I love Mindy. When I first saw her at the Atlanta Humane Society seven years and some months ago, I did not. At first glance, she unnerved me out with her unwavering stare into my soul that she gave me from her pen that she shared with a rambunctious German Shepherd. I passed by her to look at the other puppies, but I kept looking back at her to see if she was still looking. And of course she was. Again, I looked away and looked back…only to see the lunatic German Shepherd about to mount her. I immediately ran back to her pen to intervene. I picked her up in my arms, and I never put her back.
Mindy was not mine. Not completely, anyway. He wanted a bigger dog to run with, but he was just a big talker. He asked me to take her when he realized she was too much to care for. He eventually gave up on us for the same reason, but that’s for another time. She certainly knew how to take up space in your life. Waking up early in the morning to tend to her needs was particularly a struggle for my undergraduate, stay-up-until-4AM self. No couch cushion or trashcan was left un-gutted and no heel was left un-chewed. She did not feel safe around strangers–humans and dogs alike. It was quite embarrassing to take her out in public with her barking and baring her teeth. There were many days where I would sit in front of her crate crying and truly weighing the option of quitting being a dog owner because I was terrible at it. If she were with another owner, I thought, she would not be such a bad dog. Then, she would stare at me with those eyes that looked into my soul to tell me that I am all she needs.
Mindy kept me grounded. She got me out of bed every day, even on the worst of days. And on the days where I felt I was uncertain of even the ground being solid beneath my foot as I took my next step, she was a constant in my life that I could dependent on. Her quiet company as she followed me about my home felt reassuring and safe. She certainly made sure that my priorities were in check, meaning there were probably days when she probably ate better quality food than I did and that was okay. Ultimately, her presence forced me to also be present and aware of my surroundings in reference to her—a purpose beyond my own well-being.
Mindy learned. Slowly, but surely, she learned that shoes are not a choice for snack-time. She learned to wait until I woke up in the mornings to get the longer walks. She learned that the outside world was relatively safe and that not all strangers are a threat. Food is never left on the counters and the kitchen trashcan is now behind closed cabinet doors, but she also learned that my purses are a good place to start look for forgotten human snacks.
I learned. I learned that it’s okay that I will never get all of the dog hair off of my clothes. I learned to look for cues in Mindy’s face and body language to know what she needs. I learned that she thrives most when I make her feel safe. I know now more than ever that love is hard work, but through her, I learned that I don’t give up easily on others.
Mindy loves me? There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I have my suspicions that she does.