Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Excellent Judge of Character

Puckett is an excellent judge of character.  I have mentioned before that she is more reserved with bestowing her good opinion than any of my other pets, and therefore hers is more worth the earning.  She is not one of those cats who hates everyone and prefers complete solitude.  She definitely likes people and other animals.  She just reserves her praise and love for people she deems extremely worthy.

People that come over to my house generally ignore Puckett, mostly because she hides in the bedroom or downstairs in the living room.  Occasionally she will join me and my company just to see what is going on.  Meanwhile Tess is under the table on my feet, Willow is trying to climb into some unsuspecting guest's lap, and Percy is parading around the kitchen, his chest puffed out, as if he wants everyone to applaud.

Tess, Percy, and Willow are attention whores.  Puckett is too sure of herself and has too much dignity to ingratiate herself to others beneath her notice.

That is only until she meets someone that she really likes.  Then she behaves like any other lovesick school girl, giving her crush big mushy eyes and purring so loud it sounds like a 747 coming in for a landing.

Case in point, besides me, the Cowboy is Puckett's favorite person.  This could be because he feeds her when I'm gone, and also he was a fixture in the house for three years so she had to accept him.  Of course the Cowboy is of wonderful character so I doubt Puckett would have allowed his presence in the house for so long if she didn't like him.  In truth had she made a habit of never showing her face in three years, I would have rethought my relationship with him.  Even now when he comes over she will come greet him with haughtiness as if to say, yes I still like you, but you left and I refuse to be hurt again.

Another interesting example.  A few weeks ago I had a little bout of serendipity as my twenty-three year old from last August has been weighing on my mind.  The fact that Puckett was involved doesn't really surprise me. Like my witch kitty, Mindi, Puckett appears to have mystical abilities at times.  I didn't handle things well when I ran August off last summer, mostly because I wanted him to leave town and go live his life away from here, but still, my actions and how I treated him have bothered me.  I got my chance to make things right recently when I nearly tripped over him at a bar where he was having drinks with his parents.  A few months ago I would have slunk out of there with my tail between my legs and my good friend, the Paleontologist - who always seems to witness these run-ins with exes - chasing after me, waving a glass of wine.  This time I walked up to August, fully expecting him to tell me where I could stick it, but he was, as usual, perfectly lovely, and I was able to apologize and explain my behavior.  The incident was so serendipitous because, as I said, I've been thinking about him a lot.  I had a dream not too long ago where I got the chance to apologize to him, and then Saturday before running into him, I had noticed that Netflix had just added the Minions to their queue so of course I had to watch it.  That was our first date.

Puckett enters the scene later when he and I had a longer conversation than at the bar.  He stopped by and we sat on my couch, talking about everything. Apparently he missed me too.  Puckett jumped up on the arm of the couch and proceeded to make a complete ass of herself.  I have never seen her behave so unapologetically affectionate towards someone she didn't know.  Her behavior mirrored mine in that she was completely emotionally available, almost like she had sympathy pains for what I went through earlier that evening.  It's an interesting feeling, sort of a mix between an adrenaline rush at seeing him after all this time, and wanting to toss my cookies all over the floor.  On the one hand, it's thrilling to grab hold of a chance I thought was gone forever, but on the other hand there was the very real risk that the chance would end up dumping me right off a cliff.

Meanwhile Puckett continued to embarrass herself.  She practically slipped into his lap and purred so loud I wondered if a Harley was cruising by.  They shared a moment, her rubbing against him and gazing at him with her big mushy eyes, and him scratching her behind the ears and snuggling her.  Puckett may have done that once with the Cowboy, but otherwise I am the only person she snuggles that way. Usually she would just use the Cowboy has a bridge to get to my lap and quite possibly assumed he deserved a quick snuggle for his cooperation.

I have to admit, I was almost a little jealous.  Of August? Of Puckett? I can't really say.  Puckett's my baby and I'm the only one she is completely open with, and yet, I've definitely missed him and I wouldn't mind giving him a snuggle.

