Words: Tracy – Photos: Jonas
A year ago this month I “did a thing”; at least that’s what I told my family and friends. In truth I found a companion, a challenge, and much joy.
I love dogs – there’s no and/ifs/or buts about it. We had Golden Retrievers throughout my childhood and with five rambunctious kids in the house I’m not sure any other creature would be more suited. Our first Golden was named “Bonnie Bluebonnet Lady”; a true indication of the gentle yet regal power she held over the family. Subsequent adoptees performed likewise, and with that was born the formation of an expectation of how dogs behave.
In 1993 I joined the Army and started my exploration of the world. As a single gal living in Germany with the desire to travel, a creature dependent on me was not a serious consideration. Several years went by; I moved a few times, my friends were marrying, I experienced considerable heartache and trauma, and I ended up at the Army’s Military Academy. A new friend had a Black Lab and once again I witnessed the loveliness of having a dog. I wanted connection. After an impulsive Thanksgiving weekend visit to a Humane Society located in New York, I scooped up a Jindo.
Jindo’s are a spitz breed from Korea – an official Korean National Treasure. They’re fiercely loyal and beautiful dogs, but they are primitive, prey-driven and strong-minded. An article I once read clearly stated “not preferable for first time dog owners”; something that might have been good to know before we were acquainted. I named him Fenris (after the Norse mythological creature) and thus we began an 11-year relationship that included several uncouplings due to two years in Korea, a long deployment to Iraq and lengthy military training exercises. My numerous memories of Fenris include: raising his leg and peeing on mine after having him only a week; escaping my boyfriend’s house only to be found the next morning on my street (2 miles away) and smelling of skunk; staying by my father’s side for weeks after surgery; and enthusiastically welcoming me home after lengthy separations. Just like me he was standoffish, particular about those he created bonds with, and protective of those he cared for. Just like me he was stubborn, determined and quriky. Just like me he was a loner.
In 2010, Fenris was diagnosed with cancer and by the spring of 2011 he had declined so much that I chose to euthanize him. Anyone who has been through that process… that of watching the diminishment, making the decision, and sitting in the room as death/peace occurs – knows the human emotional pain. And so I decided never again. Until February 2020.
My decision to adopt Stocai (the Irish word for socks/stockings) was independent of COVID-19 though the timing might indicate otherwise. It was a quiet Friday in the office and there was no plan to adopt a dog, but for some reason I was on the Humane Society’s app where a German Sheppard puppy was highlighted. For some reason I just wanted to see it in person. For some reason my co-workers were supportive – enthusiastic even. And for some reason it wasn’t there, but a pair of blue Siberian Husky’s eyes followed me from his kennel, called me in without vocalization, and is now mine (and I his).
At that time I was traveling 2-3 weeks per month. I was renting a townhome. I was a life-long transient (moving 27 times in 49 years). Friends and families said “Yay!, and yet…. How will you handle the travel; How will you handle the hours; What will your landlord say; You have serious dog allergies; Husky’s are high energy; Are you ready for this?”
The adopting of Stocai – much like the adopting of Fenris – was exactly what I needed at the time it occurred. Grief is hard. Loneliness is hard. Isolation is hard. Uncertainty is hard. And yet tonight, a year later, I’m sitting on the floor of my home… covered by an afghan my grandmother made 30+ years ago, and my companion – my dog – is curled by my leg on it as well. Just like me he rejoices at being outdoors and exploring. Just like me he has attitude, is occasionally huffy and can give a mean cold shoulder. Just like me he has favorite spots and people. Just like me he prefers quiet at the end of the day.
Our experiences and paths don’t always indicate our futures. Our self-imposed-boundaries and limitations are not our reality. Our hesitancies don’t dictate our decisions. And our past pains should not limit our future. Take a chance. Joy may be on the other side.