I first met my husband nearly six years ago. It was a chance encounter. Despite his good looks and charm, I wasn’t interested. That is until, he told me about his dog Aly. He showed me a picture of the blockheaded beauty beaming with delight as he wrapped an arm around her. I knew I was in trouble.
Lots of people like dogs. Many claim to love them. My husband would tell you that I am obsessed with dogs. Naturally, I took his invitation to talk about dogs and ran with it. He would tell you we’ve never stopped taking about dogs since.
More than just talk, we’ve invested a lot into helping dogs with action. My first trip to see him (we were long distance) ended with a late night search for a lost dog. What is dating if it’s not trying to impress the other person? Well, all that went out the window as I directed Ryan on a car chase, then foot pursuit through a sketchy part of town. It was the first time he saw me jump out of a moving vehicle without hesitation, and it most certainly hasn’t been the last.
Ryan would tell you that it’s not enough to drop what I’m doing to bring a runaway dog to safety. It’s also necessary to get your hands dirty. After we moved in together, I volunteered him for the less than glamorous jobs at the local shelter. Washing mountains of animal crates on a frigid winter morning is not our idea of fun. But we did it for the dogs.
A few years later, we started fostering shelter dogs awaiting transport. Anyone who fosters knows it’s not always a walk in the park. Even the best-behaved, “easy to care for” dogs change your everyday routine. These are changes you probably didn’t think about when you first turned on your home’s vacancy sign. As luck would have it, most of our fosters required a lot of extra medical attention and care. But we did it for the dogs.
I am pretty sure I saw a vein bulge in Ryan’s forehead when I first told him I was going back to working full-time with dogs. Don’t get me wrong, Ryan loves dogs and he loves me. But I also know that when he first met me he had no idea just how much his life would revolve around dogs. I did my best to show him. But most folks have an off button for their enthusiasm for dogs. I, however, do not.
After years of sharing our lives together, I have learned that we both love dogs, we just show it in different ways. To him, I’m a crazy dog lady. And I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with the fact that he’s not a crazy dog guy. In fact, I’ve found that we balance each other out well.
Despite his sarcastic outer shell, Ryan has a very tender heart that he freely reveals to the mangiest of mutts. Although our adventures with dogs have been the source of endless laughter. It’s the little moments when he thinks I’m not looking that have meant the most to me. The times I peeked around a corner to spy on him playing with Lucy, the dog that never really liked men, except Ryan.
Lucy eagerly accepted every boop on the nose Ryan gave her. Then there were the times our blind dog went into a panic at the sound of thunder. To comfort him, Ryan would hold Beamer’s trembling body tightly to his chest for what felt like hours. Today, there are the times I’ve come home to Ryan using positive training techniques to communicate with Hope and teach her how he wants her to behave.
He’s the kind of guy that cries at commercials for movies like A Dog’s Purpose, Max or Hachi. But he’ll tell you, “I’m not crying! You’re crying!”
There have been two times in my life when I considered quitting dogs. Once was before I met Ryan. The other was when Lucy died. The one downside to dogs that no one likes to talk about is the fact that they leave us far too quickly. I’ve always wanted more time with each and every dog that has crossed my path. More time to understand them. More time to help them. More time to enjoy them. When Lucy died I didn’t know if I’d ever find enough joy again with dogs to overcome the pain of that loss.
To give you some background, her passing occurred on the heels of two other losses. Less than a year prior we had said goodbye to our blind dog wonder. And only days later had to help a suffering foster over the rainbow bridge. If anyone was going to try to convince me to quit dogs, this would have been prime time for that.
Instead, Ryan comforted me in the same way I’ve seen him comfort every four-pawed soul that has entered our lives. Then, he gently nudged me back onto the path that was always meant for me. The one that is frequented by endless dogs.
I should clarify that when I said I wasn’t interested upon first meeting Ryan, I meant I was very uninterested in a relationship. A twenty-something year old, I had grown very content with the idea of marching off into the sunset with my dogs and ONLY my dogs. Needless to say I’m glad he was able to break down my walls by way of dogs. They have turned out to be some our of favorite adventures.
There’s definitely more to my man than his love of the mangy mongrels I bring home. But I’m glad our story began and continues with dogs.