As I said, Puckett is an excellent judge of character.  I got a lot of flack for August last summer.  I got a lot of opinions and comments against any kind of real friendship with him just because of our age difference.  And like an idiot, I bought right into them.  I knew I saw something in him, and I'm wondering now, along with emulating Puckett's confidence, if I shouldn't also listen to her when it comes to judging the character of others.  Not only does she reserve her good opinion for those with the best character, but she also reserves judgment for most people until she's gotten a better feel for them.  She's not going to jump all over someone right off the bat like the other pets do unless she is absolutely sure they are amazing inside and out.  It really shouldn't be that hard to accept that Puckett judges character well.  After all, she picked me. When I approached her at the animal shelter, sick and bald and depressed, she still managed to raise her head, rub against my hand and purr, letting me know that she judged me as someone special.

Self-love, self-esteem, and self-confidence are all things we struggle with.  We second guess ourselves because we don't deem ourselves as smart or as insightful as the next person.  We don't trust our own instincts.  We don't listen to our gut feelings when others are squawking around us, telling us we are wrong.  We are always looking within for our faults, and therefore, when others put doubts in our minds we listen to them, because how can we possibly know what we are talking about?  I will be the first to admit that I struggle with trusting myself and believing in myself.  Rationally I know I'm not an idiot.  I have some pretty awesome friends so my judge of character is pretty sound.  We all make mistakes, but my true people are solid people.  Sometimes even when it looks strange to everyone else and the odds are stacked against me, maybe the bravest thing to do is to stand up for myself and say, "Yes, I think this is good.  I appreciate your thoughts, feelings, and concerns, but I trust my judgment on this."

I wish I could say all's well that end's well, but while Puckett and I both left August in no doubt of our feelings, he still has a few stars and rainbows to catch of his own.  I hope we can remain friends.  Only time will tell.  Whatever happens, I believe he is of sound character even if he doesn't quite believe it yet himself.  Perhaps he needs a Puckett of his own to help him through some of life's greater challenges.

Once again Puckett has taught me a valuable lesson about life.  Once again she has demonstrated a quality that is worth cultivating.  Self-esteem and self-confidence don't mean that one is a narcissistic asshole.  It only means that one thinks enough of oneself to let the world know they are worthy of demanding respect.  After all if you don't respect or love yourself no one else can.

Puckett has conquered the bear.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Protection in the Hearts of Animals

At the risk of making this blog sound like a support group, my name is Anita and I struggle with anxiety, depression, and emotional unavailability that stems from my being an empath.

What does this have to do with the pets?  Well, above anything else they are my sanity.  As much as I like people, the combination of anxiety, being a severe introvert, and having empath abilities means that people in general drain me.  I  have social anxiety so large groups of people, strangers, and extremely social people trigger me.  As an introvert, I need a certain amount of time alone to recharge and regain my footing.  This means that not only do I need to be alone physically, I also need to be away from the phone, the computer, and any other social outlet where people might be able to reach me.  As an empath, I absorb and read the emotions of others, meaning that not only do I sense what people around me are feeling, I soak those emotions up like a sponge and mirror them back until I'm not sure if what I'm feeling is authentic me or just someone else's emotions.

Being around people is exhausting.  Animals on the other hand deflect these issues.  Other than small issues like kicking litter everywhere, peeing on the floor, screaming at the top of their lungs for food, and trying to trip me on the stairs, my pets do not engender feelings of anxiety.  In fact they help soothe them.  Walking Tess is possibly the best therapy when it comes to bringing me down from the ledge of an anxiety attack.  Walking is good exercise anyway, and if I turn off my phone and refuse my text messages, I get at least an hour of complete solitude with just my dog.  Animals are also good for introverts.  Just because introverts need solitude to recharge from too much social interaction doesn't mean we are hermits.  We like people and we don't like to feel lonely any more than the next person.  Animals are good buffers.  I am never alone with my brood - not even in the bathroom, as all four of them will stalk in while I'm in the middle of my business - and yet they do not drain my energy.  Some of the best times are lying in my bed with a book, three cats sacked out on the bed, and a dog on the floor.

