My husband and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary earlier this week, and I was thinking about the vows that we took on that day in 2009. Like most couples these days we wrote our own personal vows that we spoke to each other and exchanged rings to the traditional words, "in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, forsaking all others, for as long as we both shall live."
Of course, since we were in our mid-thirties when we met, we had each seen our share of both sides of that proverbial equation before we met, so we were not naive that life could throw some crazy stuff at anyone without warning. But, I still hoped that maybe we would be lucky and be spared the negatives even though I knew that we would be fully capable of handling anything together.
I also thought about how some things have changed and others stayed gloriously the same from our wedding day. Yeah, we've become old-married-homebodies in some ways, like watching The Big Bang Theory on TLC literally every night, but I can say that I still get that same feeling of excitement when he comes through the door after work as I did when my Dad and I walked out of the bride's room of our wedding venue and I saw him at the end of the aisle waiting for me.
This same feeling strikes me when we are at Disney and I have to use the ladies room and come out to see him standing off to the side, looking up ride times on his phone and planning our next activity. My heart skips a beat, I am overcome love, and I think " That's MY husband, I am the luckiest girl in the world!!!" I know his body language, his way of standing, his facial expressions, his mannerisms so well that I can always pick him out of a crowd in a matter of seconds. It doesn't hurt that he's 6'4" with a shaved head, but still, it's a feeling of joy to me that even though that newness of our first few dates or even our wedding day is long gone, and that the familiarity in its place is even better.
So, if you have read my blogs long enough, you know where I am going with this, right?
As I sat and thought about married love on my anniversary, I thought about the similarities with my relationships with my dogs. I did spend the day with just Jackson and Tinkerbell because my husband was at work, so instead of romance, I was doling out Labrador tummy rubs and ruining Jackson's day with some Panalog in a gunky ear, so it's not that weird that I was thinking about the dogs on a day that marks the joining of our lives together.
Comparing the lifelong commitment of a dog to a marriage is not new for me. It is in my blog, and I also have talked about it in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner. Obviously, this comparison is not to try to turn your dog into a furry human or to suggest that you have romantic dates with your dog.
It is about enjoying the familiarity when the newness fades, it is about being adaptable and working through problems and issues together. It is about not tossing them aside when someone younger and more fun comes along, someone who maybe doesn't puke on the rug at three in the morning because she ate part of a fleece toy (Tinkerbell) or ask for the 1000th night in a row if both dogs pooped and the ADT is set before bed (me). It is about not leaving them cast aside when you want to make changes to other parts of your life. Both a successful marriage and a forever dog mean that you don't turn your back or let your love fade when shit gets real, literally and figuratively.
I was thinking about this a few weeks ago as I hugged Jackson after being around a friend's puppy who was still small enough to pick up. In the same way that many mothers want to hold other people's babies because their kids are now too old enough to carry, I am the first person to ask a new puppy owner if I can pick up their puppy. So, I held my friend's little gray Staffy pup with the hazel eyes that seem to see right into your soul and nuzzled him and buried my face in his silky puppy coat, before going home to the Labrador Inquisition from Jackson and Tinkerbell.
Later, at home, Jackson was laying on the sofa napping, almost in the fox sleeping position but not quite as tightly curled up as Tinkerbell likes to sleep. When Jax lays like that I love to kneel down on the sofa in front of him and lay my head on his shoulder. I wrap my arms around his body in a big circular hug, one arm embracing his rear end, the other circling around his head and front legs. I will stay like that, breathing in his Jackson smell, feeling his smooth black fur against my cheek, hoping that he can feel my energy flowing into him and that it is full of love and light. I do this until he gives a big doggie sigh and I give him his space again.
That night I thought about how he had once been such a small puppy, just fourteen pounds when he came home, so young and new and full of puppy firsts. His homecoming was one of the best days of my life, especially as he literally licked away the tears of pain I had cried with my late Babe and Dutch had passed away. But no matter how much excitement there had been when he first arrived here in our home, it was nothing compared to the feeling I get now, of wrapping my arms around his big sturdy body and the closeness that comes after years and years of a beautiful dog-human bond.
And on my anniversary I realized that this feeling of snuggling Jax is quite similar to the feeling of laying my head on my husband's shoulder twelve years after our first date. I mean, it's different in the sense that my love with my husband is a romantic love, and with my dog, it is a maternal love. But the point is that neither is new, neither have that "wow is this really happening" feeling anymore like at the start of each relationship, but the feeling I have is even better than that. It is a feeling of comfort, of familiarity, and it is made possible by making those lifelong vows to not give up no matter what you face in life, whether it's to your spouse or your dog. I feel blessed beyond belief that I can feel that, no matter if it is with my husband, our dogs, our kids, all because none of us have given up on our vows.