Don’t wait until your thirty-four to get your first dog. You’ll do this because you’re waiting until you live in the right place, have enough resources, can make the time and carry fewer distractions. These are the things that you will say when you have run out of excuses to be kind to yourself. You should have a dog, because you have always needed a dog, but at thirty-four you have waited too long.
Like chicken pox, that puppy was meant to be a childhood passage. How else will you discover that a puff of puppy breath dissipates the tang of tension from the air? There is after all, only one way to find out that burying your tears in dog fur will heal a betrayal ten times faster than sobbing into a feather pillow. And your assertion that your closest friend is the best listener is three counties will be smashed by the champion skills of dog. You will realize that your dogless life has been a handicap. Now you’re an adult and it’s not too late to catch up, but like chicken pox, there are repercussions for waiting.
When you have to give her back to the ground, your first dog, your best friend, you know too much. You know exactly what has been taken from you and that nothing in life is repeatable. The first jab of this sort of pain is meant to be dulled by a child’s belief in magical possibilities; ghost dogs and reincarnation. At thirty-six the best you can do is stay silent and still, to pray you won’t lose something else or feel something more.
You will be dating someone who demands you talk about your pain even though you don’t have the strength or the words. This person will shout at you for shutting them out. Then you will realize then that there are two kinds of people. Your beau is the sort who insists that closing your dog in a kennel by the bed is cruel when you could instead shut her out of the room. You’ll end the relationship and wonder how many more lessons in canine wisdom you are short.
Your next dog will be nothing like the first. This will be a blessing and an ache. She too may leave too soon or just in time, but will run you through the paces as will the canine coaches that follow. It will be as if they know they have much catch up work to do and so they push. They punctuate their lessons with pink-tongued smiles and by standing upright, pressing two paws to your heart. They are merciless with their love.
You become a good pupil and you hope that is enough, but you would be a better person had a dog trained you early in life. You will be a better person now, but if you still have a choice, if there is still time, don’t wait until you are thirty-four.