(This week marks the two-year anniversary of my dog, Freyja, being sprung from the shelter by Arbed Dog Rescue. This is my tribute to her. Happy “gotcha” day, beautiful.)
If you’d told me five years ago that the love of my life would turn out to be a dog, I would have thought you were being ridiculous.
Sure, my family had a dog when I was growing up. And I considered myself an animal lover. But to me, dogs seemed too…. easy. Cats? You have to earn their love. They’re particular, discerning, and slow to warm to humans. Being loved by a cat actually meant something. But dogs, it seemed that they would love pretty well anyone.
My friend Josh kept saying Pamela, you need to get a dog. There’s nothing like it. I scoffed at him, over and over again. It seemed like an easy way out. Almost like cheating.
But after a couple of challenging years, I felt my heartstrings tugged by a rescue pleading for dog foster homes. And so I decided to try out having a dog around.
I was away when our foster dog arrived, a black Labrador retriever. I first caught a glimpse of her on my phone in a coffee shop in New York City. Freyja. In her photo, she seemed to look relieved, and tired after a long ordeal.
Our first encounter was not the slow motion running into each other’s arms that I expected. Instead she barked ferociously at me while lunging on her leash. Then she spent the next week following me everywhere, watching every move I made. Frankly, it was a bit off-putting.
Two weeks in, the rescue mentioned that someone had inquired about adopting her. My gut said I couldn’t let her go, but I felt like maybe someone else could give her a better home. Everyone I knew disagreed. So I decided to keep her.
I now know exactly what Josh was talking about. There is absolutely nothing like the love of a dog. It’s almost as though I’ve cracked a secret code that the “dog people” have known all along, but have either kept a secret or were not able to articulate clearly to the rest of us.
To Freyja, everything is exciting. Everything. Especially the things that I do. If I stand up, it creates a commotion. Opening the fridge unleashes pandemonium. My waking up in the morning is an eagerly anticipated event.
She gives her love so freely, and her unbridled enthusiasm is infectious. It’s hard to stay in a bad mood when there’s a goofy dog grinning at you, bright eyed, hopeful, tail thwomping. Many dogs are bona fide stand up comedians as well, which means lots of smiles and laughing.
Nobody has ever been so excited to see me. And it replays every single day! She races to the door, whimpering in excitement, wiggling her bum, and hurling herself into me as though I’ve abandoned her for months. I feel like a rock star.
When I see myself through Freyja’s eyes, I see a version of myself that is infinitely better than who I believe that I actually am, and it makes me strive to be that person. I don’t want to let her down; to be a lesser person than who she believes me to be.
I look forward to those times when I can spoon with her, feeling her breath rise and fall, feeling her warmth and breathing in her dog smell and knowing that we’re both experiencing pure bliss.
The most beautiful part of all is that this is not unique to Freyja. This – or some variation of it- is how most dogs are. Loving, giving, joyous, and happy. Forgiving. It’s why it’s so heartbreaking to hear of dogs who have been abandoned; the only thing a dog wants in this entire world is to love and be loved. .
But it’s also why it’s so heartwarming and inspirational to hear about dogs who have been to hell and back but continue to love and feel hope. We could all learn a thing or two from dogs about perseverance, and forgiveness.
Let yourself be loved by a dog. Join our club. Let yourself feel like a rockstar. It’s the purest, most unconditional love imaginable. In my darkest hours, I remember that Freyja can’t wait to see me and it pulls me through.
There’s nothing sadder than an unloved dog, though, so whatever you do, please make sure you love that dog back.
Want to foster or adopt a dog? Here are a few local multi-breed rescues (there are many more!):
Sit With Me www.sitwithme.ca
Hopeful Hearts www.hopefulhearts.ca
Genesis Dog Rescue www.genesisdogrescue.ca
Valley Animal Rescue www.valleyanimalrescue.ca
New Beginnings www.newbeginningspetrescue.org
Ottawa Dog Blog list: http://ottawadogblog.ca/ottawa-dog-rescues/