Nov 22 2011

Welcome Home, Picard.

Just moments after our first encounter.

(This story can also be found in the print and online editions of Bay Woof magazine.)

I used to be a fairly regular blogger; just another person with a greater than average need to express myself – usually as a means to make sense of life, especially when it confounds me (and there was a lot of that these past few years). But then something happened: I got a dog. Coincidentally, I got a boyfriend at roughly the same time. So basically, I got a life again. And so for the past year, while I’ve been enjoying living this life, the only things I’ve posted on my blog are cute pup pictures.

So how did I so completely and quickly morph from the creator of “The Adventures of Vulva Fervor” into this googoogaga-ing mommy creature — the kind that thinks her dogs yawns are adorable and his stinky puppy breath is wonderful and the way he whistle-woofs in his sleep is just the cutest darned thing, not to mention the way his ass shoots up in the air when he shakes — that I used to mock?

Let’s start with the obvious: I’m 47, with no children. And at this point in life, it looks like I’m not going to have ’em. Despite great health and all the energy in the world, that’s just the cold hard truth of my reproductive cycle. Though I never truly had that strong baby urge, I always assumed I’d have at least one child. A daughter. And since my own mother died when I was young, leaving me with many unanswered questions about who she was other than my mother, I have a trunk full of memorabilia, journals, etc – a trunk full of young me – for my daughter, should I leave her too early. Now with no daughter, I don’t know what the hell to do with this trunk now. But I digress…

I didn’t plan on owning a dog; I went to a Rocket Dog Rescue (RDR) adoption event to foster a pit bull for two days (an idea that was inspired by  another writing project of mine, “The Saga Of Gray And Nameless”).  RDR didn’t have any pitties that day. But since I’d driven all the way out there, I might as well foster something until a pittie came along. As I live in a tiny city flat with thin walls, a quiet dog was necessary. Problem was, all the quiet dogs seemed nervous, if not downright terrified. Except one: a funny-looking 6-month old pug mix named Picard who seemed uniquely independent, calm and almost aloof. I had no other choice.

That night I hosted a Mad Men season 4 premiere cocktail party for 12 guests. Picard was calm with a houseful of strangers, and never made one move toward the table covered with hors d’oeuvres. He needed nothing more than a lap on which to lay his head. He almost seemed hesitant to trust this happy home, as if he didn’t want to get attached. But… I got attached. Despite no job and no money, I had to find a way to keep him. I needed to take care of him, and would do whatever I had to do to give this little guy a happy home and make him feel safe and loved. And somehow, it just happened. After jobhunting for two years, I finally got a job.

Now, every day I wake up to a face that is pure happiness. Happy to be awake and know that breakfast is coming soon… though sometimes not soon enough. One morning I was sleeping in uncharacteristically late, and Picard woke me up by licking my eyelids open. Point is, his pure happiness is pure inspiration, from the second I open my eyes.  You can’t wake up in a bad mood with Picard in the room. On that note, no matter how bad a day I’ve had, I can’t stay in a bad mood when I come home to him. He’s so happy I’m home. It truly grounds me, how lucky I am to have a home and to have him in it. Then there’s the sheer joy he has in simply walking outside. Same route, different route, doesn’t matter; he’s outside and walking in the world, a part of it. He doesn’t consider his place in the world, where he’s come from or where he’s going. He’s just so damn happy to be moving and seeing people and sniffing things and meeting other pups. A fine example of living in the moment.

Picard has also reminded me of aspects of myself that I’d forgotten. For example, as a kid I was a huge lover of the outdoors: a Girl Scout, a camper, a hiker, a skier, a skater, a climber. I have 2 olders brothers, and I was always tagging along on their adventures (as much as they’d let me). Now as a car-free urbanite, I keep my outdoor activities to  simply hiking the hills of San Francisco — that is until I got Picard. He has so much energy (which he contains magnificently when in my flat), far more than he can burn off in a day walking or running with me. So at least once a week, we head out to Ft. Funston or Lands End or hunt for new places where he can run himself silly. And I feel like my face is going to crack from smiling so hard when I watch him run! When he runs, it looks like his eyes are going to bulge out of his head from all the joy. Thank you, Picard, for resurrecting the nature lover in me.

Picard keeping Pauline from her work! (please pardon the “lipstick.”)

He’s also a great listener. He knows that it’s best not to say too much; that I really just need him to listen, be my sounding board. He listened when I told him about the recent split between my beau and myself. And Picard made me realize that any pain I felt in that split was a fraction of what I would feel if I had to part with Picard. I don’t know if that’s very telling about the relationship, or if it’s more telling that this is what I need in my heart right now: to be a “mother,” rather than a partner. What I do know is that what makes my relationship with Picard one that most romantic unions might want to emulate is that it is balanced. He gives to me as much as I give to him. Of course his giving is pure and mindless and effortless, which makes it all the sweeter. And he gives to others as well: Picketers put down their signs to pet him. Handsome manly men cross the street to meet him (lucky me!) In stores, mothers take their babies out of their strollers so they can kiss him. Business comes to a standstill when I bring him on errands with me. And no kidding, I can’t tell you how many people have thanked me for sharing him. I feel so, so blessed that I get to witness and experience the joy he brings to others every day, simply by being delightfully sweet and loving. I truly believe he is the key to world peace: If you locked all oppressors, bullies, and sadistic motherfuckers in a room with Picard, I know for a fact he could disarm them all.

People come and go, sometimes breaking our hearts. But the little ones, the dogs and cats and pre-verbal children… they bring out the good in us and others they encounter. I know that having a dog is not the same as having a child. But it’s what I’ve got to work with, and there are  ways in which having a pup is advantageous to having a child at this point in my life. I will always be able to pick up and hold Picard, something that children outgrow both in size and in their tolerance for being kissed to the point of embarrassment (also something that gets difficult to do as we get older). Picard will not cost me a fortune in college tuition, he will never talk back to me, and he will never introduce unpleasant friends into my home. Added bonus: he rarely, rarely tests me.

At our favorite spot: Ft. Funston.

I’m just the lucky lottery winner who happened to be in the right place at the right time when this pup needed a home. Home is one of the most sacred words — and things — in the world to me. Picard reminds me every day of how important it is to feel safe and secure in the knowledge that you have a home – whether that be a physical place or someone  that will always protect and provide love and safety and comfort. I’ve learned that it’s indescribably satisfying to give someone — even a dog — a home. Far better than receiving one. Welcome home Picard.