Animals themselves are empathic which is why one of the key signs of being an empath is an affinity with animals, almost as if one draws animals like a magnet.  My aunt is like this.  She's that person who walks down the street and animals will just start following her.  I'm not quite that in tune with the animal spirits (well, maybe with spiders). but they will gravitate towards me, particularly during large parties where I don't really know anyone.  At these same parties, I gravitate towards the animals as well.  If there are no animals, I will gravitate towards the children, particularly babies.  Animals take on the emotions of their owners and mirror them back.  They have a sixth sense for feelings, and high emotions tend to make them anxious.  I relate to that.  Instead of absorbing their emotions like I do with people, I find myself relaxed and calm around animals.  There is no need to bottle one's emotions around animals - they don't judge, they love right back, and they don't walk away when one tells them they mean the world to them.  Unfortunately, animals also make it easier for me to hide emotions from other people.  My feelings are safe with my pets.  I can't say the same with people, and that is a big reason why I bottle and have become emotionally unavailable.

Because of all this I've put myself in therapy to try to learn to deal with my emotions, break down my unavailability, and reign in the anxiety.  Let's be honest - my anxiety drives my pets right up a wall.  As empaths themselves, when I feel anxious, out of control, and slightly crazy they feed right off that and start to act anxious, out of control, and crazy themselves.  Percy has been tearing through the house.  Tess paces and follows me to the point where I have actually tripped over her and down the stairs twice now.  If I didn't know better I'd think she was secretly trying to murder me for making her feel anxious.  Puckett keeps hacking up furballs on the carpet and Willow is more spazzy than usual, and that's saying something.  She's gotten clingier, needier, and can't seem to get her butt into the litter box.

Therapy has helped and I've decided to put my twelve steps into motion and see where it gets me.  The steps include learning to let go of control (what? you want me to let go and let God and TRUST?? Are you insane???), forgiving those who have wronged me, and making amends with those I have wronged.  Basically I am to unload my feelings on these poor, unsuspecting souls.

So I did.  I may be terrified of heights, rattlers, loneliness, and the sight of my ex, the drug dealing felon, but what terrifies me the most, above anything else, is telling people how I feel, authentically, and with no holds barred.  That's some scary shit.  It's easier to just pretend everything is fine.  I put my steps to the test by engaging in an emotionally-charged conversation last week with someone whose apology was long overdue.  This included admitting how badly I treated him and telling him my feelings. On the one hand I got exactly what I wanted since the situation has been haunting me and I've been wanting to set the record straight.  On the other hand, show my vulnerability?  Oh, HELL no.  To me that always felt on par with opening the door to my heart and saying "Here, come on in.  Help yourself to the laptop, the silver, the Smart TV and the expensive bottles of wine.  If you don't, well then hey, I'm just lucky for trusting you!"

Let go and let God, right?

This is why telling my dog how much I love her is so much safer.  I hug my dog, I love on her, I tell her how much life would suck if she wasn't a part of it.  She rolls over and demands a belly rub.  Then she wants a doggy pop.  There is no risk.  The dog is a sure thing.  People are not.  One always runs the risk of having one's heart ground into the dirt with a boot heel.  Paws don't do that.  One's heart is protected between paws.

After my "Big Conversation," I had an anxiety attack and freaked out all weekend.  The conversation didn't even go badly - in fact, given the circumstances it went quite well. I may have absorbed some of his feelings as well, so I was twice the wreck.  Being completely vulnerable and emotionally available put me in a panicked tailspin that kind of derailed the whole weekend.  The last time I did that - incidentally when I told the drug dealing felon three years ago to drop his current relic and come back to me where he belonged - it blew up in my face and I spent the rest of the evening huddled against the wall with my fingers in my mouth.  The door has been shut and bolted ever since.  Until now. 

