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    The Tail of the Hopeless Romantic

    “True love is knowing when to say sorry.” I’m sure you’ve heard that one, and all the rest of the cliché quotes out there that make us all want to barf. If you’ve been to at least one rehearsal dinner, I’m one hundred percent positive you have.

    ***

    There’s more hype about the second date than the first date.  Any person worthy of a second chance is going to excite you and your friends more than some bozo who got the privilege to take you out for one drink.

    “So how was it?” My friend Liz anxiously asked after getting home from date #2.

    “Fun,” I replied. “He’s nice. He makes me laugh. We had a great time at dinner…” I could sense her confusion, as my unenthused tone didn’t correspond with the positive words flowing from my mouth.

    “What’s the problem?” she asked.

    “He has a dog.”

    She stared at me blankly (with a hint of disgust), the same way everyone stared at me throughout the first quarter of my life when I confessed my disregard for dogs.

    “How does him having a dog affect you?” She asked, forgetting that a few seconds ago, she was totally rooting for me and my quest to find love. I forget my exact response to her, but it went something along the lines of this:

    I didn’t grow up with dogs. I was raised in a household where you took off your shoes right when walking in the house.  Wearing shoes indoors was unacceptable; muddy paws indoors were unfathomable.  The only connection to a dog I had were stories told about my mom’s childhood dog Tippy who was put to sleep, after it bit my cousin’s face.

    ***

    As I took Liz’s advice and continued to date this “second date” guy for the next couple of weeks –despite him having a dog- I noticed that everyone in my surroundings miraculously turned into hopeless romantics. My colleagues, my friends, the cashier at Starbucks who witnessed him treating me to a Mocha Frappuccino Lite… everyone! The same people I had once made snarky jokes with about P.D.A.  were now quoting Voltaire and believing in “fate.”

    I think I may have overreacted when the “second date” guy walked me home from one of our first couple of dates, and my doorwoman recited the overdone, overplayed, and cliché “to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Stomping off and yelling,  “I’d expect more from you!” was a little dramatic and definitely uncalled for.

    Now- ironically- not only is this “second date” guy Brandon, my boyfriend of two and a half years (my friends still tease me for my insistence it wouldn’t work due to his dog), but I now have an unconditional love for his chocolate labroaddodle, Hank. But don’t assume that this story starts two and a half years ago.

    It all started in third grade when my sister and I were going door-to-door, selling candy for an elementary school charity. Some old man’s domesticated horse growled, jumped on me, and scared the living daylights out of me. I’m pretty sure we got a pretty generous donation at this house, but you’d have to ask my sister. I was out of that house the minute the dog jumped.

    Then, in middle school, I was taking a walk down my street when a piranha on four legs started barking at me. Loudly. So loudly that although my Walkman was blaring Sublime, I still heard him loud and clear. I proceeded to walk thinking to myself there must be an electric fence. There’s no way he can get to me. Evidently, there wasn’t an electric fence, or perhaps the piranha on four legs got the shit shocked out of him, because next thing I knew, I was being chased a mile and a half back to my house.

    It was the fastest mile I’ll probably ever run, and the best cardio I’d ever gotten on a walk to date. From that day forward, my indifference towards dogs transformed to severe fear, and imagining that particular dog chasing me still remains the best motivation for speed on all jogs.

    It’s not that I didn’t want to like dogs. I just really didn’t have a reason to like them. I didn’t have the privilege of growing up with a dog, and my few experiences with dogs weren’t so great.

    I must admit, I did have a soft spot for my best friend’s two yellow labs.  Extremely pampered and well-fed, these doggies were smart, sweet, and shared a special, unique trait that made them my ideal kind of animal: they didn’t move.They were either insanely relaxed from the lavish lives they led or just in a severe food coma. It didn’t matter to me, as long as they remained calm. They didn’t jump, they didn’t run at you, and they certainly didn’t bite; they just relaxed all day.

    I traveled with her family frequently and had become quite accustomed to the way her family traveled. They tied beautiful pink bows on their luggage so they could distinguish theirs from the rest at baggage claim; they bought an array of tabloids the second they stepped foot in the airport; and once at the hotel, the first item they unpacked was their sterling silver 5X7 frames of Mikey and Max, their sweet yellow labs. Although I didn’t love dogs they way they did, and although I didn’t have my own dog to dote on, I understood what the frames stood for, and I thought it was endearing.

    As Brandon and I continued to date, I grew more and more frustrated with Hank. He was goofy, sloppy, high-maintenance and had a sensitive stomach.  The first time I went to Brandon’s apartment, I was shocked. Carpet was ripped, dog toys were everywhere, and Hank didn’t take his eyes off me. I didn’t dare mistake his glare for a “love-at-first-sight” gaze; I was well aware his stare conveyed “he’s mine.” Naively, I thought to myself we’ll see about that.

