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Posted on December 5th, 2023

The Soft Core of the Earth – The Unattainable Standard

In my adult life, I’ve had three dogs: A, B, and now C. With no intent to give short shrift to Dog A, Dog B was my “cosmic level perro” as I said in my last column. I guess I don’t mean to sleight Dog C either, but I will admit she’s been put at a competitive disadvantage by Dog B. Just as in sports, you never want to follow The Legend.

It’s been a tough transition since the loss of Dog B, for many reasons. I still have ebbs and flows of sorrow, and at times, I look at Dog C and think how she isn’t Dog B, and likely will never raise to that level. It’s an unattainable standard, I admit, and it’s not fair to Dog C. But I can’t shake the truth, and because of that, I wonder how much of an injustice I’m doing to her.

Thankfully, this isn’t an all-the-time thought circling in my head. There are just as many, likely more, instances where I view Dog C as a welcome addition and am very thankful to have her. She has her own unique personality, but she also shares a few traits with Dog B, including a bad case of separation anxiety, but a loving disposition and a desire to please. She’s a really good dog, and that makes this all the harder – my holding her to this unattainable standard.

I’m hopeful it will fade. At the same time, the thought rumbles around in my mind that if it does, I will think less about Dog B, and her memory will fade into the recesses of my mind. I don’t think that’s likely or possible, but I also don’t want that to happen. I guess you could accurately say I’m not over Dog B, so does that make me not ready for Dog C?

Dog B was a godsend after Dog A; she really helped with the healing process, and as I’ve said and implied, she quickly became a true companion and the embodiment of everything I could want in a dog. That’s not what I expected from Dog C, but I guess part of me hoped that it was possible. Or at the very least, Dog C would help with the loss of Dog B. And she has, just not as completely as I would like. And I think that’s okay. Adjustment after loss is always difficult, never linear, and never like previous losses. I guess I’m just finding that out the hard way now.

Different dogs, different personalities, different expectations. (Image retrieved from here and comes courtesy of Elina Volkova.)

I would be remiss if I didn’t fess up to having unattainable standards in other areas of my life, most notably with women. For a stubborn, mouthy, cynical, and average-looking guy with curious hair, you’d figure I’d be happy with whatever I could get in that department. Unless it’s for a one-night stand, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’m on a fault-finding mission when it comes to women, but I sure have a hard time dismissing “faults” when I perceive them. Sometimes they’re downright petty. More often they’re because of my unwillingness to compromise or give into someone else’s will or desires. It seems the pattern is to pick away at the undesirable quality until it turns up other undesirable qualities, and then like that, I’m alone again. I guess that explains, in part, why I need a dog in my life so much.

And as I grow older, I have become more aware of my tendency to self-destruct or ruin some of the good things in my life, namely women, but I’ve also become more accepting of myself. I’ve said it before, and maybe here in this column as well, but I’m not the kind of person who needs to be in a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. I also don’t think you find happiness through someone else; though, I do believe you can find it with someone else. There’s a big difference. No human will fill any hole in you – that’s your own job. Or maybe a dog’s – sometimes dogs do a pretty good job at filling holes in hearts. Now we’re back on track after that tangent…

I’d technically been fostering Dog C with the option to adopt. And I’d been pretty vocal about that to everyone I met or knew – this dog is only temporary; we’ll see if she can earn a spot on the team permanently. It’s like she had to earn her way in – something Dog B definitely didn’t have to do because I went into it with open arms and completely ready for another dog in my life. This time’s been different.

Oh, I wanted a dog in my life – but the one I wanted was no longer an option. And because I’m sane and realistic (usually), I knew the only other option was “another” dog. But I guess I just hoped the transition would be a little smoother. And that’s no strike against Dog C – in any other situation she would’ve “earned” her stripes with ease and glowing fanfare. So, I try to keep that fact at the front of my mind: yes, I’m still struggling with the loss of Dog B, but I shouldn’t let that struggle impede my ability to bond with Dog C, and certainly not let her be adopted by someone else. I know how much I’d regret not having this new one in my life – thankfully I know that.

I guess I’m just going to push through and hope that my unattainable standard for my new friend gives way before too long. Or better yet, that she rises to the occasion, and I see her for having done so. She shouldn’t have to earn her keep, she’s too great of a dog for that, but I would like to feel as if she did in time. That would be the most fitting tribute to Dog B. And anyone who met Dog C would fall in love with her. She’s got a lot of potential, a little rough around the edges still, but she’s got all the trappings of a great dog. If circumstances were different, those facts would override everything, and because it’s true, I’m trying to make sure it does for me. It would be a shame to overlook that for any reason or any period of time.

Well, it’s time for our walk – she’s giving me those eyes, another thing she shares with her predecessor…

Marco Esquandoles
Reflective Biped

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