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.