The canines in our lives

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On October 26, 2013, I drove from St. Pete to Tallahassee for the weekend. I stayed with my friend Stacie, who brings out not only the gayboy in me, but also the desire to actively be on the prowl. I was single, she and I were looking damn good, and we decided to go bar hopping that night. Because I am me and Stacie is my friend, we obviously had to do a round of angel cards before we could leave for the bar. She and I both gasped as I drew my present card: Soulmate.

You know I packed on ten extra squirts of cologne, brushed my teeth until my gums bled, and made sure every strand of my hair was styled to perfection. I was going to meet my soulmate tonight! Stacie, who was in a complicated relationship at the time, didn’t get the same present card, but a night out with Stacie is exciting and unpredictable enough. Honey, we waz gonna be seeeeeeeen.

Flash forward to four hours later when we stumble back to her apartment, drunk, and without any new phone numbers. I had my best friend next to me, but no romantic soulmate. How could the cards have possibly been so wrong when they are always so right? With the level of spiritual energy generated between Stacie’s and my connection, I was sure there had to be a mistake. But can there be a mistake? Jesus, I was in a tailspin. She dimmed the lights and played Bon Iver on her laptop until we both passed out.

The next morning, I got coffee at Black Dog Café at Lake Ella (chills–which happens to be the same place I’m writing this post at this very minute, unplanned–holy shit)–with two former colleagues from the school Charise and I taught at the previous year. One of the colleagues was a foster dog parent. After we got our coffee, she brought out the most adorable two-month-old puppy with an “Adopt Me” sign on her back and asked me if I minded if we walked her around the lake while we talked. I happily agreed.

When my friend joked about me taking the dog, a girl named Pepper because of her spotted paws, back to St. Pete with me, I said hell to the no. Not only was my life in a shitty tailspin at the time (remember, St. Pete 2013, everyone), but I probably had $100 in my bank account. Taking a baby puppy five hours home with me was not part of the plan by any stretch of the imagination. We walked around the lake as people inquired about her, ultimately with no serious adoption offers.

Well, you know by now how this story ends. I went back to Stacie’s house and told her to come with me so we could go adopt my new puppy together. She grabbed her professional camera and documented the whole thing, some of which you can see below. I decided her name should be Lillian (only later did she grow into her more formal name, Lillian Vernon, inspired by one of my mom’s favorite magazines), and thanks to my synesthesia, I knew her color was a deep purple. A diva purple.

Taking her home was hard. I regretted my decision more than a few times as I made my way through potty training, behavior training, long nights of crate training, and adjusting my life to the needs of a puppy. She represented the loss of the very little freedom I felt I had as a full-time high school teacher. She limited my travel, my budget, and my patience. I resented her for her existence and for the fact that I was raising her on my own. How the hell could I have done something so impulsive?

And yet, after the challenges of our transition, Lillian helped me turn into a human I never thought I could be. This selfish, self-absorbed, accomplishment-driven 22-year-old had to learn what it meant to care about someone else. I cleaned up her vomit–lots of vomit–and still loved her. I paid hundreds of dollars for her pills and immunizations and still loved her. She ate all my underwear and I still loved her. She also helped me understand that I could be forgiven. I yelled at her and unfairly punished her, and she still loved me.

It was only a few months after taking Lillian home that I realized the soulmate card I pulled at Stacie’s apartment was no joke: cosmically ordered, unconditional love is what Lillian and I have for each other. My dog is one of my soulmates. Now she’s three years old, and I can’t believe how much she is my daughter. Her playfulness, her sass, her side eye, her moments of extreme vulnerability–all on her terms–are just like her daddy. She and I were meant for each other, and we understand one another in a way that only soulmates can. We have our moments of bickering, but she’s my best friend.

As fate would have it, Lillian and I moved into a house in the Lake Ella neighborhood. In our daily 40-minute walk, we walk through our neighborhood and do a lap around Lake Ella, around the exact spot where I met her, in front of Black Dog Café. The same circumstances that brought us together are the same ones that bring us to our walk every day: the unending cosmic humor of the universe, which knows exactly which cards to play at exactly the right time. How could I believe there is anywhere else I am–we are–meant to be than the place where one of the most spiritual events in my life occurred?

Our dogs are our soulmates, y’all. No doubt about it. Even if the story of meeting your dog isn’t as (seemingly) surprising as mine, the divine order of your meeting is just the same: it was meant to happen. Do you acknowledge your dog’s presence in your life as a spiritual miracle? Are you open to the possibility that due to the spiritual nature of your relationship, there are very important lessons your dog is here to teach you? Our pets are here for more than just spooning with us and shitting in our yard. What will you do for your pet to hold up your end of the bargain? What will you let them teach you?

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Our first meeting at the lake–a spot I can see from where I’m writing now.

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Very surprised there was enough in my account to cover the adoption fee.

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Back at godmamma Stacie’s house

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Lillian already showing her true colors on our first shopping trip.

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Three years later, a high-functioning soulmate partnership 🙂

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