I wrote this piece below over a month ago, but I’m just getting around to posting now. Warning: super full of things like feelings.
Let me get the hard part out of the way first. A dear dog I had the pleasure of loving passed away last week. Even though he was 15 1/2, I wasn’t ready for this to happen. He lived a nice long life, but I secretly, selfishly wished he could’ve made it a year more just for me. The goodbye was hard for me to witness, but I feel nothing but thankful to have been with him on that day. It was a sacred place to be.
I will take you back a couple of years. I have done my share of internet dating in L.A. I’m not awesome or consistent at it, but I’ve met dozens of people this way. I met this “guy from the internet” (as I fondly call all of them) two years ago at a dive bar not far from the ocean. There was sawdust on the floor, a band playing in the corner, and wood paneling in every direction. It was mid-week, semi-dead and I saw the guy right away. He has a killer smile. I can’t recall anything he said to me, only that I felt really comfortable with him. He said something about Colorado and snowboarding and being from the south and that we were going on a second date. Stop already, that is more than enough. I am sold.
I met his dog shortly after this, and I remember giving him a treat. I also remember the guy saying, “He’s an old dog, he doesn’t hear or see very well.” I didn’t think much of any of this in the beginning. By our third date, though, the guy asked me to dog-sit while he worked in Hollywood. That’s right, the guy didn’t even make it to our date. I was offended. You want me to come over to your place and watch your dog? Aren’t people usually paid for that? I was just sitting at home watching TV, though, and didn’t have much else to do. I felt a little awkward being in someone’s home alone, but right away I saw this dog’s little rain jacket, put it on him & we were out for a stroll. It’s Marina Del Rey, so it’s chilly. There are boats and water everywhere. The dog seemed to know the way, and he was quite adorable in that little jacket. After the walk, I was back inside and trying to figure out the remote. Suddenly, this “old” dog jumps up and sits right next to me. I’m not sure that’s the precise moment my heart melted, but I do remember being shocked that he felt so comfortable around me. It’s too soon—it’s just the third date!
A couple of months later, I started calling internet guy by his name (Justin) & also his dog “Jax.” We both were on a budget, which meant we rarely went on typical dates. Our dates were always the three of us. We went for countless walks around the neighborhood, and on special occasions we brought Jax to the beach or to a park. After a few more months, I had my first chance to long term dog sit. There were glimpses of what it must feel like to own a dog. I longed to get out of work so I could meet Jax at the door for our afternoon walk. I kept a close eye on how much he was eating and making sure everything was OK without Justin around. I gave him too many treats. Instead of sleeping at the foot of the bed, I put Jax right on the other side of me.
Jax effortlessly made his way into my heart. To say he was a sweet dog does not do it justice. He was the sweetest. Whenever I cried in front of him, he licked my face until I stopped. He found his way next to me while I took my afternoon naps. He didn’t judge me for taking afternoon naps. The touch of his brown curly hair eased any stress from a day at work. He seemed a bit irritated with my need to cuddle, but he let me do it all the same.
We went on road trips together: Santa Barbara, Telluride, San Diego, Palm Springs. We lost him once in Telluride, and I ran out of the house sick to my stomach in my glasses and sweats—yelling his name even though he couldn’t hear me. I put on my running clothes & was prepared to circle the town over and over til he appeared. I teared up when he was later found in the middle of town on his own little adventure. I grew fiercely protective of him. I wanted to go to the vet with him and made lists of concerns. I wanted people to be sensitive/careful with him. I wanted his tail-wagging 24/7. I called him Jaxy and buddy and told him over and over that he was “the best dog.”
I knew Jax only as an older dog, but this didn’t matter to me. In fact, it was perfect. He napped all the time—just like me! He walked slowly, but I didn’t mind. Justin told me stories of when Jax was younger. He skateboarded! He climbed mountains! It was like hearing the tales of your grandfather—you sort of believe it, but you can’t really picture it. And honestly, the sound of it all exhausted me. Give me the Jax that helps me slow down and breathe for a moment. Give me the wise old dog that didn’t care much about mischief.
One year passed quickly, and Jax started to slow down even more. His walks became slower and shorter, and he had some trouble going up the stairs. Even then, I didn’t really think about him leaving me. Everyone else would talk about it, but I never processed it. My total focus was to make sure he was happy. A sad Jax definitely ruined my whole day. It was heartbreak watching him in pain, ever.
More time passed, and I introduced Justin to my family. Of course, I introduced Jax to my family, too. There were relationship struggles and times I wondered if I was supposed to even be in this story at all. Was I supposed to move on? Was I supposed to run? Was there an easier path to find love? I wondered if there was love at all, or if it was all in my head. I desperately wanted someone to tell me the answers. During the quickly moving days before we lost Jax, the day we lost Jax, and the days that were to follow, clarity arrived suddenly. I didn’t need to wonder. All I ever needed to do was say THANK YOU. Thank you for a dog’s tail that wagged for me daily. Thank you for love given without reservation or hesitation. Thank you for letting me see the way the guy loved the dog. It was an epic love story.
Well-versed dog owners know all too well the short span of a dog’s life. Even Justin seemed better equipped to deal with Jax’s passing than I was. I am never very equipped to deal with anything involving feelings, emotions, love, loss. People have called it “sensitive,” and I guess that’s the word. I can only describe it as feeling things very very deeply. It is why I will weep at your wedding & your funeral in equal amounts. It is why it would be so hard for me to ever verbalize any of this without breaking down. It is a gift, but it also seems so foreign to this world of harshness and hipsters. I am happy to have this space to tell you my piece of the story because it is important to me. I loved that little furry guy to pieces, and home feels a little more empty and somber without him in it. My heart says ditto to that. My heart also wants to tell you (and me) to stop wondering so much, worrying so much, wanting so much. There is so much to say thank you for. There is so much love so freely given.
Jax, I still miss you on a daily basis and will never forget any of those two years we spent together. You are the best thing about internet dating.