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Posted on January 9th, 2024

The Soft Core of the Earth – Two Feelings at Once

You’re probably getting sick of this topic. You know you have the option to stop reading, right? But I know you won’t, because you want to know more about this ongoing saga of the “new dog,” even though you’re probably thinking I’m making too much of it. But I’m not, I swear…

At the time of writing, it is 12 weeks since the loss of Dog B and almost eight weeks since Dog C entered my life. In most categories, Dog C has performed admirably, is endearing, and proven herself to be a great companion. She aims to please. She’s a quick learner, even if at times she is a little stubborn, and at other times she just blatantly disregards the “rules” (e.g., chasing squirrels). But really, she’s a champ. The thing is, she still walks in the shadow of Dog B, and I fear she always will.

Even as I try to make sense of competing emotions, I know life is just better with a dog, period. (Image retrieved from here and comes courtesy of Gizem Çelebi)

The issue really comes down to my ability to hold two thoughts or feelings in my head at one time, coupled with my inability to find solace or comfort in doing so. Dog B was/is much beloved and gone forever, and I’ve accepted that, but she occupies the space of my mind every day, and sometimes her absence just hangs over me. I’m not depressed – I’m fully functional, find moments of joy every day, and look to and plan for future activities with eagerness, I’m just “blue,” as they say. Dog C, especially when she does things unlike Dog B did, can make that blue turn navy. Though, sometimes the things my new friend does reminds me of my old one in ways that I absolutely cherish. It’s conflicting.

I can love and sorely miss Dog B and love and appreciate Dog C almost simultaneously, but the loss just weighs heavier. I both fear it always will and paradoxically hope it always will. I don’t know if that’s sadism or love, but either way, it won’t vanquish the gray clouds that hover over my head from time-to-time. Maybe that’s okay.

I also wonder if Dog C were “perfect” if it would be any easier – but I doubt it. She has her subtle quirks, the slightly undesirable ones, you know, the ones that make me miss Dog B a lot (I miss her for plenty of other reasons, too). As I’ve probably overstated in different ways, Dog C is loving, well-behaved, and friendly, so a great catch for any dog person, but as I wrote last month, this unattainable standard looms large. It’s not fair to Dog C, I know…

I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said something along the lines of, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in one’s mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.” This is, in many ways, an extension of who I believe myself to be: a cynical optimist. I see the worst possible outcome in every situation but persist with the hope that things will be better than I believe them to be. And maybe that’s where I’m at with the whole dog situation now…

I’ve imagined what my life would be like these last eight weeks if I didn’t bring home Dog C (or any dog, for that matter). I recently saw a study that said dogs don’t make people happier (I don’t buy it) because dogs are just surrogates for other activities people would pursue if they didn’t have them in their lives. That part I can see. Would I climb more? Would I kayak more? Would I take on more adventures, like spelunking or random weekend trips? Possibly. I’d still like to do those things even with a dog, though. I think what the study got wrong is that, on the surface, a dog isn’t going to make you happy if you’re unhappy. Just like a human-human relationship: you may find happiness with another human, but you won’t find it through them. Someone else – human or animal – won’t fix your problems, only you can do that. Also, there are a few activities I really enjoy that I just wouldn’t do without a dog, namely camping and hiking. So, I think that study is flawed in many ways. A dog can bring a lot to your life, and enrich many of the activities you do, even if it’s just having one curled up by your side while you read – something Dog C is especially good at.

This new dog is her own dog, even if she has some qualities or behaviors reminiscent of her predecessor. Similar traits include her total disdain for the rain and being in water, almost to a comical level; her skittishness around new dogs, not because she isn’t interested, but because she’s unsure whether to trust them; her desire to find the most comfortable place in the house, even if it displaces me; her tendency to hyper-squeak her toys in a cacophony of pure joy, and so much more. I love how these things make me think of Dog B with joy. Dissimilar (but endearing) traits include Dog C’s deep and blissful sighs when she’s totally content and ready for a nap; her cute and muffled woofs when I come home, often paired with a rhythmic sweeping of the floor with her tail; and the pleasure she apparently gets from being on her back and trying to catch her tail. She’s a weirdo, but in a good way. Whether or not it’s intentional, she brings joy into my life. And for that, I’m very thankful.

These thoughts in my head, well, they just sometimes feel like there’s some tension between them; and other times they lived symbiotically upstairs, and I can navigate just fine. But when I boil it down to brass tacks, I remain ever grateful for 13+ years of Dog B, and I hope to get just as many with Dog C. She’s good company, and I’m happy she’s here. I sure miss Dog B an awful lot. But I’m very thankful to have Dog C in my life.

Marco Esquandoles
Experiencing Growing Pains

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