Judgement In Love

A typewriter with a paper that has "My New Life, Chapter 1" typed on it.

Have you been in love? Have you had that flush and rush when you see the perpetrator of your condition?

Have you lost your breath? Have you sat looking at the phone–no willing the phone–to announce an encounter? Have you traded texts into the wee hours of the night to wake up with a groggy smile a few short hours later?

Have you cancelled plans, blown off friends, contorted your calendar to be with someone? Have you felt deliciously guilty, while feeling delicious, too?

Love is not the most rational of feelings. It may just be one of the least rational. Deciding that you want to be with just one person permanently precipitates a headlong jump off a cliff for some. For others it’s an agonizing decision, because, how can you know? What if you’re wrong? How do you figure out if this is the one? And even after soul searching and angst, when you decide “yes, this is the one,” you find that you hurled yourself off a cliff, just like the other guy. It just took you a little longer. That’s what love does.

Love requires you to give at least a little part of yourself away. You give some of you to someone else to hold for safekeeping. It makes you think the best of your partner, because you have committed to trusting. And in committing you become loyal.

Your commitment isn’t just to the loved one. It’s to the relationship you share. It’s to that part where you’re holding a bit of each other. The wedding ring isn’t my ring. It’s The Spouse’s ring. It’s a symbol of the love and loyalty promised to me, to our family and to the meta-us.

And hells no!, this is not rational. It’s risky. It’s dangerous. It’s crazy.

So the love thing has to be somewhat pliant, like a green twig. It has to be strong to support change and growth, but still able to bend without breaking.

Overtime, the twig grows into a trunk with branches. The tree has to bend in a storm. Some branches might get brittle and break. But by growing more branches, more chances, it may survive.

Unless it gets hollowed out. And you sometimes can’t see that coming. Or you see it weakening so you add more water and fertilizer until you realize that you are just piling manure higher and higher on a tree with sap that’s no longer flowing. It’s just dried out. And it’s sad. And you maybe did or maybe didn’t lie to yourself.

Anyway, don’t blame someone for loving. Don’t blame them for hoping. Don’t blame them for forgiving and giving–yet another chance. Nobody wants to see their beautiful beginnings turned into a shit pile.

There is flawed judgement in love, but let’s not be quick to judge those in love. Bottom line, be kind.

Good Girl

Bretange, 9/11 rescue dog. From the book "Retrieved" by photographer Charlotte Dumas.
Betrange a 9/11 rescue dog. From “Retrieved” by photographer Charlotte Dumas.

Have you ever loved a dog?

If you haven’t I don’t know that I can help you understand it. There are only about a million and sixty-seven books about dogs people have loved. There’s Sounder, Old Yeller, Marley & Me, Good Dog Carl, and if you read The Art of Racing in the Rain and are not in a pile of rain of your own making, let me know.

I loved My Life In Dog Years and the science-y Inside of a Dog and the (controversial) zen of training by the Monks of New Skete,  How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend. Also movies. Mostly made out of books. Some, like All Dogs Go to Heaven just say it all.

A list of books and movies, though, doesn’t tell you about loving a dog. The thing about loving a dog is that it is always 100% mutual. So maybe it’s not so much about loving a dog as being loved by a dog.

I didn’t grow up with a dog in my house, but we had a dog. My grandmother had a dog and he was ours. His name was Napoleon. My uncle, who was a jerk, named him. We called this pup, Nappy. He was my first dog. He would give you his paw. He was very smart and never stepped into the house from the kitchen. He would go out back, but never step in. I know this because we tried to get him into the dining room. Wasn’t happening. I think it hurt his feelings that he couldn’t accommodate our wishes.

Nappy was my first, but not my last. I’ve known many dogs. Dogs of friends, like Max a significant German Shepard who would kill a dog walking on his sidewalk but would lie down next to the couch waiting for my fingers to stroke the spot between his large and alert ears and was afraid of the kitten who moved into the house. Working dogs, like crazy yellow lab Charlie who’d run across the parking lot at the unnamed secure location I worked to flop at my feet and splay for a belly scratch.

Three sweet pups have been a part of my family. Each of these roommates have been very different, but all are most dear and have loved me more than I deserve. Way more than I deserve. Even this current one, whose huge head is at this exact very moment draped on my lap and topped by my laptop, and who has been known to send me to the hospital. Twice. So far. But he’s a good boy. Who’s a good boy? Yes, he is.

So, I am a sucker for dogs, for dogs who love you. For dogs who look at you with the soul of god (you do realize that god is dog spelled backwards, don’t you?). Not really piercing you because it doesn’t hurt, but with a look that lays your own soul bare in a way that exposes you without shame and with an embrace. So when I heard, I was so sad.

Bretagne died today. She is a dog that I have never met but who is in a book I have, a picture book of the search and rescue dogs who were tasked to find survivors on 9/11. She worked for FEMA.

In September 2001, amid the twisted pile of steel beams, concrete and ash where the World Trade Center once stood, 300 or so search dogs worked long hours and used their powerful noses to try to find survivors.

On Monday afternoon, the last of those search dogs died at age 16 with her longtime handler and best friend by her side. —more

And when I read that, I cried. Not because it was cruel, but because she was a good girl. Yes. She was.