Now, thanks to therapy and my being sick to death of living like an emotionally constipated zombie, I'm unloading feelings and fuzziness all over the damn place. I'm in a perpetual state of feeling too much and wearing it all over my sleeves. This is supposed to make me feel better and make me more available to people so they will find me more pleasant to be around.  Being open with one's feelings is supposed to show trust, respect, and vulnerability to other parties so that they know that person is honest and authentic. According to renowned psychotherapist, Sean Stephenson, vulnerability and authenticity are the foundation of building connections, and who doesn't want to make connections?

(I'm going to plug Sean's book here for a moment:  Get Off Your "But": How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself.)

I get to wait and see now what the consequences are of my opening the floodgates.  At any rate, however it goes, rejection or acceptance, I think I'm glad I did it.  It felt good to finally be honest about my feelings.  Whatever else happens, at least now he knows.  Let's see, who else can I unload on?

That's the problem with uncorking it.  Once the feelings pour out, they are impossible to stop, sort of like an eruption of champagne.  This must be why my pets are so openly affectionate with everyone that happens by.  Bottling doesn't feel good and eventually one explodes in a nuclear meltdown. I have to face it; bottling feelings, not trusting anyone, constantly second-guessing, and obsessing over who is going to hurt me next are exhausting ways to live.  I'm tired of being so neurotic.  It's time for a change.

Percy has no problem being emotionally available.

Puckett just shows off her vulnerability (and underbelly).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

No Regrets and No Time Wasted

As I've struggled with getting older, I have also struggled with my pets aging, particularly Tess.   I hadn't really thought about it much until her ninth birthday this past March, when it suddenly hit me that Tess isn't going to live forever, and nine is the equivelent to about 50 or 60 in human years.  Tess is a senior citizen, while I am still middle-aged.  True, I'm on the wrong side of 35, but since beloved and gorgeous actresses like Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz have taken 40 by the balls and dragged it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century as the new sexy, vibrant, desirable woman, it's not bothering me so much. I much prefer a Jennifer Aniston to a Miley Cyrus or a Selena Gomez anyway.  Thanks to the new science of aging putting a new spin on 40 and even 50, 40 has become the new 30.  My "scary age" was actually 34.  Once I hit 34, hyperventilated, drank a bottle of wine, and cried, 35, 36, and even 37 were a piece of cake (literally as I made sure to eat a lot of cake on all of those birthdays).

Through all these birthdays in my thirties, Tess has been a true and faithful companion.  I define my thirties by owning Tess because I adopted her right before my 30th birthday.  We share a birth month.  I picked her up right after her birthday and a couple of weeks before mine. She was my thirtieth birthday present to myself.

Still, even though I know Tess is getting older and she is nine now, I haven't worried too much until the other morning when I took her for a run.  If I take Tess for a run in the morning before work, it's early enough that I can take her to the dog park and there is no one else around.  She likes to chase the cars through the fence.  We haven't gone in awhile because I've been taking her on different routes and letting her run loose along the river, but she still remembers racing the cars and trying to beat them to the end fence line.  That particular morning she started her usual race and made it two or three times before she trotted unsteadily over to me, huffing like she was about to explode.  She actually sat at my feet for a moment to catch her breath.  My dog does not sit when she's outside unless I instruct her to.  She is always moving, always has her nose in a clump of  grass, and as long as I've had her, I've never known her to take a rest while she's on a walk.  Resting is for in the house at night or on the porch in the backyard when I'm at work.

That's when I realized my dog is old.  She is slowing down. While her spirit is still willing to run and jump and play, her body isn't quite so forgiving anymore.  

Percy and Puckett are both eight. Puckett might be older, but since I have no idea what her true age is, I'm going with eight, like Percy.  Willow is around six.  The cats are still in middle aged territory like me.

The car, my little green 2004 Honda Accord, is reaching senior citizen status as well, and the other day I panicked when the starter had issues, thinking I might have to buy a new car.  If that's the case I"ll be devastated.  That car has never given me an ounce of trouble which is more than I can say for the pets.  I love that car.  It's paid off, it's cute, it runs well.  I have never had to take it in for anything more serious than an oil change (and body work when idiots run into me).  It turned out the starter issues were just a bad battery and once that's switched out, the car will be fine.