    Clearly, I had never owned a dog. I had no idea just how correct Hank was.

    Hank at the pond

    Brandon and I walking Hank to the pond to watch ducks, one of his favorite pastimes.

    The start of our relationship was a learning experience. My vocabulary was growing with new words in different contexts. “Treats” no longer only meant “ice cream and candy.” “Fetch” no longer only meant, “Fetch me that remote.” “Heel!” was no longer my go-to black pump, but more importantly, the only way to ensure that Hank would walk on my pace when I walked him.

    I also learned just how much Brandon loved Hank. When we were out late, I could see him looking at his watch nervously to get home to his beast. The more he looked at his watch, the more I couldn’t stand Hank. I also learned how much water a labradoodle’s beard can retain when they drink out of their bowl.

    And then I was kinda surprised to learn just how ticked off it made me when my sock got soaking wet from that water. Who knew that could infuriate me so much?!

    The first time Hank came to my house, he played with my close friends’ dog Cliff (who happened to live in my building). Hiding in my bedroom not knowing the difference between “playing” and “fighting,”  they embraced, knocking stools over, crashing into furniture, and running around aimlessly. I learned that the dog fear was still a part of me, and Brandon learned that I was making an effort. Let me take this moment to digress and declare that Cliff Dunn- the original gangster- the first doggy on my block, prepared me for Hank.

    As my relationship with Brandon progressed, I continued to watch him take the utmost care of Hank. Although I couldn’t stand Hank’s needy and dog-like ways, I can’t deny that I wasn’t impressed by Brandon’s dog-owning skills. He woke up every single day with the intention to show Hank a good time.

    And then one day I woke up.

    We walked Hank almost every day together. Once summer hit, those walks were our entire day. We would walk miles and miles just so Hank could run around and play with other dogs. I used to say to Brandon, “Thank god I’ve always been a walker. What would you do if you had a girlfriend who didn’t take walks?”

    In hindsight, I’m well aware what the answer to that question is.

    Walking to the dog parks, grassy fields and the dog beach, I quickly learned that it really isn’t about the destination, but the journey.  Through those journeys to dog havens, Hank was starting to grow on me. It was starting to startle me when I realized just what I would do to get a wag from Hank. Weird voices, crazy movements, hours of fetch, hours of rubs, and lots of wags later, I earned Hank’s love.

    And nothing felt better than that.

    Hank in the lake

    Hank at Belmont Harbor Dog Beach

    When travel plans were made, Hank was the first logistic I thought of; when we were out late, I felt the anxiety that only Brandon once felt; when Hank came to my house, toys and treats were supplied; and more notably, when passwords were updated, Hank’s name was included.  I was definitely a self-proclaimed “dog person.”

    Then, when my grandpa died, I went from being a “dog person” to what I would have once thought was a “dog person” who lost their flippin’ mind.

    I was distraught. I didn’t feel like talking, and nobody understood that better than Hank. Brandon came over offering me every thing he could think of including my favorite sushi and my favorite frozen yogurt, which (lucky for him) can solve almost any problem and fix any quarrel. However, in this circumstance, it was Hank’s support that I leaned on most. His relentless efforts to comfort me were silent, but deliberate.

    It’s funny that when a human invests time, money, and a 20 minute walk into comforting you – after working a ten-hour day- it’s an animal’s licks coupled with passing out on your feet that is sometimes more valued.

    Now that I hang out with more dogs, I realize that Hank isn’t a typical dog. While some dogs will accept treats and food from anyone, Hank’s a bit more neurotic. He’s a bit of a wimp, goofy, and he’s definitely particular. It couldn’t be a better match.

    Although we don’t travel with sterling silver frames of Hank, today’s current technology makes it possible for us to take Hank everywhere, showing him off to people we meet on our travels… and saying goodnight to him before bed.

    Thanks to Hank and Brandon (and my friends, colleagues, and the Starbucks cashier), I now know what it means – to me- to be a hopeless romantic.  So yes, I admit that there’s truth to the cliché and annoying, “true love” is “knowing when to say sorry.” But also, more relevantly -to me- “true love” is babysitting your boyfriend’s labradoodle, walking him to a ghetto dog park, and picking up the communal dog park tennis ball gloveless. That recent adventure and act of love was by far one of my boldest yet.

    Although I’m still going to threaten to gag, kick, holler, and scream when I hear the cheesy, overused, cliché  love quotes, I probably should stop by my past apartment and apologize to my former doorwoman about my overreaction. While I’m there, I’ll be sure to let her know that I have learned a lot since I moved out. I have learned about dogs, relationships, and “true love.” I have learned that “to the world you may be one person, but to two people, you may be the world.”

    Hank and I

    Hank and I on the floor, our usual "spot"

    One Response to “The Tail of the Hopeless Romantic”

    1. mb graffics says:

      Good thing you made friends – he looks almost the same size as you! How cute that end photo. Great story. :D

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