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First of all, thank you for your patience - I was (sadly) too busy with my full time job to blog for the last couple months of 2018. Like, I’m talking near-death-experience busy. Nevertheless, I survived and I’m ready to get back at it now that my schedule has lightened up… and SURPRISE! I have some SHIT. TO. SAY.
Let’s start by briefly addressing the last few weeks:
It’s only recently I’ve really gotten in touch with how difficult the holidays can be, and to be frank, this year they really punched me in the face. In addition to all the emotional labor tied to the pressure of finding the right gifts, the disruption in routine, the exposure to those you might otherwise prefer to stay away from, and…. the dreaded New Years resolution (don’t even get me started), the holidays also stirred up some really acute pain that had been floating around just below the surface. I’ve largely kept it at bay for over a year, but in the last month I’ve felt so so heavy with the trauma of that really awful break up, and also with the intense grief of losing friendships with two of the most important people in my life.
All of it has left me feeling pretty sad, so to celebrate that the holidays are over, I’ve decided to write about something that makes EVERYONE happy:
YESSIR. I can hear you now saying “dis bitch” under your breath and muttering to yourself that I’ve finally lost it - because what could dogs POSSIBLY have to do with dating? Well, a lot, actually! Bear with me and you’ll find out.
You may remember that several months ago I briefly dated a guy that cheated on me (#notblonde). One of the hardest parts about the end of that relationship (aside from the obvious betrayal) was the pain of losing my relationship with my ex’s dog, Paco. Given the infidelity, it may not surprise you to learn that there were several moments of crushing loneliness and anxiety for me in that relationship - and when they happened, Paco was there. He lay at my feet in the sunshine while I drank my morning coffee, nearly sick with anxiety about the stability of my connection with my then boyfriend. He cuddled with me when I was cold, comforted me when I was scared and made me laugh when I was feeling down. He was an awesome companion when I wasn’t getting what I needed from my partner. And then it ended, and I had to give up one of the purest connections I’d had in a while.
The day after I discovered my ex’s infidelity, I happened to be getting on a plane to Europe for a nice mix of work and pleasure (and boy, what a fabulous time to get out of town). I remember sitting on the couch before heading to the airport, reflecting on how sad I was to lose Paco… and then I had a thought:
Wait a minute…. Why can’t I get dog?
And the truth was, I couldn’t come up with a good reason not to. So I boarded my plane to Europe and decided I’d start looking. I downloaded the Petfinder app on my phone, and to my surprise found that looking for a dog is a lot like looking for a partner on a dating app. Just like on Bumble, Tinder, Hinge or any other dating platform, you set some parameters such as who you’re interested in (male or female), how far away they live, how old they are, and if they’re house trained (OH WAIT THAT’S JUST FOR DOGS, MY BAD). And then, you get to swiping. And good lord, there’s so much swiping - at all times and in all sorts of places. I swiped on dogs in German airports, on Belgian trains, in Slovenian restaurants, and in Hungarian hotels. I was swiping on dogs LEFT AND RIGHT.
Like any dating app, the first thing you see is their picture. Are they cute? Do they have a nice smile? Are they in good shape? Are they super hairy? HAAAA GOTCHA THE ANSWER IS ALMOST ALWAYS YES! If they catch your eye, you might scroll down a bit and read their bio to see if they could be a good fit. Maybe they’re really into hiking but you’re into crosswords and movies. Maybe they’re a couch potato that just wants to cuddle but you are looking for a running buddy. Maybe they love fetch and long walks on the beach… and so do you! So then, when you’ve found one that you think might suit you, you do that thing we all do… you muster up some courage and you make a move. You fill out the application and hold your breath, hoping that maybe THIS is the one.
And then all of a sudden - it happens. Someone says yes... And BOOM it’s 4:30 in the morning at Ferenc Liszt International Airport in Budapest and you sign your life (and your heart) away to a dog from Texas you’ve never met.
Layla arrived in Boston after a long car ride from Sugarland, Texas in early June. It was around that time I started getting back into the dating game after the #notblonde fiasco. I was too busy trying to make sure I cleared up her kennel cough and parasite to think about how she’d impact the dating game for me. And by the time it started happening, I was too preoccupied by smooshing her beautiful face in my hands and buying her unnecessary amounts of dog fashion to step back and think about how she had already changed my life, but she had.
For one, I was picking up a lot more poop than I had been previously.
To be clear, I was picking up 100% more poop than I had been previously.
TO BE VERY CLEAR I HAD NOT BEEN PICKING UP ANY POOP AT ANY TIME. I digress.
I mean, getting a dog introduces some some relatively obvious advantages into your dating life. For one, getting to use her in my dating app profile pictures. Nothing ups your profile game like putting an adorable pooch in your photos. Not only that, but Layla became an easy introductory topic of discussion for those sometimes painful dating app conversations. See, dogs have a way of forcing humans to connect with one another. I experienced this first hand in so many ways, including but not limited to: having no choice but to strike up conversations with strangers at the dog park, which to my surprise felt so much easier than in pre-Layla days! Or all the extra eye contact and smiles I got while walking down the street. I was hoping it was because people thought I was HAWT, but then I realized that they were only looking at me to acknowledge how attractive my dog was… which while not the desired outcome, was dope in its own way. Don’t even get me started on how I basically had to beat people off of me when I brought her to an outdoor beer garden on a balmy summer night. It was crystal clear - Layla was helping me meet new people left and right.
