My husband and I are childless 28-year-olds.
We don’t get to claim any dependents on our tax returns. The only pitter-patter of feet echoing in our hallways comes from four-legged creatures. We don’t have car seats in our vehicles, and we’ve never heard someone call us “mom” or “dad.”
Perhaps it is because we don’t have any human children that we are overly obsessed with our 3-year-old mastiff Henry. The older he gets and the stronger our bond grows, the more and more he seems to seamlessly fill the void of our childlessness.
It may sound crazy, especially to those who (*gasp*) don’t like dogs, but in many ways, Henry is basically our child.
1. He has a social schedule complete with playdates.
We joke that Henry has a better social life than some children, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. There are weeks he has activities almost every night. From the dog park to pet friendly stores, he’s always out and about. He also has a playdate with his favorite Bull Terrier Holly every Friday. We worry about his socialization more than some parents worry about their children.
2. We brag about him like he's a kid.
Moms and dads of human children are often zealous to talk about their children, pulling out stacks of photos and sharing accomplishments. Our phones are brimming with photos of Henry, and we’re quick to talk about his achievements. This week, our big news was that he was working closer to mastering his glove carrying at obedience school.
3. Our house is overrun by toys.
Don’t worry... this picture was taken during our bi-monthly purge of his toys. But yes, our house is littered with Henry’s beloved toys, including his favorite comfort toy―a stuffed zebra he got his first Christmas.
4. We get his Christmas gifts before we buy for each other.
Henry is usually the first on our list for Christmas gifts, and we make sure he has plenty of gifts to open―wrapped, of course.
5. We specifically pick activities he can do.
We search far and wide for activities that are dog-friendly, even moving our schedules around so we can attend events where Henry is welcome. From outdoor festivals to the Dip n’ Dive at our local pool this weekend, we are always up for a Henry-friendly venue.
6. Henry goes with us on date night.
Saturday is our date night. In the fall especially, we’ve been known to take Henry on date night so he didn’t have to be home alone, choosing to walk to our local Subway and eating outside on the patio with Henry.
7. He gets mail so he doesn't feel left out.
He is a member of Bark Box, even though he already gets way too many toys. Anything to make him feel special...
8. We've turned down plans to spend time with him.
We hate leaving him in the evenings, often turning down plans so we can spend more time with Henry.
9. We dress him up for Halloween.
It’s not easy finding mastiff-size costumes... but we still make sure he’s got the perfect outfit for Trick-or-Treat.
10. He gets a good-bye kiss.
I’m more worried about saying good-bye to Henry when I leave than my husband.
11. We get insulted if someone makes fun of him.
A few years ago, a lady asked me: “You actually let that thing in your house?”
I still fume about that woman and her rude comments. When people shun Henry on our walks, turning their nose up at him because he’s “too big,” they get a death glare. No one talks about our Henry like that.
12. We have more photos of him on the walls than most people do their children.
13. He gets to see Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.
And yes, we pay for the expensive photo packages so our parents can have pictures of their “granddog.”
14. He goes to the park.
Henry is a member at our local dog park, so he gets to go play. During the fall, we try to take him at least one night a week.
15. We enroll him in school.
He’s been through several rounds of dog school, and we always make sure he does his homework.
So yes, we are completely obsessed with our mastiff Henry, and we basically treat him like our child. Henry is living the life with his hectic social schedule, plenty of toys, and activities galore.
Some people think we’re crazy, and some scoff at us for calling him family.
But we don’t care.
The love we have for Henry, the unconditional bond we have with him, is irreplaceable. We do everything in our power to give him the best life we can, but it’s nothing compared to what he gives us―loyalty, companionship, and memories we’ll cling to for a lifetime.
To see more of Lindsay's writing and her time with Henry, visit her Facebook.
School started today, so it's good-bye summer and hello hectic days of grading papers, lesson plans, and general back-to-school chaos.
It's been a great summer mostly because it's been a simple one. We didn't go anywhere exotic this summer or anywhere new. In fact, this is the first summer in a while we don't have tons of pictures of roadtrips and daytrips and new adventures.
