I have only ever owned one dog. Her name was Ranger and she was the best thing I have ever known. When I close my eyes I still see her brown eyes open wide, staring back at me with pupils exuding more love than I knew existed. Ranger was always there for me. If you don’t know the love of a dog, it’s a love more pure and innocent and simple and strong than any other. If you don’t know the love of a dog, I am sorry. There’s no sadness in the love of a dog. But then again, nothing is sad until it’s over. Then everything is.
I don’t know what it is that makes me a dog person. All I know is that I have always loved dogs and I make happy sounds the moment I see one. Something about them fits me — their willingness to love, their need for approval — I don’t know. My brain is sick. It’s broken like so many backyard swing sets of neglectful kids, needing so much the care of a dad and a can of oil. It squeaks and groans with every passing moment and every stray gust of wind. Every squeak, a negative thought about myself reminding me how broken I am. She helped me fight that. Ranger was always there for me. Every day as I struggled to get out of bed, she was there. She was there with those same soft brown eyes reminding me that something in this world still loved me. Cuddling with her in bed and napping made her day. It made my day too. Every time she wanted to be with me was ammunition to use against my own mind. Every time it told me how awful I was, I could return volley with a memory of Ranger wanting to be with me. She gave me evidence that my mind couldn’t be entirely right. She always wanted to be with me, even when I didn’t.
Having a responsibility, a living thing that depended upon me to survive, was good for me. She had food costs and vet bills that I had to factor into my life. When earning money to feed myself wasn’t motivating, knowing that she needed me was. Every morning she would wake me up because she needed me to take her outside. She was the routine that I so craved.
When I had Ranger, I was stable. I wanted to move forward and join Swahili in Fort Worth. I made some fast plans, taking advantage of friendships in the city, and moved. The first place I landed was in a brother’s house with my friend, Lonzo. He didn’t like pets and didn’t have a back yard, which meant that Ranger wasn’t welcome. I was so blinded by my ambition to do Swahili that I didn’t think much of not having her. Being in that house allowed me to be with one of my closest friends, to use him to hold me up, to help fend of the wolves hiding in my neurons. Ranger was always there for me. I wasn’t there for her.
Time washed on. Lonzo got married and moved out. The other brother wanted to sell his house. I moved into an apartment with my cousin, Seth. He brought his dog — I didn’t think bringing ranger would have worked out. My parents started to look for a new home for Ranger. She was spending day after day in their backyard, alone. It wasn’t fair to her. My parents, gracious in their agreement to take care of her this long, weren’t in a position to do it any longer. They found her a new home and a new family. I hope she loves them as much as she loved me.
Seth got married and moved out. Faced with an empty house again the termites ate away at my brain’s supports. Within months I crumbled.
At this moment I don’t think I will ever be able to hold myself up. I don’t like that fact. I try to convince myself otherwise but so far it is true. It’s only in looking back that I see how important Ranger was for me. She gave me all the building blocks I needed to let me have a go at a normal life. The kind of life everyone else seems to get with so little effort.
There is also a large chance that back then my depression and anxiety weren’t as bad as they are now. Maybe I am just fitting her in to explain my successful years. Maybe I’m finding patterns where none actually exist. I don’t care. She did help me become a better person — even if only in my mind. Then again, what part of this isn’t in my mind? I was too headstrong and foolish to make room in my life for her. It’s something I will forever regret. All these memories are on my mind because of Sailor. Sailor was Braden and Rachel’s lovely dog. I’ve dog sit for them a few times and she was the closest now to what Ranger was to me then.
Sailor was a giant lovable oaf that just wanted to cuddle and chase sticks. She knew plenty of tricks but would only ever perform them for new people. I’ve often said that she could understand English. You could tell her what you wanted her to do and she would do exactly that. Even more amazing is how much Braden and Rachel loved her. You could tell how excited Sailor is by her bunny hops. Every time she saw them, she hopped and hopped and hopped. Sailor made me remember in a way I thought I could again.
Sailor had cancer. After battling for a while, they lovingly put her down. I miss her so much for me and for them.
I’m trying to beat my brain back into place. I am seeing a doctor and on am on medication. It’s not going well. I sleep most of the day. When I’m awake there is only a flood of negative thoughts. I isolate myself more and more because I think i will only disappoint the people I see. I’m thankful to have loving parents who let me stay in their home. At twenty-seven I worry about my future. Will I always need people to hold me up? It’s my greatest desire in the world to get another dog. My parents, who have been selfless and wonderful throughout this all, don’t want a inside dog. In a normal person’s life that isn’t a problem. They would just save up and find a place to live and go on with their dreams. But here I am. Incapable of accomplishing that, feeling constantly more negative for being incapable. I live in a circle of despair. Here I am, writing a thousand words on how miserable my easy American life is. I am ridiculous. My brain mocking me.