This is going to be one of those posts. The one where a middle-aged guy writes about his canine best friend. If you aren’t down for that, I totally understand, and don’t hold it against you for clicking the back button now.
If you are still here – and I suppose you are if you are reading this – thank you for indulging me. Not many years ago, I was a guy who judged people for talking about their dogs on Facebook all the time, posting pictures in outfits and bows, holding them like babies. It was silly, I thought, to pay so much attention to ones dog, and to nauseatingly fawn over it.
Don’t get me wrong – I love dogs. I had dogs growing up, and I’ve had dogs the entirety of my adult life. When my dog Sandy died I was just eleven years old. I sat with her through the night after she suffered a stroke. I went to the vet the next morning, where we were told she would have to be put down. I cried. Wept. I wept for the entire day. I was gutted.
Less than a month after my wedding, over the 4th of July weekend, I had a pivotal inspiration to visit the Kansas Humane Society with the no so subtle agenda of bringing home a dog. And thus we adopted Kolbe. Kolbe was with us for almost 13 years, and welcomed home all of our children. I often recount how he was so excited and curious when we brought the first one home, but just laid on the floor with the distinct look of “What? Another one?” by the time it go to number 5. When Kolbe went, it was his time, but his death still marks one of the saddest events in my adult life.
We’ve had other dogs – the sweet epileptic border collie/lab, Clementine, and a Australian shepherd, Critter, who was re-homed because he was the wrong dog for the wrong time in our lives. Kolbe has firmly held a place in our hearts though as the “best dog”. We loved him. But…we didn’t fawn over him. Yuck.
The is a long preamble to the topic of my post: Pearl. When Clementine passed away last January, there was agreement that we would take a break from the fur, the pottying, the feeding, the boarding, and all the other responsibilities of owning a dog. To be honest, it was nice not to have the worry. And as sweet as she was, Clementine couldn’t go anywhere with us – after contracting Lyme disease in Wisconsin she was aggressive around other dogs – not a good fit for our Colorado trails.
I was diagnosed bipolar at the end of 2018, and had a few really rough spells over the following couple of years (a post, or posts, for another time). Further, I was alone a lot, having (re)started my design business towards the end of 2019, spending my days in my office in downtown Colorado Springs. There were (are) some days then the interplay of my mental health and time spent alone is not so good.
I had read and researched support animals and service animals with the specific purpose of aiding those with mental illness. Bipolar is covered by the ADA, and a properly trained service animal can be with me at all times. Service dogs can be trained to take specific actions to help their owners, and even notify others if their owner is in danger. Really cool stuff. It took some convincing, but Erin agreed to bringing another dog into our house and lives. (Also, spoiler alert, Pearl is not a trained service animal.)
Since bringing Pearl home in April of last year, she has been a part of my day almost every day. She spends the day in the office with me. She gets me out to take walks and I take her on my hikes – she’s already bagged three 14er’s! I talk to her. Most importantly, when I’m with Pearl, I’m not alone.
Pearl is a smart girl, but sometimes the puppy energy is at war with her desire to be obedient. Last autumn, Pearl spent 5 weeks in a training program with the Colorado Correctional Facilities where an inmate worked with her for several hours a day. The change was remarkable. I’m currently looking for trainers to help with service animal certification in the next few months.
When I was a kid, and throughout my dog-owning adult life, dogs were around. They would wonder around the back yard or nose at you for attention when you sat on the couch. They were always just kind of there, and on the weekend you might have to go out and pick up their poop. With Pearl, the intentionality of ownership and integration into not just my life, but the life of our family has changed the experience in a way I would not have thought possible.
At this point I’ve become overly long-winded, and I think you get the point here. And if you’ve hung around this long, its probably only the promise of cute puppy pictures that has kept you going.
Today is Pearl’s first birthday, and it brings me joy to know that there are many more ahead of us, and that we will continue to work together to become the best companions for each other. I was also elated to find out that Pearl shares a birthday with Joona, a baby girl rhino at the Denver Zoo. Alas, even the word of Daft Punk’s 28 years of sheer awesomeness wasn’t enough to steal the joy of celebrating this beautiful life.
Pearl had a peanut butter banana pupcake and got a new blanket for her kennel, where she sleeps every night. She ate up the attention, right after she was done devouring the pupcake. I think you will see in the photos the smiles she brings to our faces.
Happy 1st Birthday, Pearl!