The thing is, I'm okay with that. It was a wonderful summer of lazy days and lemonade; of Netflix and cuddling with Henry. We spent days in his sprinkler in the yard, days reading books, and days writing new books. We spent afternoons strolling around our hometown, evenings eating ice cream, and plenty of time sipping coffee. We relaxed, we slept in, and we lounged around in yoga pants most days.
We did have some milestone moments, too. We went to our 10-year high school reunion. I edited two novels and one story for an anthology. I wrote the draft of another book and started writing for The Huffington Post. We went to Ocean City, and we did some small activities around town. We went to a frisbee dog show at the beginning of summer, and Henry got to go swimming for the first time ever last weekend.
Mostly, though, we just spent our days soaking in extra time with each other.
Sometimes the best summers aren't about jamming them full of activities and wild times. Sometimes the best summers are the summers we spend in our familiar surroundings, doing the familiar, being with the familiar people (and pets) in our lives.
So summer of 2016, I'll always be thankful for the simple moments we enjoyed.
I hated you before I even met you.
I swore at Chad when he told me he was getting you, threatened to divorce him for not compromising. I vowed to not lift a finger to help with you. I scowled when the barrier went up in our brand new kitchen in anticipation of your arrival. I refused to help pick out your collar or dog bowl. I pouted at home while Chad drove six hours to pick you up, refusing to be a part of this puppy business.
Then you came home. All floppy, droopy, wrinkly twenty-four pounds of your brindle self.
And I hated you even more.
I hated how you cried in the middle of the night, how you tugged on my pant leg when I was trying to write lesson plans. I hated how you cried to go out every five minutes and then refused to come back in. I hated how you hid under the steps when I needed to get you back in before it started raining. I hated how you barked at everything, how you dashed around the house as soon as I got home.
I hated you so much I cried a few times.
Then, I decided to soften, to give you a chance. I held you, and you fell asleep in my arms, and we had a beautiful moment.
Until you peed all over me. And then I hated you again.
Despite my hate for you. . . you adored me. You greeted me when I came home. You slept all day for Chad and got super excited when I came home from work. You threw your toys in the air, ran around tripping on your own feet. You whined and jumped and dashed around, happy to see me.
And then, at some random point, it happened. As your paws got bigger, they started walking on my heart. It wasn’t a single, magic moment. There was no spectacular moment when I knew I’d changed my mind. You just wormed your way in, puppy breath and all. You defrosted my ice-cold heart. You made me love you.
Suddenly, I was laughing at your stupid antics. I cracked up when you froze on your walks because there was a squirrel. I smiled when you barked at the cat. I even forgave you when you chewed on a can of Coke and had soda on the ceiling. I laughed when you ate half a bag of puffed popcorn. I smiled when you escaped from your crate countless times. I forgave you when you made me feel like a fool at our first dog obedience class—you kept smacking me with your paw when you were supposed to be sitting still.
From there, it was history. I didn’t hate you anymore. You became my best friend.
People laugh when I say that. How can a dog be your best friend? How sad is your life? People laugh at how your social schedule is better than most kids. People look at me skeptically when I say “I can’t go” because I don’t want to leave you at home.
But I don’t care. Because you are my best friend.
Over the past few years, you’ve been there for everything, even when no one else was.
On days when I feel like a nobody, like no one notices me or cares, you greet me at the door and remind me you’re happy to see me. You jump and run and wag your tail as soon as I come home, acting like you’ve waited all day just for this moment. You make me feel like a somebody.
On days when I’ve messed up or been hurt or just feel awful and let the tears flow, you’re there. You put your paw in my hand, your droopy face on my shoulder, and your eyes ooze with empathy. We cuddle and cry and eat popcorn and ice cream. We put on our favorite shows—Reign, Jane the Virgin, Once Upon a Time, and Orange is the New Black—and you bark to scare away the dogs and monsters, just to protect me of course. You help me realize it will all be okay. You remind me that nothing is as bad as it seems, and that friendship gets us through the worst of times.
