rent to a landlord who did not allow pets.
To ease the pain, my partner and I frequently roamed our city streets keeping a watchful eye out for dog walkers. “There’s one,” Jim would whisper excitedly. Our pace would quicken, and then one of us would gently call out, “Excuse me, can we pet your dog?” This happened almost daily.
Visualizing a Dog
When we returned home from these walks, we’d spontaneously fantasize with each other about what it might be like to have a dog waiting for us there, in our third-floor apartment. (“Right now we’d hear him sniffing the door,” I’d say. “Maybe we’d first notice his big ol’ tail start thump, thump, thumping on the floor,” Jim would suggest. “Look, his head would be right here as we walk in … he’d probably be grinning and his whole body would wiggle now that he sees us.”
The stories went on and on and continued as we sat down to eat or watch tv. Sometimes we’d bring them up, again, as we crawled into bed for the night. (“He’d probably jump onto the bed with us before we got under the covers, and we’d have to push him over to make room.”) Our daily conversations were full of what life would be like if we only had a dog.
Going to the Dogs
At some point I learned that the local SPCA was always looking for volunteers to walk their dogs. I still remember Jim’s facial expression when I shared this news with him. His eyes widened, like I’d just told him he’d won the lottery. We immediately agreed to visit the shelter, soon.
Months went by. Because we were barely scraping by financially, many other things were getting our attention, and we couldn’t find a time to go to the shelter together.
Then came April 13th — Jim’s 41st birthday. I’d love to say that I surprised my man by bringing him to the animal shelter on that day, and letting him pick out a dog to bring home. Or that we had just walked one, together. But the truth is, we got into an argument, and Jim ended up taking some space from me and the apartment. Without telling me where he was going, he drove to the SPCA shelter to walk some dogs, alone.
And this simple birthday gift he gave to himself would change our lives forever…
When he returned home, a few hours later (and once we were speaking, again), he shared stories of the dozen or so fabulous dogs he’d met and how much fun he’d had interacting with them. “They all seemed so grateful for some loving and attention,” he gushed.
Then he told me a tale about a particular large white dog.
Falling for a Dog
“There’s something about this one guy,” Jim told me. “I don’t know exactly what it is … but he’s magnificent, He’s only 9 months old, yet he has this very noble dignity … he seems so confident, so sure of what he wants … and he looks incredibly powerful.”
Jim also related that this dog (listed by the SPCA as a “pit bull mix”) wasn’t getting walked much because the SPCA staff had concerns about him. “They wouldn’t let me walk him on the street, because he tries to chase every car that passes, and is too strong for any of the volunteers to control.” So, bottom line, this dog was pretty much confined to his cage all day, without much exercise.
Again and again, I remember Jim saying, There’s something special about this dog, and he needs help…you have to meet him! Maybe because we had just been arguing, or I was concerned about the rent, I honestly didn’t think much about this shelter animal, or Jim’s impressions of him, at the time. So, I had no idea that the Universe was orchestrating something really, really big for me, and that this one dog would be playing a central role…