Age is a funny thing.  Logically it's just a number.  I'm 38 but I don't feel "thirty-eight," whatever that feels like.  I remember being eighteen and thinking thirty was old.  I still feel like I did in my twenties.  My energy level is the same, I look the same, and other than some bouts with depression and loneliness, I feel mostly the same.  The things that have changed since my twenties are mostly my own perception.  For example eighteen-year-olds irritate me to no end now, where I used to be quite tolerant of them.  People in their twenties amuse me with their "have it all figured out" attitudes when I know that really, they haven't even begun to scratch the surface. I have a much lower bullshit tolerance than I used to.  I own a house and I no longer take shots or go on weekend party binges.  Now when I date, I'm looking for potential long term mates so I assess men differently than I did.  In my twenties, hot played a pretty large role in whether I'd go out with a guy.  Now, kindness, honesty, and how does he make me feel are more important.  Don't get me wrong, he still has to be able to give me the shivering fits, but I'm not looking for Brad Pitt here.  Things like whether he makes more money than me, does he wear socks with sandals, is he taller than me, and does he look like a great big dork don't really factor in.  I kind of like great big dorks.  I think geeks and dorks are sexy.

That old cliche of knowing the things you know now when you were much younger is alive and well.  Had I known then what I know now I probably could have spared myself a lot of heartache.  But I would have passed on some fun experiences too.  I spare myself a lot of superficiality now.  I no longer have the patience to wear a lot of makeup or spend a lot of time on my hair. I'd rather walk my dog. I also know now that what I put on my body and in it makes a huge difference in how I feel physically, so I watch what I eat and I use natural skin care products (coconut oil and avocados are my favorite).  I may still be vain - I will make damn sure I look like this until I'm fifty - but I don't have time to be superficial.  The more I worry about stupid stuff that doesn't matter, the less time I spend with my dog, enjoying every precious moment I have left with her.

That's another thing that aging changes.  Sure, I look the same, feel the same, and mostly act the same, but now I am well aware of the hourglass.  The sand is running out.  Thirty-eight is still young.  I still have a few years left to have a baby, but that window is shrinking. When I was in my twenties I thought I had loads of time.  Now I know I have more like three years.  I have time left to publish those novels.  I have time to travel through Europe and visit Hawaii.  I have time to find a husband and get married.  But my time with my dog is limited, my time with my parents is limited, my nieces and nephews are no longer babies and growing up, and while time marches on, we eventually stop.  We don't think about that in our twenties.  The experience and wisdom of aging tunes us into that feeling of "Where has the time gone?"

Let's make the most of the time we have left.  More walks with the dog.  More phone conversations with the parents.  Visits to my  nieces and nephews.  Telling people what they mean to me and making amends if I've wronged them.  I've already started. Nothing lasts forever.  Let's have no regrets.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Puckett's confidence amazes me.

She's very subtle about it too.  It took me awhile to realize just how much confidence this cat has because she is so effortless about it.  She conducts herself in a manner that, when one watches her, really watches her, is beautiful in its subtlety.  I just noticed this when I saw her sitting on the floor of the living room the other day, so sure of herself and the fact that everyone will step around her, step over her, or whatever.  It never even crossed her mind that the dog would stomp all over her or that I would trip over her.  This simply could not happen.

And it didn't.

After noticing this, I thought back over other times when she demonstrated this air of confidence: Sprawling full length on one of the middle steps to the third landing, not bothering to move when I race down the stairs or Tess races up.  Parking herself on the top step of the staircase down to the living room, just behind the gate, knowing that I will literally jump over that step in my effort to avoid her.  Flipping her tail right in my path as I barrel past her in the bedroom in the morning so that I skip to the side at the last minute.  Twining around my ankles and then sitting right in front of me as I stumble because she knows I won't fall on her even if I have to throw myself to the side and break an arm in the process.

Okay, I have not broken an arm yet, but it's coming.  I feel it.

