Thursday, August 11, 2011

Man's best friend


It's official. Hubby is head over heels in love with the Beast.

I never doubted that my husband would eventually grow to love him. But I must admit that I did not think that it would happen this quickly. Frankly, I don't think he expected it either. After all, as an avowed cat person, he has never had a dog of his own, and has never really understood why people get so attached to them.

Even when he finally agreed to get a dog, I could sense his reticence. But knowing how excited I was to bring a dog home, and loving me enough to figure out a way to make it work, he did not give voice to the concerns that I knew were bubbling underneath the surface.

Still, those unvoiced concerns scared me a little. The day that we drove out to meet the Beast for the first time, I could barely stop myself from bouncing up and down in pure, unadulterated excitement. Hubby, on the other hand, was calm and aloof about the whole thing. While this is generally his natural state of being, a tiny little part of me feared that he was quietly rethinking our decision, and that sometime before we reached our final destination he was going to tell me that he had made a mistake and wasn't ready for this. I must have asked him sixteen times "Are you sure that you are ready for this? Because if we're not both sure, it would be a mistake for us to bring a dog home." And each time, he quietly answered me, "Yes, I'm sure."

The first hint that hubby was ready to open his heart to a dog came that very day, when he knelt down to pet the Beast, looked into his eyes, looked back at me and said, "He has kind eyes." This doesn't sound like a big deal, but this just isn't the kind of thing that my husband would say. Not because he's macho and out of touch with sentiment. But because it's a dog, and he has never felt any kind of attachment to a dog. So he was either really trying for my sake, or he genuinely felt a little tug at his heart strings when he met this dog.

In the past three months since the Beast came to live with us, there have been many more signs that hubby's heart is opening a little wider every day. He doesn't always like to admit it, but I've witnessed genuine moments of unconditional love and tenderness between the two of them - usually when he thinks that I'm not looking.

...Like the time he thought I was in the shower and started running around the backyard with the dog, zigging one way and zagging the other, letting the Beast chase him in the same manner that he tries to chase all of the dogs in the dog park. There was my normally reserved husband, running around our back yard with wild abandon, indulging the Beast in his favourite herding game for no reason other than a selfless desire to see the dog have fun.

...Or there are the times when the Beast is resting peacefully on the floor in front of the couch or on his bed, and out of the corner of my eye I catch my husband staring at him with his head tilted slightly to the side, affection radiating from every ounce of his being.

...Or the times that hubby looks up at me across the dinner table and says, "The Beast is lucky to have you, J. You are turning his life around and giving him a chance be the best dog that he can possibly be." Which I know really means, "We are lucky to have him, J. He is really adding something special to our lives."

...Or the day that the Beast unfortunately got into a full-on dog fight at the park and hubby reached down, without any hesitation or concern for his own well-being, and pulled the Beast away. He would later admit to me that the only thought going through his mind was to protect our dog. Thankfully, the Beast walked away without a scratch. Hubby was not so lucky, having sustained a dog bite and requiring a tetanus shot as a result of his selfless intervention.

...And then there was this morning. It is hubby who has assumed the role of primary caregiver to the Beast following his injury since I was away while it happened. This morning, he demonstrated to me how to apply the Epsom salt compress to the wound as the vet has instructed. Tenderly, he would place the compress up against the wound for the few precious seconds that the Beast would allow it. Then when the Beast would grow restless, he would patiently remove the compress, wait for the Beast to re-settle, and reapply. All the while, in a soothing and gentle voice that I'm not sure I've ever heard, he would reassure the Beast that everything would be alright. When we were done, he looked down at the Beast and said, "You are such a good patient, aren't you buddy."

I'm tearing up as I write this last bit.

I began this blog because I knew that adopting the Beast would be an adventure. More importantly, I knew that it would change all three of us, in both small and in more profound ways. Witnessing an almost-forty-year-old man form a bond with a dog for the very first time in his life is indescribably beautiful. Even more beautiful is watching this same man discover a nurturing part of himself that I'm not so sure he knew existed.

Man's best friend indeed.