While all those changes were helpful in easing the stress around making new connections with other humans, I soon realized that they were relatively superficial compared to some of the other ways my life had changed since Layla had been in it:
An attractive and witty dude I’d been chatting with on a dating app completely ghosted me out of the the blue. I didn’t understand, so I cried. Pre-dog Katie would have beat herself up over this, but Layla was there, and I knew I was okay.
I went on a couple of dates with guys that said they wanted something serious only to find that when I met them in person they most definitely did not. I was disappointed, and pre-dog Katie might have continued seeing them. But Layla was there, so I let them go.
Not Blonde Guy made some feeble attempts to get back in my good graces. He reintroduced the unpleasant swirl that I’ve now realized is part and parcel to who he is. I felt lost. Pre-dog Katie would have given him another chance. But Layla was there, and I felt grounded again.
I ended my date with the Spy Who Bruised Me with a big ole FUCK OFF as I strutted (and I mean WERK BITCH strutted) away. But I got home in shock, struggling to make sense of what had happened. Pre-dog Katie might have entertained the idea of further contact with this person if he had apologized. But Layla was there, and I felt safe.
See, the thing is, I had been looking to men for my primary source of companionship. With each new partner of mine, I felt confident I had found my shit-blocking unicorn - or so I thought at the time. I had created a mold for what I’d been looking for in a romantic connection: one that was consistent, stable, safe, and loving even (and especially!) when things got hard. And then, I did my best to squeeze each partner into that mold when they were SO clearly not the right fit. But I am not one to back down from a challenge, so I invested everything I had into making these relationships work. I am saddened and ashamed to say that I let my own priorities, hobbies, interests, and even friendships take a back seat to the relationships I had found with my partners. Ultimately, putting so much stock into those romantic connections cost me an unbearable amount when those relationships ended. And I’m talking complete and utter destruction.
But since getting a dog, I’ve been able to de-risk this process called dating. Suddenly, I have less to lose. Now let’s be clear, I’m not saying that that you shouldn’t expect your partner to be a major source of companionship for you. You most certainly should. But let’s face it, the process of finding that person is pretty rough. It’s lots of trial and error. So here’s were my dog comes in, and it’s SO important:
I’ve found stability, loyalty, companionship and love with my amazing pup, which are incidentally many of the things I had been looking for in a partner. And in turn, this has allowed me to be more selective in choosing the people with whom I share my time, my body and my heart. Layla has calmed my anxieties about finding romantic love and companionship, because with her in my life, I’m never alone. And more importantly, I’m never lonely. She’s my best friend. All the emotional energy I had burned through by stressing about never finding my person started to dissipate as my bond with Layla grew and grew. She enabled me to free up the emotional bandwidth that had been consumed with worry so that I could devote it to making better dating decisions that were more in tune with and protective of my needs and desires.
Layla has shown me how pure love can be (and let me tell you, it’s pure AS FUCK). She has set a standard for the HUMAN love I’m striving to find. And now it seems there will have to be room for more than one shit-blocking unicorn in my life, because SHE is my person. She’s the shit-blocking unicorn I didn’t expect, and thanks to her I sure as hell won’t settle for less.
Before I finish up, I need to take a little detour. I’d be remiss not to dedicate some of this post directly to my pup, even though nothing I could possibly put into words will ever come close to what she means to me:
Layla girl - Thank you for the light you’ve brought to my life. You are so beautiful. I love all your muscles, your beautiful brown eyes, your little mohawk and how soft your coat is. I love your soft tummy and the way you smell after I give you a bath. I love the way one of your ears sticks up and that dazzling pitty smile. Baby girl, your personality is unmatched, whether in dogs OR in HUMANS. You make me laugh EVERY. DAMN. DAY. Whether you’re thrashing a piece of spinach to death, or prancing down the hall, your spunk is a never ending source of joy for me. I love every single nook and cranny of your being - from your easy going nature to your snoring that keeps me up at night. From your the way you nuzzle your face into my neck to your almost deadly farts. I love how you can’t get enough of my attention. And I love how much other people love you. You make my life richer and sweeter than I ever thought it could be. You are sweet, you are smart. You are strong, and you are fierce. You are my best friend, and I’m so lucky to be your human. And while I know you can’t read, I need to say this to you: I will love you EVERY SINGLE DAY with EVERY fiber of my being. I will protect you and care for you above myself, always. I will never be able to repay you for the gift you’ve given me, but I’m sure as hell going to try. Thank you for being the BEST thing. Thank you thank you thank you.
By the way, I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING.
And one last thing, I’d like to bring this post to a close with a brief message to all the men I’ll ever date:
It’s your lucky day, because you’ll get two bad bitches at the same damn time - HOLLLAAAAAAAAAAAA!
Do you have stories about how your pet has changed your dating life? Get at me! Animals not your thing? Tell me about what else you use to stay grounded during your dating journey! Hit me up with questions, feedback, or to peep my round-the-clock Layla content. Until next time, YBCers!
PS: For anyone who has doubts, this “who rescued who” thing is 100% legit #adoptdontshop