On days when I’m feeling happy and crazy and silly, you’re there, too. We run in the yard for no reason. We sing stupid songs. We dance to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” We jump and run and wrestle and make tons of noise.
On days when I’m feeling bored, you’re there. We go on adventures, even if it’s just to your favorite places—The Meadows, Poochey Chef, Petco, the Dog Park, or to grab some takeout from our favorite restaurants. Sometimes, we just go on adventures around town, walking and meeting new people. You remind me it’s good to be social, to talk to people, to explore.
You’re there through the milestones, through the boring days, through the sad days. You’ve been there on days I want to give up and days I want to celebrate. You’re there to say goodbye every morning and to say hello every afternoon when I come home. You show unconditional love and happiness and joy.
As we celebrate your third birthday, I think back on these past years with a smile. I know we’ll have many more years of running in the park and eating too many cupcakes and watching movies and going to parades. I know I’ll love you for so many more moments.
I also know that someday when you’ve reached your last birthday, when you’ve used up all your time for making memories, I’ll hate you again. I’ll hate you for stealing my heart, for making me love you, and then for leaving. I know I’ll cry and I’ll cry some more when I realize your paw isn’t there to comfort me, your head isn’t on my shoulder. I’ll cry thinking about the fact your big brown eyes aren’t there to comfort me.
I’ll hate you for breaking my heart with those huge mastiff paws of yours.
But, when I’m hurting and wanting to just sit down and die, I know I’ll think of how I started out hating you. I’ll think of how despite it all, you never gave up, you made me fall in love with you, you made me realize that sometimes the best things in life come out of things we resist with all our might. And because I went from hating you to loving you, I know I’ll keep my heart open. I’ll miss you and it’ll be hard, but I’ll open my heart to another four-legged buddy.
Because above all, Henry, you taught me to love with everything I have, even when I don’t think I can.
Happy birthday to my best friend.
"If you get a dog, I swear I'm filing for divorce."
These were the words uttered in a moment of rage a few weeks before Henry came into our lives. They were, I'm ashamed to admit, my words.
My husband had been wanting a mastiff. I had just started my first permanent teaching job and we had just bought a house; thus, I wanted absolutely no dogs.
Chad was insistent, though. He wanted a mastiff puppy, and a litter was just born. We screamed at each other, we fought, and I threatened to leave because it was just so ridiculous of him to be so selfish.
Now, I know I was the ridiculous one.
A few weeks later, I scowled and glowered as a floppy, twenty-two pound mastiff came ambling into our house. I hadn't even driven to Ohio to get him, refusing to be a part of the puppy coming into our home.
Seeing his squishy face, I decided to give him a chance...and then he peed on me. All over me. I hated him.
I continued to hate him for weeks. I hated the way he cried in the middle of the night or chewed on my sweatpants when I was trying to do schoolwork. I hated how he barked, how he needed out to pee every four seconds. I hated how he would sleep all day while my husband was home with him and be crazy all night once I got home.
But then, out of the clear blue sky, something happened.
I don't even know when or how it happened. Slowly, that mastiff puppy breath wormed its way into my heart, melted away the layer of ice I had constructed. Those floppy ears, those huge paws, they started to walk all over me.
Eventually, I fell in love with that crazy mastiff we named Henry.
Now, I don't know how I could have ever disliked him. That mastiff is my absolute best friend. When I'm having a terrible day or frustrated or just tired of it all, I go home to his happy face and feel better. Our nights on the couch cuddling and watching Reign, our movie nights, our days lounging in the sun...my moments with him are my favorite of all.
Some people say he's just a dog (although a rather big one). They look at me like I'm crazy when I worry about him being bored or sad or lonely. People would judge me to know I've passed on plans just so I can spend time with him.
But I don't care.
Sometimes in life, the things we dread the most turn out to be the best things of all. The best thing in my life came against my will in the form of a wrinkly, floppy, clumsy puppy named Henry. He showed me that compromise can lead to great things.
He showed me that sometimes, just sometimes, my husband is right. Just don't tell him.
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