She waits until the very last minute, until I have pushed the vacuum cleaner nearly up to her nose before she will leave the room, a snotty look thrown over her shoulder at me with a "How dare you?" expression on her face.  Her favorite game is to sit by the floor-level kitchen cupboard, wait patiently to get Tess' attention, and then bang the door with her paw because she knows she will always get a reaction out of the dog.  If the dog ignores her at first, she waits until Tess is looking at her and then she'll bang the door several times for good measure.  This always spurs the dog into action.  She gets up and paces around the kitchen with Puckett capering behind her or beside her, almost as if they are dancing.  Tess will pause and Puckett will weave back and forth in front of her, running her tail under the dog's nose and purring loudly.  When Tess finally gets tired of the game, she will lie down and Puckett will sit between her front legs while Tess licks her ears.  I believe the cabinet-banging is an invitation for Tess to dance.  If Tess rejects the invitation, well, Puckett DEMANDS it.  And, of course, Tess complies because, like the rest of us, she is powerless over Puckett's allure.

Puckett is so sure of her rank in the pack.  Tess and Percy are fairly confident animals too, but Puckett is still the Queen Bee.  The dog knows it, the other cats know it, and I know it.  If she does not want to be moved from a spot she is sitting in, she will dig in with all four sets of claws and station herself firmly.  She cannot be moved without destroying the bedspread or couch cover.  The only way to move her is to deliberately pretend to sit on her, and even then I almost have to actually sit on her.  We all defer to her.  She doesn't entertain the thought that we wouldn't.  Perhaps this is why we do defer to her.  Her confidence is so absolute that we defer to it like we don't even have a choice in the matter, and what's more, we don't think twice about it.  Her confidence is that absolute and confidence, I have learned over the last few months, is attractive.

We are all attracted to Puckett's orbit.  We all want to be around her.

Here is this extremely overweight, tabby and white, middle-aged pound cat.  No one looked twice at her at the Dog and Cat Shelter when I found her because she was half bald and sick with a respiratory infection.  No one would have imagined that she would become this commanding presence, this leader of the pack that could make a seventy-pound German shepherd do her bidding.  I've noticed lately that Willow has been trying to emulate her.  Imitation is the highest form of flattery, after all. Willow tries to herd the dog around, she sits in Puckett's spots, and she always wants to eat out of Puckett's bowl.  Puckett will shoo her away every time, but Willow still tries.  She is currently sitting on the arm of the couch while I write which is one of Puckett's favorite spots.  Another one is the back of the couch.  Willow has recently started parking herself there as well, almost as if she'd been watching Puckett these last few months.  "If I behave like Puckett, I can become like Puckett!"

Willow's problem is, while emulating Puckett is admirable, she is still too high-strung and spazzy to truly pull it off, so the other animals still treat her like the annoying younger sister.  Her actions mirror Puckett's, but she doesn't have the inner confidence and personality to back it up.  "Fake it till you make" it isn't exactly working for her, though she could definitely pick a much worse role model.

I wish I had Puckett's confidence.  I wish I could move through life with the ease that Puckett does.  She doesn't care if someone doesn't like her.  It doesn't affect her.  Also it doesn't matter anyway because she has the power to change their minds, like my friend who was here once for dinner and announced that out of my three cats, Willow was the cutest and Percy the most interesting personality.  Puckett was cute, but Willow had the face and body that just made her adorable.  Puckett had ignored us until then.  Almost as if she understood him, she marched up to his chair, sat down by the side of it, looked up at him, and chirped her trademark, high-pitched, kitten meow.  He looked down at her, properly chastised, and said, "Okay, I take it back.  That was adorable."  I told him maybe next time he'll think twice about insulting Puckett.

Tess, Percy, and Willow all ingratiate themselves to guests when they come over.  Puckett is more reserved.  Her good opinion is rarely bestowed and therefore more worth the earning.  I want to be like that.  I want to go through life not caring what others think of me.  I want to adopt the magical thinking of not giving a fuck.  I want to be able to change people's opinions about me because I don't care, because I don't have to even try to impress them because in my mind, they are already impressed.  I want to know without the shadow of a doubt that someone won't step on me or my heart or my feelings because to do so is unfathomable in my mind.

