It was suggested to me last year by a friend that writing an open letter to a household pet at this time of year can be therapeutic and healing. Last year at this time, we’d only had Buddy for a couple of weeks and I really didn’t know what to think. But since then, I feel like all my changes have happened.
And so – I share with you My Letter to Buddy.
I will never forget the day I saw your face online – big brown eyes, perked up ears, goofy dog grin. I knew in that moment that even though I’d never had a dog in my life, you needed me.
The night before you came to visit for the first time, I found myself driving home from my night shift bawling my eyes out. I already loved you. And I wept for the person who had let you languish on the end of a chain tied to a post for the past nine years. I wept because that person, as far as I was concerned, had missed out on something great.
You barrelled up our front steps with your foster mom – drool and slobber coating my baseboards and the lower half of my walls. You almost immediately proceeded to take an enormous dump in my rose bush. And you never came when called.
I was terrified. You were so big. More than half of my body weight.
Nevertheless, you were skinny and full of sores. You were itchy and your hair was wiry and not fun to pet. The vet determined you were allergic to yeast and, unfortunately, had been eating yeast filled food your entire life. We immediately switched your diet and began to see improvements within days.
I will never forget the first time you ‘happy jumped’ in the yard. It was clear you knew you were free from your chain, essentially free for the first time in your life. I will always remember the first time you willingly sat beside me and put your big, smelly, doggy head on my lap.
And it goes without saying, that time you ate an entire cooked ham and the tin foil it was wrapped in is ingrained in my brain forever. As is that time you found a dead duck at the beach and proceeded to masticate it with such joy, I could only imagine there were tiny doggy angels singing in your head as it was happening.
You grew to love pillows. Especially the feather-filled ones. So much love for pillows.
Somewhere along the way, I changed your name. While you will always be Buddy, in moments when it’s just the two of us, I found myself calling you Baloo. Yes, like the bear from The Jungle Book. Maybe it’s because you were teaching me about the bare necessities of life or because I was learning through you to be strong, patient and to whittle away the noise to find what I really need.
Despite my efforts, you never sang or danced or peeled bananas. But your stealthy Baloo lessons were working on me. In retrospect, I think I had been living like the Grinch, in denial that my priorities had been completely out of whack. But Baloo knew the basis of life is the simplest of things – love, honesty, family.
Buddy, having you in my life for the past year – all those cold neighbourhood walks, all those long strolls on the shore, all those head kisses, paw shaking, tail wagging moments – forced me to be honest with myself. (Let’s face it, you’re never more honest than when you’re ripping off a cashmere glove with your teeth so you can pick up a steaming pile of turd off the sidewalk, right?) You brought me back to the simple things. You really just needed me to be your ‘Erin’.
Little did I know, overcoming my fear of walking a 75-pound dog was also the path to overcoming my fears that I’d never really have the life I wanted. I was successful in my field, married to the man of my dreams with a house I love and a family that is unwaveringly supportive. But a voice inside of me (one I’d been burying for years) was telling me something wasn’t right. Spending all those hours with you focused on the wondrous shades of bleached driftwood, skipping stones and ocean waves, the sound of the wind when it’s carrying sea spray and the way the rocks kinda sound like they giggle when you walk on them in rubber boots, let me unleash that voice.
In fact, I became that lady who talks to her dog out loud while walking (yes, out loud). But you are the best listener, Buddy. You talked me through it and our chats resulted in an amazing number of positive changes and courageous decisions. From major blog projects to leaving an industry that, after nine years, no longer fit with my life values – each major decision was contemplated and made while in those moments just with you. Those are all my ‘Buddy changes’ – and those I will also, never forget.
So while I’m sure you are just content to sleep on our now-smelly and drool covered couch and eat frozen turkey necks and sometimes poop, I hope somewhere you know that you are my courageous Buddy. You are my Baloo the Bear. You waited nine years on the end of a chain for someone to love you and to help you with the simplest of things and now I know, I did too.