We adopted Libby, our part beagle, part husky mix, on the 4th of July. Her full name is actually Liberty, in honor of that fact. ‘Libby’ was just a natural progression–and, as my parents said, easier to yell.
Libby wasn’t a bad puppy, but she definitely had her flaws. We enrolled her in puppy obedience school soon after we bought her. She failed out and we got our money back. Apparently, the only command she would respond to was “Sit”–and only half the time at best.
But she was adorable. And loving. So we kept her & decided we’d make it work, puppy school diploma or no puppy school diploma. Obviously, we grew to love her because she’s still here, sitting next to me as I write this.
It hasn’t been an easy road with Libby, though. Our relationship wasn’t always as peaceful as it is now. Even though I was the one who picked her out at the animal shelter (because she has blue eyes–like me!), I think she always favored my brother more. Probably because he’s younger & actually had the energy to play with her, while I just got angry when she jumped on me & scratched my legs with her nails, sometimes to the point of bleeding, before I went out with friends.
Plus, Libby has separation anxiety. If someone even picks up their purse to move it, or bends down to tie a shoe, she goes nuts. She just doesn’t take it very well. And when I left for college, she let me know it. She spent the entire morning howling at me, warning me that if I left her there, she’d never forgive me.
And for years she didn’t.
When I came home during winter or spring break, Libby acted like I was a stranger. She gave me the cold shoulder. She didn’t even jump on me when I came through the door. I started to realize that maybe, she did remember, and she wasn’t kidding that morning before I left for college.
Even though I was heartbroken that my dog was essentially acting like I didn’t exist, I was almost flattered. The fact that she was so hurt by my absence made me think that maybe she had liked me a little more than I thought. Maybe my brother wasn’t her favorite after all. Maybe she valued the time we spent, curled up on my mom’s couch (& totally against her rules), me stroking her thick fur. Maybe that was just as important to her as the games of fetch and frisbee with my brother.
It’s been five years since I’ve lived in the same house with Libby. She, inevitably, has grown. She is also much older looking than I remember her being before I moved away. It almost scared me the first time I saw her climb our stairs: She slowly and deliberately takes one small step at a time, making sure her footing is strong before she tries to move on. Her fur has even started to grey. I was barely 11 when my first dog, Cody, died. Although my memories of him are dim, I do remember the greying fur. Not too long before he died.
Now that Libby & I are sharing living space again, she’s started to open up to me. It started with coming to me to ask (howl) for food (always a sign that she loves & trusts you). Then, she started wanting to watch movies with me and my boyfriend on the couch (& we let her, much to my mother’s dismay).
Now she sleeps with me. Every night.
But there’s a catch: She can’t make it on to my bed without my help. She can get her front paws onto the mattress, but she waits now, patiently, for me to hoist her back legs up for her. Then, she nestles into her favorite spot at the end of the bed, always leaving enough room for me to comfortably stretch out. Then we sleep & don’t see each other again until morning.
I can’t say what is really going on in Libby’s mind. But I think that her allowing me to move her into my bed–therefore, giving up some of her power–is not only a sign of aging, but also a sign that she forgives me.
Yes, our relationship is very different now. She isn’t as loud, so I don’t yell at her to quiet down as often. She doesn’t jump on me when I sneak in through the front door late at night (this is because she’s sleeping in the hallway outside my room, waiting). She has more respect for me, and I, her.
My relationship with Libby seemed to show a pattern that most relationships do. People get used to each other, fall into routines & ‘expect’ the other to act a certain way. Then, eventually, because this is just the way life works, one or the other starts to change–& the other half doesn’t get it. We like people for who they are, and when they start to make changes–even positive ones, like not smoking or cutting out meat–those of us watching from the sidelines sometimes feel confused and hurt by these changes. Some people really don’t jive well when the tides start to rock the boat a little.
This was most likely the case with Libby. She didn’t want me to go away to college. She expected me to be in her life, as I had been since 2 months after she was born. She was hurt by my changes-my decision to move away-so she ignored me. She didn’t want me in her life at that point. (I hope it wasn’t ’cause she forgot about me. I was the one who picked her out, after all.)
But eventually, Libby got over it. She, herself, had made some changes, too–& maybe that’s what enabled her to see that it’s not always a bad thing. It’s just inevitable. It’s just life.
Now, I think we’re both happy in this new relationship. Through both of our changes, we’ve somehow come together again & are actually stronger because of it. Sometimes it works out that way with people, too. Sometimes, the other person (whether it be a friend, family member, lover or even a co-worker) can accept when someone changes, or when things don’t always go there way.
Sometimes they can’t.
I was lucky that Libby fell into the former category. She was stung, but she wasn’t done with me forever. She just needed to come around on her own time.
Maybe there really is a reason why dogs are considered man’s best friend. Because they love. Because they’re so loyal they will ignore you for five years if you don’t return their loyalty. And because they forgive.