I want to know that I matter and have faith that I have a purpose.

Most of all I want to know that I have a few close intimate friends that love me no matter what because they are my family, because they look up to me and respect me.  They love me unconditionally and even in a moment of weakness, their love and admiration is unshakable.  Out of everything, Puckett is most sure of this.

I'm working on it.  Taking a page from Puckett's book, I've been practicing confidence in my online dating capers.  It is a confidence booster getting responses online from guys who actually want to meet me, and I just need to act like Puckett.  Why wouldn't these guys want to get to know me? Like Puckett, the thought should never cross my mind that they wouldn't.  Unfortunately it's not as easy for me as it is Puckett.

I've met few animals like Puckett and even fewer people.  She's not the most beautiful cat in the world, but she acts like she is. She's smarter than most people and all dogs.  She is secure in the knowledge that she is loved and respected.  She shows empathy and love in return because she genuinely cares about those closest to her.  Tess, Percy, and Willow all have their insecurities like I do.  They have their faults.  But Puckett is our steady, quiet leader, the leader because she knows to the bottom of her heart, that it can't be any other way.  That it would never be any other way.  She has never acted arrogantly, just extremely sure of herself, and that is what makes her so attractive.

That's confidence.  That's believing in yourself.

If a twenty pound house cat can do it, we all should be able to as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

It's Just a Little Crush

We never really graduate from high school, do we?

And nothing sends us spiraling back to the bowels of that hell known as middle school than a new crush.  I haven't had a real crush since the cutie from last August who was way too young for me. I suppose I could count Zack as a crush as well since I totally fell in love with the picture of a German shepherd without knowing anything about him.

Suddenly I find myself thinking about one of the actors in the play I saw on my birthday.  We have mutual friends, he seems to be the perfect sort of dork that I like, and while I moon over him, he's happily going through life oblivious as a Labrador Retriever because I can't seem to figure out a way to let him know of my interest without looking like a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.  I asked one of my friends to put a bug in his ear and my friend said, "You know, I could just slip him a note before study hall."


The funny thing I've noticed about crushes is that animal crushes are not much different from human crushes.  I've had lots of animal crushes in the past despite the fact that I'm happily attached to the four beasts I have.  Every time I pass a German shepherd riding by in a car, I do a head turn.  I almost gave myself whiplash on a particular walk.  A great looking guy drove by in a green truck, and while great looking guys are fun to look at and green is my favorite color, I was actually gawking at the gorgeous creature riding in the bed - a half-grown German shepherd puppy.  My dog shares this with me.  If she sees a German shepherd riding in the bed of a truck, she does a head turn as well, and once she even ran face first into a sign because she was gawking so hard. 

Tess is still the most beautiful dog in the world to me, but I can't help myself whenever I see a shepherd.  Lately they seem to be everywhere in this town. I can't leave the house without feeling my heart skip a beat every time I see a shepherd head hanging out the window of some car.

I developed another crush last summer when several friends and I attended an event celebrating the TV show, Longmire, based on books written by local author, Craig Johnson.  Craig Johnson owns Bernese Mountain Dogs and always has since I've known him. This has created a trend in the area, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are everywhere, like shepherds.  They are particularly popular among the local Craig Johnson fan club.  A lady was helping out at the event, selling souvenirs promoting the show, and she'd brought along her gorgeous dog, Woodrow.  He was the size of a small horse, sported a gorgeous shiny black coat, and sprawled on the floor at his mistress' feet like a bearskin rug.  I could not keep my hands off him.  I tried to hold a conversation with a guy I met there, but every few minutes I dropped to my knees to fondle the dog's ears and play with his enormous paws.  Eventually it became a joke between me and the guy (who has since become a good friend).  He kept saying I was neglecting poor Woodrow because thirty seconds had passed since I'd last petted him and I'd better rectify the situation immediately before Woodrow went through withdrawal. 

