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I was in my mid-20s when I got my first dog.
Well, actually my family had a dog when I was about ten years old but he was an outside dog. He also had a penchant for hunting birds, roaming the neighborhood and seeking out the affections of female dogs with loose morals. So he wasn’t really home much and we weren’t able to forge much of a relationship.
I had always wanted a dog that could be my constant companion, my best friend. Kind of like Dorothy and Toto: if I got picked up by a tornado and deposited into some alternate universe my dog would be right there with me, in a cute little basket.
Keisha came into my life when I was twenty six years old and living alone near downtown Houston. Fantasies of being Dorothy and Toto had long since passed and I invited Keisha into my life for one purpose: home protection.
My good friend at the time owned a beautiful Chow Chow named Chandon. He was regal, well-behaved and seemed to take little care other than daily walks and brushing. He was easy to be around and I always felt safe in his presence.
I wanted a dog just like him.
Nothing prepared me for the four-legged companion that walked through my door. Keisha was a wild-child; she lived life one adventure after another. Chaos seemed to be the constant in our lives.
Her puppyhood was fraught with destruction (chewing, tearing, biting, shredding) and constant escape. Her spirit longed for freedom and she relished a good game of “Catch me if you can”. At times I wondered if we would both survive, physically and monetarily. And any thought of home-protection escaped with her jaunts beyond the front door.
Chaos aside, she could be charming, beguiling even. She usually had ulterior motives (like wanting the bag of donuts sitting on the kitchen counter) but her twinkling eyes, ear to ear smile and wagging tail were hard to resist.
A few years ago my husband bought me a book entitled “Your Dog Is Your Mirror” by Kevin Behan. It’s an intriguing look at the theory our dogs mirror our own emotional states.
Good grief, I thought! What in the world did that say about me with regards to Keisha’s drama, mayhem and manipulating charms? Oh my.
I didn’t think I fell into any of those categories that might describe my furry friend. In fact I’m most often described as quiet, reserved, cautious and introverted.
Keisha made friends with everyone, never passed up an opportunity for a little (or a lot) of self-indulgence and was notoriously uncooperative at the vets and the groomers. She often walked just-this-side-of-the-law in many instances, her flagrant disregard for leash laws and stealing things she wanted forged relationships with the local police. But she usually ended up riding shotgun in the squad car while the officer laughed and petted her.
She was effusive with her affection and had a healthy self-esteem. She often would pose just-so as if to say “Feast upon my beauty”.
She and I really were a study in opposites.
But maybe there was something to what that book said. Maybe Keisha WAS my mirror in some ways.
Maybe she mirrored back to me the things I WISHED I could be: confident, indulgent, and not afraid to ask for what I wanted.
Yes, I would love to bite the dentist and his assistant whenever they got within six inches of my teeth.
I bet it would be fun to sidle up next to a handsome guy and say, “Can I have a bite of your dinner? Chicken is my favorite, you know. And maybe I could sit on your lap, too”
How exciting to find the bag of expensive cookies from the French bakery, hidden for safe-keeping, and eat the entire bag in one sitting. And then deny that I had anything to do with it.
It would be fun to break some rules and then flirt my way out of any consequences.
How nice it would be to get so excited about something that I peed right then and there. And I didn’t care one dribble.
Oh what a life to be able to eat anything I wanted, roll around in the dirt, wear nothing but a red collar and still feel like I’m the most beautiful thing on the earth.
I would love to exude joy that was so contagious it made anyone around me smile and want to pet me.
Maybe Keisha mirrored the life that I secretly wanted.
All those hidden desires found expression in my best friend. And oh what fun we had together!