Today is the first day I’m home totally alone all day in almost 12 years. I actually like being alone. I’ve adapted to it. I was an only child for almost 12 years, and I’ve always been really introverted. It was never very easy for me to make friends. Even as a little girl, I wasn’t the kind of kid who would just walk up to other kids and do, ‘Let’s be friends!’ If I know you, I can talk your ear off. I’m interested in a lot of things. I care about a lot of people and issues. Dearly and devoutly. I am actually a quite passionate person. But like…I’m not a talker. I’m not going to wax philosophical or poetic or even silly to some person I just met or saw, and I’ve always been that way. I’m comfortable on my own. I’m good at occupying my own time and finding things to do. I rarely get bored when I’m alone (because I make up stories in my head if there’s nothing else to do…or even when there is). I like quiet and I usually am quiet.
But that doesn’t mean I always prefer complete solitude. I like company. Quiet, easy company. Company that doesn’t demand my passionate, vocal involvement. That’s why my dog was so amazing. She was with me all day. Cleaning. Cooking (okay, to be totally honest here, sometimes she was freaking annoying when I was cooking…I mean…she was a dog). Writing. Taking a walk. Watching Netflix. And she never was all, ‘SHARE with me Jen. No not about THAT. About this other thing I KNOW you don’t want to talk about by your facial cues and body language, but I’m nosy and I want to know…you OWE me sharing because I shared with you a bunch of things you never asked to know about me…’
(Friends…for real…watch Crazy Ex Girlfriend. It’s awesome. Or maybe I just think it’s awesome because I’m weird, but…)
Anyway, my dog was just…with me. And today is hard. Because I miss my quiet, easy company. I miss her. So I got out my old friend, Spot. (That’s a photo of Spot up there at the top ^^^.) He helps. He’s always helped me through hard times. He’s always helped me when I felt lonely.
The old fella has been through a lot with me. I got him for my first birthday, so he’ll be 40 this year. He’s been through the death of my grandparents…break-ups…leaving friends…new schools…finding out people I thought loved me didn’t really…college…finding a job…living alone…lots of job stress…sexism…getting married…moving…getting a ‘real’ dog…medical emergencies…becoming a mom…having my kid love on him too…
That’s me. ^^ With Spot. ON my first birthday when I got him. Not. Smiling.
I’ve mentioned this in at least one previous post, but I didn’t smile very often as a kid (or as a young adult for that matter). Particularly not in photographs, but just in general. The only photos of me smiling from ages 6 months-25 were 1. posed or 2. rare, and taken of me with friends or with my grandparents. I didn’t really spontaneously smile until I met J. But that’s beside the point here. This post is about Spot. Spot never cared that I never smiled as a kid. He never told me to smile or that I’d be prettier if I smiled or asked me why I wasn’t smiling (because he knew why). Dogs are accepting like that.
I love dogs. I’ve always loved dogs. I love how they are quiet, easy company. I love how they love. I just love them. I wanted a dog my entire life, but my parents would never let me have one, because dogs require care and time and attention, and my parents barely wanted to give any of that to ME. So I got inanimate replacements for dogs that required no care, time, or attention instead. I got dog t-shirts. And little ceramic and plastic figurines of dogs. And books about dogs (that I could read silently to myself).
And I got Spot.
He’s been cried on, slept with, dragged around public places…he’s gray instead of white now, because he’s been…um…over-loved. He has a small patch of green over his right front leg from when we dyed Easter eggs together when I was 7. He’s holey. He’s a little flatter than he used to be. But he was my dog when I was a kid, because I wasn’t allowed to have a ‘real’ dog. I mentioned this before too, but when I was a second grader, I wrote an essay about my dog for school and it was pretty convincing. My teacher wholeheartedly believed Spot was real (my essay was about Spot). But…I mean…that’s because he was real to me. He IS real to me. Still.
Anyone remember The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams? I do.
And I believe it.
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Spot, to me, is real. He always has been. And even though I’m an adult now, he’s still helping me get through the hard day that is today. Spot is sitting on the couch with me, where my ‘real dog’ used to sit, and he’s watching new episodes of Crazy Ex Girlfriend with me on Netflix Streaming. And he never criticizes my taste in media. He loves this show. And The Get Down (still mad about this cancellation, Netflix….so is Spot…just saying). And The Great British Bake Off. And Iron Chef America. And Scooby Doo (he’s loved that one since he was 3 and I was 4). And he’ll let me cry on him when I miss my real dog and he won’t ask me if I’m okay, because he knows I’m not. That’s why he’s here. He’s helping me become okay. He won’t tell me to stop crying, even though I’m getting him all wet. He won’t tell me to get it together because I’m embarrassing him. Just like a real dog.
Spot is real. To me.
My son is 11 now, and he has a lot of soft animals like Spot. He will occasionally make comments that he’s weird because he still likes them even though he’s 11. I’ll never tell him he’s weird for that, though. We ordered a custom stuffed soft toy dog for our Boy that looks like our real dog looked, who will be named our real dog’s name when she arrives. And I hope that dog becomes real for him. Forever. Just like Spot is still real for me. I hope he has a few soft, inanimate friends that become real for him.
Realness isn’t always concrete and close and alive.
Feelings are real, and realness can be in your feelings.
Tomorrow’s writing piece will be about my dog too. And it will be about another book that makes most people sad but comforts me about my dog. So…you know, be ready for more vulnerable dog-related sentiment, I guess.