Or maybe before I did.

I still think fondly of Woodrow.  I don't exactly wish he was mine, but I'm not going to lie and say that I'd turn him down if he somehow showed up on my doorstep.

I crushed on a pit bull/boxer mix at the animal shelter a couple of years ago.  I started frequenting the shelter every Saturday just to hang out with him for awhile.  I never adopted him because I was at that time of my life when I didn't think I could handle two dogs, but that didn't stop me from gazing longingly at him from afar and dreaming about what it would be like to own him.  I had specific fantasies of walking down the street, Tess on one side, the pit bull mix on the other, scaring people right and left with my two fearsome dogs.  It doesn't get much more crush-like than that.  How many of us have sat around dreaming about a crush and envisioning a perfect fantasy future together?

The dog did eventually get adopted and I hope his reality home is better than my fantasy home.

I've had several horse crushes.  Those are the worst because as much as I would love to have a horse, that is one dream I probably won't realize.  I don't really know how to take care of a horse, I have no room for a horse, and let's face it, what does one do with a horse?  I can't ride for beans.  The horse I learned to ride on was a Quarter Horse mare named Crazy Woman and I was crazy about her.  After I  moved out here, I spent a weekend with a friend on her family's ranch and they put me on a retired cutting horse named Toby.  Toby and I lagged behind a lot because he was old and I was terrified, but near the end of the ride he started feeling his oats and tried to charge a bull.  Oh, the adventures Toby and I had, and I continue to dream about him.  Then there was my major horse crush, my ex-boyfriend's roping horse, Kid.  I loved Kid.  I always got to ride him when I visited my ex out on his family's ranch.  Kid was a small, bay gelding with cute little ears.  He liked to nuzzle my hair and I liked to pretend he was mine. I miss him more than my ex.

Around a crush one notices small physical changes, like shortness of breath, elevated heartbeat, a slight flushing of the skin, maybe sweaty palms, and the total inability to create reasonable speech.  One just wants to be in the crush's orbit, possibly more to keep the feeling of euphoria than any true merit on the crush's part.  My current crush is cute, funny, and talented.  The few times I've been in his orbit I have produced such gems as "Hi" and "I loved your performance" and "You're such a riot."  I can't make eye contact because that might give him the idea that I actually find him interesting (Heaven forbid), and I can't seem to stop from bolting for the door or hiding behind a friend every time I realize he's in my proximity.  It's not that being in his presence necessarily gives me the shivering fits, I just can't seem to string words together to make a normal sentence whenever I'm around him.  I don't want to marry this guy, just like I don't want to own any of my animal crushes.  I just want the chance to get to know him, maybe be friends.  He seems like he'd be a fun friend, just like Woodrow seemed like he'd make a fun bearskin rug.  For all I know my crush is a total tool (evidence does point to the opposite though). He might think I'm a shy little mess.  We might decide we hate each other.  Most likely, when I actually have a conversation with him the mystery will disappear and he will be restored to human being status so I can stop acting like I'm in junior high around him. If I actually had to live with Woodrow my loveglow would probably wear off when I realize he sheds the equivalent of another dog and takes up half the size of one of my rooms.

And yet, the crush is fun. It's fun having someone to think about, even if it's all fantasy.  The spark of excitement when I see my human crush or a picture of Woodrow makes me feel alive and gives me hope again.  Hope that there are nice, funny, sweet guys out there, and that yes, it is possible for me to love another dog since I'm perpetually terrified of losing Tess.  I can't wait to see Woodrow again this summer at Longmire Days.  As for my crush, well I can't wait for the next play, if for no other reason than I can enjoy watching his talent without making a complete ass of myself.

"You're such a good puppy dog, yes you are!" and a belly rub work for Woodrow.  Now let's see if I can generate something a bit more intelligent than "Duuuhhhrrrr, you're nice" the next time I run into my human crush.

After all, it's just a little crush.

The beautiful and enormous Woodrow