Six years ago, if someone had told me I was going to spend a future birthday at a dog trainer’s conference, I would laughed.
Mirthlessly. I would have assumed it was a cruel joke.
Six years ago, I spent my birthday crying because I had decided to give myself the gift of a rescue dog.
I’d never had a dog before and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t what I was experiencing. No one had told me that the unconditional love thing I’d heard so much about wasn’t automatic. I’d assumed any dog I adopted would bring me instant joy, and that a rescue would be filled with gratitude that I had taken it in.
Frankie apparently hadn’t gotten the memo.
He lay on my couch, looking deeply depressed, refusing to eat. When I approached him so he would lick my face — isn’t that what cute small dogs are supposed to do? — he shrank back with a “Please don’t hurt me” expression.
I guess I should be grateful he wasn’t a submissive pee-er.
I seriously contemplated giving him back. What had I been thinking, adopting my first dog as an adult?
As it turned out, my instincts were right. It was just my notion that there was such a thing as an instant relationship, with dogs as well as with people, that was wrong.
So thank you, Frankie, for one of the many life lessons you taught me, and for the new and wonderful community of dog people you introduced me to. I’m sorry I wasn’t with you yesterday; I was learning more about your kind.
I know you’ll be happy to see me when I return, and not because loving their owners is what all dogs automatically do, but because I earned it.
P.S. A public thank you to my nieces, Rebecca and Shari, who sent a donation in my name to The Grey Muzzle Association, which helps rescue senior dogs. How cool a birthday present is that? Here’s a picture of the certificate, which I received when I got home.